The Bears and drafting quarterbacks: a murder mystery

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When Tony Romo went down with a back injury, the Cowboys had rookie quarterback Dak Prescott (above) ready to go. The Bears play Dallas on Sunday. (AP Photo/Mark Tenally)

The Bears can’t find a quarterback through the draft. Apparently, there aren’t any. They must have gone the way of the woolly mammoth.

Weird, though, because teams like the Patriots keep finding quarterbacks. When Tom Brady is out, New England has a former draft pick ready to go. First it was 2014 second-round pick Jimmy Garoppolo taking over when Brady began serving his Deflategate suspension, and then it was 2016 third-round pick Jacoby Brissett replacing Garoppolo, who is out with a shoulder injury. Brissett reportedly tore a thumb ligament in Thursday night’s game, which probably means that coach Bill Belichick will pull a redshirt freshman out of his hat.

I don’t know how any of this is possible because for years the Bears have looked at college quarterbacks and seen nothing but a barren landscape. It’s why, with Jay Cutler likely sidelined with a thumb injury, the Bears are expected to rely Sunday on veteran Brian Hoyer, who is on his fifth team in eight seasons. They play the Cowboys and Dak Prescott, a 2016 fourth-round pick who is filling in for the injured Tony Romo.

I don’t know if Prescott will evolve into a productive NFL quarterback. I do know that the Cowboys are 1-1 in his two starts, that he has an 83.1 passer rating and that Dallas had enough confidence to put him on the field in the first place.

I don’t know if Garoppolo or Brissett will turn into great quarterbacks either. I just know that the Patriots aren’t afraid to take a chance on drafting a quarterback. And I know that they think enough of Garoppolo that they might overcompensate him financially if he’ll agree to bide his time behind Brady.

Has anyone gotten a whiff of a plan for the Bears and the most important position in sports? I didn’t think so.

The Bears are rebuilding. Going through a rebuild without drafting a quarterback is like rebuilding an engine without an engine. Have the wrong quarterback over and over again, as the Bears have had, and any rebuild will end up looking like a pile of collapsed Jenga blocks.

Since 2000, they have drafted six quarterbacks – Rex Grossman, Craig Krenzel, Kyle Orton, Dan LeFevour, Nathan Enderle and David Fales. Perhaps that thin history would make sense if the Bears had possessed a star quarterback during that time. They did not. When you have a Brady, you don’t need to worry too much about accumulating quarterbacks. The Patriots do anyway. Smart people.

Orton, the best of those draft picks for the Bears, was part of the trade that brought Cutler to Chicago. The irony? Orton turned out to be as good or better than Cutler.

General manager Ryan Pace and coach John Fox have gone two drafts without choosing a quarterback. Considering that they came to Chicago casting a skeptical eye at Cutler, it makes their reluctance to address the position through the draft even more surprising. Then again, one of Cutler’s strengths is the ability to get normally rational people to lose their minds over him.

I don’t mean to put this all on Pace and Fox. Former GMs Jerry Angelo and Phil Emery weren’t exactly quarterback bloodhounds. Let’s call it a group failed effort.

You might feel compelled to ask which quarterbacks I would have drafted if I had been in the Bears’ shoes. Well, Garoppolo, for one, but that’s beside the point. It’s not my job. Good quarterbacks are hard to find, but good personnel people find them. The dearth of football smarts at Halas Hall was why the Bears rolled the dice with Cutler in 2009, hoping against hope that his talent would outweigh the baggage he might bring to town. They had spent so many years either making poor choices at QB or not dealing with the problem in the draft that they felt the need to take a risk. All it has brought is a lot of mediocrity.

If you want to know why the Bears haven’t won a Super Bowl since 1985, take a look at all the quarterbacks they have gone through. Or, if you want to be able to get out of bed in the morning, unburdened by clinical depression, don’t.

This might make you feel better about the Bears’ chances Sunday: It was the Patriots, those connoisseurs of fine quarterbacks, who signed Hoyer as a rookie free agent out Michigan State in 2009. He started the season as Brady’s backup, no small feat for an undrafted player. The downside? New England waived him before the 2012 season.

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