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Chicago’s QB Problem: Lack of Development? Lack of Investment? Or Both?

| April 1st, 2024

Deep in the NFL Offseason, sometimes all we’re left with to talk about is drama. It doesn’t always have to be interesting, either — nearly anyone can go viral for saying something inflammatory, be they an ESPN Analyst, a former NFL Quarterback, or even just a fan with a take that’s truly out of left field.

Yesterday saw a perfect example of that juicy juicy drama catch fire all over the Chicago sect of Twitter — JT O’Sullivan, the analyst that runs the YouTube Channel The QB School, had this to say about Chicago in relation to Caleb Williams:

“Is it the ideal situation for him to go where he’s going to go? I mean… absolutely not…. the track record is the track record. If I could pick where he would go… that’s just not what I would want for him”

Obviously I’m cherry-picking one take to talk about amidst a long, well-done podcast by Bootleg Football, but I’d like to talk about it nevertheless — I think this take is tired, largely because I think Chicago’s ‘Track Record’ has become overblown over time.

Let’s re-contextualize the Bears’ five most recent 1st round Quarterback selections, stretching past the last 37 years — maybe you’ll see the same trend I do:

  • 1987 — Jim Harbaugh | Pick #26 | QB4 in his class
  • 1999 — Cade McNown | Pick #12 | QB5
  • 2003 — Rex Grossman | Pick #22 | QB4
  • 2017 — Mitchell Trubisky | Pick #2 (Trade Up) | QB1
  • 2021 — Justin Fields | Pick #11 (Trade Up) | QB4

The picks have yielded poor results, no doubt. But should we be shocked that Chicago’s consistent inability to select a better option than the 4th/5th best QB in a draft class might be just as large a problem as their inability to surround those QBs with talent?

After all, it’s the Bears’ lone QB1 selection that led the Bears’ to their most recent pair of playoff appearances. Trubisky holds the best single-season performance of the names above (2018) and the only Pro Bowl achieved while wearing a Bears uniform. And while I don’t want to gloss over a decade of poor ownership, organizational instability, and a profound unwillingness to prioritize offensive spending, I also don’t think it’s fair to act like the Bears have run Joe Burrow, Phillip Rivers, Daunte Culpepper, Lamar Jackson, and Patrick Mahomes out of town.

Chicago, like many teams that have been here before them, is one solid QB selection away from banishing the demons of their ‘track record’. Cincinnati couldn’t find a Quarterback, then they drafted Joe Burrow. Arizona couldn’t find an answer after a few nice years with Kurt Warner, then they landed Kyler Murray. Detroit had nothing for years at quarterback, yet they drafted Matthew Stafford anyways — to the shock of no one, these decisions have worked out well for each org so far.

Chicago is one Caleb Williams selection away from ‘breaking the cycle’, as Ryan Poles recently put it. And if for no other reason than to quiet the voices that shout about Chicago’s QB history, I hope Caleb is able to hit the ground running in 2024.

Your Turn: What’s your take on Chicago’s QB development past? Talent issue, organizational issue, or both?

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