Twice since the end of the regular season, I’ve heard Bears general manager Jerry Angelo address the quarterback as a position the team “needs to stabilize,” and each time that comment was met by criticism from cynics who wondered about the stability of the receiver position.
The typical response has been that the receiving corps is in worse shape than is the quarterback position, where many feel Kyle Orton is “good enough” to get the job done, at least while the Bears address other areas of need.
While Orton may be a suitable player who showed promise at times this season, he’s certainly not going to win a Super Bowl with the team unless their defense and run game are both in the Top 10, if not the Top 5.
If I were to give a survey to Bears fans asking which two veteran quarterbacks they’d most like to see wearing a Bears uniform next year — among likely quarterbacks who’d be available — I’d bet dollars to donuts that the Top 2 responses would be Donovan McNabb and Kurt Warner. The two veterans, who have been the most rumored — fairly or not — among their peers to join the Bears, ironically squared off against one another in this year’s NFC Conference Championship. McNabb completed 28 of 47 passes (59.5%) for 375 yards, three touchdowns and one interception in a losing effort. Warner led his team into the Super Bowl by completing 21 of 28 (75%) passes for 279 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions.
The conclusion? Jerry Angelo was right.
“You win because of the quarterback,” Angelo told Mike Mulligan and Brian Hanley in an interview on the Score last week. “At some point in the game, the quarterback has to make plays to win the game. That’s the bottom line.”
Does it come as a surprise that Orton never came close to McNabb’s 375 yards and only surpassed Warner’s 279 yards three times this year, that coming in back-to-back-to-back games against Detroit, Atlanta, and Minnesota, three teams whose defenses finished in the bottom half of the league against the pass? Forget about Warner’s season statistics — he didn’t come close to touching any of those, nor would I expect him to with the lack of talent he’s got at receiver. Warner’s been putting up MVP-like numbers all year and there are few in the league who’ve matched him.
But is it too much to ask for a quarterback who can throw for more than 300 yards and 3 touchdowns more than one time, something Orton was not able to do this season?
Judging the Bears by their spending habits, even if McNabb and Warner were available — which I don’t feel they will be; the Eagles won’t trade McNabb and Warner has said he wants to retire in Arizona — the Bears would probably not make a play for either quarterback, anyway. Which leaves them in the realm of quarterbacks such as Chris Simms and David Carr or other guys who might be brought in to compete with Orton but would unlikely unseat the incumbent starter. (Other free agent QBs)
If Angelo is as serious about stabilizing the position as he says he is, I’d like to see him — with Ted Phillips’ and the McCaskeys’ permission, of course — make a bold move this off-season to try and upgrade what Angelo has called his “Achilles’ heel under my watch.”
Even if the Bears were to land a prized free agent this off-season, the quarterback position alone does not win championships. Nor does a dominant defense or a solid run game. I’ve seen countless analysts try to dissect what makes a winning team in today’s NFL and the answer is that none of the above can do it by themselves. You need a well-balanced team with talent all over the field that plays fundamentally sound and limits its mistakes per game.
But, as Angelo has said, “It starts with the quarterback.”