Chicago searches for a star

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Aug 20, 2006



(This story has been updated from a version that ran in August 2005.)
 
By Cold, Hard Football Facts senior writer John Dudley
 
There is a large constellation in the Northern Hemisphere called the "Bear Driver." It has been recognized since ancient times and was first mentioned in the Greek epic, Homer's Odyssey.
 
In Chicago, fans have been on a football odyssey, restlessly looking for a star to guide their offense. The quest to find their own "Bear Driver," someone who can consistently produce at the quarterback position, has seemingly lasted throughout the ages.
 
Here at the Cold, Hard Football Facts, we're not always associated with enlightenment. We thought "celestial bodies" referred to chicks on the beach, and our knowledge of Homer is pretty much limited to "The Simpsons." But we do know a thing or two about passing the pigskin ... especially when it's pulled from the smokehouse with an apple in its mouth.
 
Peering through a high-powered gridiron telescope called the Cold, Hard Football Facts, we see that Chicago has essentially become a black hole for quarterbacks. Over the course of the past six seasons, Bears signal callers have taken "suck" to a whole new level.
 
(Their suckitude is fascinating when you consider that fans in Chicago have consistently been treated to phenomenal defense, from the 1963 Bears that boasted the best pass defense in NFL history, to the famed "46" defense of the 1980s, to last year's dominant defensive force that led the league in scoring and in the Bendability Index. Look for more Cold, Hard Football Facts on Chicago's better half soon.)
 
This year, the consistently productive Brian Griese is making a strong case for the starting nod in Chicago. He has thrown three touchdown passes in the team's two preseason games, and his passer rating is a near-perfect 154.4. If Griese (shown here at practice) lands the job, it will give the Bears a different opening-day QB for the seventh consecutive season.
 
For now, though, coach Lovie Smith insists that the position still belongs to incumbent Rex Grossman, who hasn't directed a scoring drive and has a 40.4 passer rating. In Friday night's 24-3 win over San Diego, the fourth-year QB squandered his best chance to put points on the board by tossing an end-zone interception late in the first half.
 
The star-crossed Grossman simply hasn't been able to stay healthy long enough to prove whether or not he is the answer at quarterback. In 2004, a torn ligament in his right knee, sustained in the third regular-season game, sidelined Grossman for the rest of the year. Last season, it was his left ankle, broken in the team's second exhibition game, which kept him out of action until December. Rookie Kyle Orton assumed control of the offense and was only marginally productive.
 
Throughout this decade, the Bears' quarterback position has been marked by both fragility and futility: 
  • No Chicago QB has held the starting spot for all 16 games.
  • No Chicago QB has posted a passer rating better than 80.
  • Only one Chicago QB has passed for more than 2,000 yards in a season (Jim Miller, 2001). 
  • Only one Chicago QB has passed for more than 10 TDs in a season (Miller, 2001 and 2002).
Here's a look at the players taking regular snaps for the Bears in each of the last six seasons (the opening-game starter is denoted with an asterisk):
 
2000
 
Att.
Comp.
Pct.
Yards
Y/A
TDs
INTs
Rating
Cade McNown*
280
154
55.0
1,646
5.9
8
9
68.5
Shane Matthews
178
102
57.3
964
5.4
3
6
64.0
Jim Miller
82
47
57.3
382
4.7
1
1
68.2
 
There had been high hopes that McNown, the first-round pick from UCLA, would mature in his second year. He did not. The best pass he made was directed at former Playmate of the Year Heather Kozar, whom he briefly stole away from fellow QB failure Tim Couch. (In debating the biggest bust, she deserves strong consideration.) After being dumped by both the Bears and his hot girlfriend, McCown never got on the field in one season with the Dolphins and then was out of the NFL for good.
 
2001
 
Att.
Comp.
Pct.
Yards
Y/A
TDs
INTs
Rating
Shane Matthews*
129
84
65.1
694
5.4
5
6
72.3
Jim Miller
395
228
57.7
2,299
5.8
13
10
74.9
 
Matthews was just keeping the spot warm for Miller, who assumed the controls in Week 2 and rode a solid rushing attack into the postseason. After five straight losing years, Chicago got to host a playoff game, but the team's quarterback deficiencies were soon exposed. In the 33-19 loss to Philly, both Miller and Matthews were atrocious, combining for a measly 89 yards and three interceptions.
 
2002
 
Att. 
Comp.
Pct. 
Yards
Y/A 
TDs
INTs
Rating 
Jim Miller*
314
180
57.3
1,944
6.2
13
9
77.5
Chris Chandler
161
103
64.0
1,023
6.4
4
4
79.8
Henry Burris
51
18
35.3
207
4.1
3
5
28.4
 
Miller continued to be solid but not stellar. He again had more touchdowns than interceptions, which is a huge accomplishment in Chicago. Burris, however, was comically bad, completing just over a third of his throws. His passer rating of 28.4 was the lowest anyone with at least 50 attempts had registered in 10 years. By the way, the last QB to post a poorer rating was another Bear, Peter Tom Willis (27.6 in 1993).
 
2003
2003
Att.
Comp.
Pct.
Yards
Y/A
TDs
INTs
Rating
Kordell Stewart*
251
126
50.2
1,418
5.6
7
12
56.8
Chris Chandler
192
107
55.7
1,050
5.5
3
7
61.3
Rex Grossman
72
38
52.8
437
6.1
2
1
74.8
 
The Bears took a big risk in free agency by signing Stewart, a former Pro Bowler whose prolonged ineffectiveness in Pittsburgh had cost him his job. Stewart promptly blew ... his new opportunity as a starter, that is. He averaged just 149 yards passing as Chicago opened the season 1-4. The Bears failed to recognize what every other team already knew: Kordell could no longer play. Stewart was released, despite having a second year remaining on his contract. 
 
2004
 
Att.
Comp.
Pct.
Yards
Y/A
TDs
INTs
Rating
Rex Grossman*
84
47
56.0
607
7.2
1
3
67.9
Jonathan Quinn
98
51
52.0
413
4.2
1
3
53.7
Craig Krenzel
127
59
46.5
718
5.7
3
6
52.5
Chad Hutchinson
161
92
57.1
903
5.6
4
3
73.6
 
Hutchinson was the fourth QB the Bears tried, and he enjoyed some immediate success, throwing for three touchdowns in his Chicago debut. Although he recorded just one more TD pass in the four remaining games, he entered the 2005 season as the projected starter in the wake of Grossman's injury ... and then never took a snap as the ball was handed over to the rookie Kyle Orton, a fourth-rounder from Purdue.
 
2005
 
Att.
Comp.
Pct.
Yards
Y/A
TDs
INTs
Rating
Kyle Orton*
368
190
51.6
1,869
5.1
9
13
59.7
Rex Grossman
39
20
51.3
259
6.6
1
2
59.7
 
Orton was thrown into the fray and, at times, played the caretaker role extremely well, as success in Chicago was placed firmly in the hands of its stifling defense. The offense was frustratingly stagnant most of the season, though, as one might surmise from Orton's numbers in his 15 starts. Grossman became healthy enough to step on the field late in the season. When the playoffs rolled around, it was Grossman who got the starting nod over Orton, but he did not acquit himself well in a 29-21 playoff loss to Carolina. Grossman completed just 17 of 41 passes for 192 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT, with a 54.1 passer rating.
 
The future
Is Chicago's passing game going to struggle yet again this year? Does a bear sit in the woods?
 
Actually, Griese offers Chicago its best shot in years at having a productive QB. In 2004, he played well enough to earn Pro Bowl honors but was snubbed in favor of the less productive and overhyped Michael Vick. Griese also had several strong seasons in Denver and, believe it or not, currently stands at No. 15 on the all-time passer rating list.
 
But the Bears have historically had a galaxy of problems with their quarterbacks. Their only Hall of Famer at the position is Sid Luckman, who ran the T-formation in the 1940s. Chicago's last Pro Bowl QB was Jim McMahon – over 20 years ago.
 
The Cold, Hard Football Facts don't support cosmic rationale, but maybe it's all in the stars. McMahon's 1985 Bears knew they were the NFL's best team, and their arrogance about it was a bit overbearing. In the midst of steamrolling opponents during a 15-1 regular season, they thumbed their collective nose at decency and at the Football Gods when they recorded "The Super Bowl Shuffle" and appeared in its groundbreaking video. (Mike Tomczak, another Chicago quarterback legend, fakes a blistering guitar solo, and who could ever forget the slick production elements?)
 
The Bears did, in fact, shuffle right to the title game, blanking both of their NFC opponents along the way. In Super Bowl XX, they demolished the Patriots, 46-10, but another great disgrace occurred on that night in New Orleans: Walter Payton, the face of the franchise through many lean years, was denied the chance to score a touchdown.
 
It certainly wasn't due to a lack of opportunity – the Bears scored four rushing TDs in the game. Even McMahon, "the punky QB" as he called himself in the song, ran for two short scores. But with the outcome already decided, head coach Mike Ditka opted to put defensive tackle William "Refrigerator" Perry in the backfield. The lovable lardass got to score on football's biggest stage, but "Sweetness" never did.
 
In the 20 years since, the Bears have played 11 postseason games, losing eight of them. And Chicago fans are still waiting for a star to emerge from the dim constellation of mediocrity at quarterback.

From our partners




Join Insider Today!
Must See Videos
2014 NFL Combine Winners
2014 NFL Combine Most Impressive Performances
2014 NFL Combine Losers

Team Pages
AFC East NFC
South
North
West

Connect With Us
Sign up for our newsletter to recieve all the latest news and updates...
Privacy guaranteed. We'll never share your info.




The Football Nation Network

© Copyright 2014 Football Nation LLC. Privacy Policy & Terms of Use
Some images property of Getty Images or Icon/SMI