Too much to Bear

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Aug 17, 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. The "Bear Driver" contains the sky's fourth-brightest star, one that produces about a hundred times as much energy as the sun.
 
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 ages.
 
Here at CHFF, 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, of course, 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 five seasons, Bears signal callers have taken "suck" to a whole new level.
 
Star-crossed Rex Grossman can't stay healthy long enough to prove whether he is the Bears' answer at QB. In 2004, a torn ligament in his right knee, sustained in the third regular-season game, sidelined him for the rest of the year. Now it's his left ankle, broken in the team's second preseason game, which will keep him out of action for three to four months.
 
Grossman's latest injury ensures that a different Chicago quarterback will start the season for the sixth consecutive year. Over that span, no player has held the starting spot for all 16 games. Even worse, everyone who has taken regular snaps at the position has posted a passer rating below 80.
 
Here's a look at the Bears' QB production in each of the last five 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
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 can no longer play. Stewart was released, despite having a second year remaining on his contract. He spent last season with Baltimore and had more punts (5) than he did rushes (1) or passes (0).  
 
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 enters this season as the starter in the wake of Grossman's injury. Behind Hutchinson on the depth chart are rookie Kyle Orton, a fourth-rounder from Purdue, and creaky veteran Jeff Blake, who was signed earlier this week.
 
We would be remiss if we didn't mention the next quarterback in line, Kurt Kittner. Filling in for Michael Vick with Atlanta in '03, his passer rating was 32.5. Of all the qualifying quarterbacks – those with at least 100 attempts – in the last 25 years, Kittner ranks dead last. So you can see why he fits right into the Bears' plans.
 
Is Chicago's passing game going to struggle yet again this year? Does a bear sit in the woods?
 
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 – a full 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.
 
Since then, the Bears have played 10 playoff games, losing seven of them. And Chicago fans are still waiting for a star to emerge from the dim constellation of mediocrity at quarterback.

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