Eggnog, Mistletoe, and the Bears’ Never-Ending Search for a Quarterback

The holiday shopping season may be over, but the Bears’ seemingly-annual search for a quarterback is just beginning. Dec. 25th has come and gone, and after the month-long buildup (or months-long buildup if you’re Costco) to the holidays, all that is left to do now is to breakdown the Amazon boxes, put away the holiday decorations, take down the tree and lights, and sit back and reflect in near-disbelief how yet another year has elapsed in the blink of an eye. 

It’s also the all-too familiar time of year in which long-suffering Bears’ fans, like myself, ponder what went wrong and think ahead to next year, foolishly hoping that things will somehow, some way be different. The promise of ‘next year,’ although shallow, has sustained us Chicagoans through years of futility. Just ask Cubs’ fans, who looked to ‘next year’ 108 times before finally winning it all in 2016, breaking the infamous curse of the Billy goat in the process. The Bears may not be over a century between championships, but we do have our curse, or curses, and none of them involve witchcraft, Billy goats, or black cats. Rather, what has plagued the Bears in the last three decades is far simpler, yet just as vexing: clueless ownership, bad management, ineffective coaching, and really, really, really (yes I said ‘really’ three times) awful quarterback play.

But in spite of our best wishes, the McCaskey’s aren’t going anywhere, Ryan Pace will more than likely stay on for at least another year as GM (although that position is somewhat precarious and the topic of my next article), and thanks in large part to a somewhat meaningless late-season rally, Matt Nagy will probably return as head coach in 2021. 

So of all the reasons why the Bears will more than likely miss the postseason yet again (fourteen times in the last 16 years if you’re keeping track) the one gaping flaw the  Bears can at least attempt to rectify is the quarterback issue. Whether it be via free agency, the draft, or trade, the Bears will almost certainly address the position in one way or another, and Bears’ fans will celebrate a time-honored, annual tradition as customary as Santa Claus, eggnog, and Mariah Carey Christmas songs (have you heard the new one? It’s actually pretty awesome): pinning our hopes and dreams on a new signal caller and trying to convince ourselves that ‘next year’ will be the year we find our “Mr. Right” and finally solve the decades-long quarterback riddle. Although that is unlikely to be the case (as a life-long Bears’ fan I have earned the right to be pessimistic), there are potentially at least a few possible suitors who may be available in the offseason who Bears’ fans can only hope will not be the next Rick Mirer, Kordell Stewart, or Nick Foles. 

Sam Darnold: In the last three NFL seasons, few quarterbacks have fared worse than Darnold, and until the Jets’ franchise-altering “victory” against the Rams in week 15 it seemed all but a forgone conclusion that Darnold would be replaced by presumed number-one-pick Trevor Lawrence. However, Darnold is due nearly $10 million next season in guaranteed money, so Trevor Lawrence or not, the Jets may not be all that motivated to move on from the 2018 No. 3 overall pick. That being said, they Jets clearly will be drafting early enough in the first round and may very well start over on their search for a franchise quarterback. If they can get value for Darnold via a trade, there is a realistic chance he could become available. 

Carson Wentz: According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Philadelphia’s decision to bench Wentz in favor of Jalen Hurts has caused a rift between the former No. 2 overall pick and the Eagles’ organization. Wentz, who is not interested in remaining a backup and would prefer to move on if the current situation continues, has garnered the attention of other teams and could be made available via trade, according to Schefter. Despite Wentz’s recent struggles on a talent-depleted Philly offense, he has proven himself worthy of NFL stardom, as he did in 2017 when he was named to the Pro Bowl before tearing his ACL in December of what eventually became a Super Bowl Championship season for the Eagles. 

Jimmy Garoppolo: Having been on IR since November with a high-ankle sprain, Jimmy G has watched his 49er teammates limp to the finish of what has been a disastrous 2020 campaign. He is currently in the third year of a five-year deal worth up to $137.5 million, with $74 million already guaranteed. However, Garoppolo’s inconsistent play and injury problems (he has missed 23 games due to injury during his three seasons in San Francisco) are cause for concern and have some speculating that he could be a cap casualty after this season. Although he is due $26.9 million in 2021, the 49ers can save nearly all of this cap hit if they were to cut ties with the Eastern Illinois grad. Assuming his former employer doesn’t make a strong pitch to bring him back to New England, the Arlington Heights native could be on the move and might even be willing to throw passes for his hometown team. 

Cam Newton: After signing a 1-year, incentive-laden contract with the New England Patriots this past summer, Cam Newton will be an unrestricted free-agent in 2021, and it seems increasingly doubtful that he will be re-signed by his current employer. He ranks 29th in the league in total QBR, throwing 10 interceptions to only 5 touchdowns. However, Newton ranks 1st among quarterbacks, and 3rd in the entire NFL, with 11 rushing touchdowns (only Dalvin Cook and Derrick Henry have more). The 31-year old quarterback would almost certainly come cheap, and would be motivated to prove his value. 

Matthew Stafford: Patrick Mahomes isn’t the only QB capable of side-arming and slinging passes to NFL receivers; Number 9 in Detroit has been doing it for years. Although it seems like Stafford has been in the league forever, the 32-year old quarterback still has plenty of good years left. Playing for a historically-inept franchise has definitely obscured what has been a highly-productive career for Stafford. Look no further than where Stafford ranks in a variety of statistical categories for NFL players through the age of 31: He is 3rd in passing touchdowns, 2nd in passing yards (only Peyton Manning had more), and 1st in completions, game-winning drives, and fourth-quarter comebacks. But is there a chance Stafford is not in a Lion’s uniform next year? NFL Network’s Michael Silver has speculated that Stafford may want out of Detroit, and with the franchise once again in disarray, searching for a new GM and head coach, it’s certainly possible that he could wind up elsewhere in 2021. 

Jacoby Brissett: It’s debatable whether Brissett has type-cast himself as a perpetual backup-QB, or is capable of being a productive starter in the NFL. The fact remains that he is still young (28 years old), athletic, and in the two seasons in Indianapolis where Brissett was the team’s predominant starter (2017 & 2019) he threw 31 passing touchdowns to only 13 interceptions, and ran for another 8 scores. With the Colts seemingly content to stick with Philip Rivers for at least another season beyond 2020, it’s likely that Brissett won’t be resigned.  

Mitchell Trubisky: Despite the fact that the Bears declined the QB’s fifth-year option back in May, Trubisky has quietly improved his play since taking over for Nick Foles, and let’s not forget that he is now 5-2 as a starting quarterback this season. Over the last three weeks, he has averaged 245 passing yards while throwing 5 TD’s to only 1 interception. The Bears’ offense has scored 30 or more points for three consecutive games, something they had not been able to accomplish the past seven seasons.  And while Bears’ fans will probably gag at the thought of Mitch remaining in Chicago past this season, the reality is that he is still young, athletic, and could be had at a cheap price. All that being said, there is virtually no chance that the former No. 2 overall pick (yes, I know it still hurts to remember that) is the Bears’ unquestioned starter in 2021. 

Jameis Winston: When Drew Brees went down last month with eleven fractured ribs and their designated “backup” quarterback remained on the bench in favor of Taysom Hill…well that tells you everything you need to know about how confident the Saints are in the perpetually turnover-prone Winston, despite Sean Payton’s assurances that the team still sees a future with him. It seems like decades ago that Winston was stealing crab legs from a supermarket while in college, but the dude is still only 26 years old! 

Dwayne Haskins: The former 1st-round draft pick has made headlines recently not for his on-field play, but rather for appearing at an event with strippers while not wearing a mask, a transgression for which he was stripped (no pun intended, honestly) of his captaincy and fined $40,000. However, even before the incident it would have been hard to imagine Washington bringing him back, after Ron Rivera decided Alex Smith and Kyle Allen were better options at QB than Haskins. Although the 23 year-old QB has been a disappointment in Washington, he is still a raw talent with a ton of upside, and did I mention he is only 23 years old?

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