Brian Urlacher, Charles Tillman, Lance Briggs on Bears’ QB swap
They know something about staying power.
In a combined 37 years with the Bears, former linebackers Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs and ex-cornerback Charles Tillman reached 17 Pro Bowls and acquired a lifetime’s worth of knowledge.
Their advice to new Bears quarterback Mike Glennon is rooted in well-worn experience — as is their evaluation of Jay Cutler’s “roller-coaster” legacy after being released by the team last week.
Here’s what the three former defensive greats make of the Bears’ shake-up:
Tillman’s advice for Glennon is simple.
“Don’t try to live up to anyone’s hype,” he said. “Don’t try to be better than Jay Cutler. Just be yourself, man. Do what you’ve done that’s gotten you here and that’s gotten you that nice contract. Go out there, make your reads. Don’t try to impress anyone.”
The former cornerback compared the clamor for Glennon to former backup Brock Osweiler’s ill-fated popularity last offseason — but was careful to say that’s not a critique of the Bears’ latest acquisition.
“I’m curious to see what he can do,” he said.
Urlacher is, too.
“It’s exciting,” he said. “It’s a new face. I think the fans are happy about it. But he was a backup in Tampa for a reason. Everyone wants the backup quarterback to start. I think he’s a good football player. I think he’s going to help our quarterback position.”
The Bears have added some important pieces via free agency, Briggs said. While he wants to see them play together before making a judgment, he wondered which signees would turn out to be long-term answers.
“Are they going to be guys whose numbers we remember?” he said. “Are they going to be the guys whose numbers people are going to wear in the stands?”
He’d be happy if Glennon turns out to be reliable — and protects the ball.
“Best thing you can do is be consistent — and not consistently bad,” Briggs said. “I think we’d all love to see a home-run hitter every game, but more than that, let’s avoid the five-turnover, the major-turnover games.
“Put the team in a position where we can feel safe with the ball in your hands. Let’s start there.”
The ‘roller coaster’
Such consistency wasn’t a hallmark of Cutler’s eight-year stay in Chicago.
“He was a guy that came in who had a hand cannon,” Tillman said of Cutler’s arm strength. “He worked hard at his craft. The one thing, I think that Jay can’t escape or that knocks him is, it was kinda up and down. It was a roller coaster.
“Some days he was on, some days he was off. I think that’s why the Bears released him in the end. But I think he was a good player, and I think he’ll definitely wind up on another team.”
Urlacher didn’t dare speculate on Cutler’s legacy — “Not sure,” he said — but Briggs said spoke of his longevity and missed opportunities.
“He was the quarterback here for a lot longer than a lot of the other quarterbacks that I played with in most of the years that I was here,” he said. “We went to one championship. Unfortunately, we probably shoulda went to more. But we went to one NFC Championship Game together.
“Cutler will probably remembered as a quarterback who got a heck of a shot here with the Bears.”
Cutler, who won exactly half his Bears games, had issues with certain teammates. His reputation seemed to improve as he grew older.
Tillman guessed that he played alongside 20 starting quarterbacks during his 12-year Bears career, but the answer is only slightly more depressing: 14. From 2003 to’ 14, the Bears started Kordell Stewart, Chris Chandler, Rex Grossman, Chad Hutchinson, Craig Krenzel, Jonathan Quinn, Kyle Orton, Brian Griese, Todd Collins, Caleb Hanie, Josh McCown, Jason Campbell, Jimmy Clausen — and Cutler.
Tillman doesn’t want the Bears to return to that revolving door.
“Hopefully, he’s the guy,” Tillman said of Glennon. “One thing Chicago has done — or one thing they’re known for — is just the quarterback, having different quarterbacks start over the years.”
Of the generation of Bears players who followed the Super Bowl XX champions, few have been more embraced by fans than Urlacher, Briggs and Tillman.
Glennon won’t get there without being authentic, Tillman said.
“You’re not going to win Chicago over in a day,” said Tillman, who played with only 10 players still on the Bears’ roster. “I think you’ll win Chicago over by how consistent you are over time. Be consistent and be yourself. I think the fans will appreciate that.”
Glennon should look no further for evidence of the staying power of Bears popularity. In the past week, all three former defenders spoke to promote different companies and causes.
“Chicago’s a fun place to play football,” Urlacher said. “If you play good, they’re gonna love you. It’s gonna be hard, but I think the fans will be excited about getting a new [quarterback] in here.”
Briggs, though, said Glennon would feel the pressure anywhere — because he’s making $18.5 million guaranteed on the three-year deal he signed last week.
“It means that you’re expected to come in and produce,” Briggs said. “You’re expected to come in and make plays for this team, to help this team win.
“His expectation level for himself should be extremely high — it should be higher than what any of us expect.”