With the Bears eyeing quarterbacks during the NFL Scouting Combine in March, coach John Fox made some interesting remarks about Jimmy Clausen.
In front of a gaggle of reporters, Fox admitted that he never scouted Clausen, the former Panthers and Bears quarterback, before Carolina drafted him 48th overall in 2010.
“That situation was a little bit unique because I think people projected him maybe even in the top 10,” Fox said. “On draft day, that’s not how it materialized. I can’t give you all the exacts, [but] he was dropping.
“Personally, I never even watched him because he wasn’t a targeted guy for me in our pre-draft assignments. But I can say now I would hope we draft someone that I’ve actually gotten a chance to watch.”
Fox did watch rookie Mitch Trubisky, but it’s no secret that general manager Ryan Pace kept his true feelings about Trubisky and intentions to draft him hidden, too.
In some ways, the 2017 Bears have morphed into the 2010 Panthers.
Former Panthers general manager Marty Hurney was OK with drafting a quarterback that his longtime coach hadn’t personally scouted just as Pace was comfortable with stunning everyone in the NFL with his selection of Trubisky.
And now Fox essentially is in the same situation as he was in 2010: He’s struggling to win with a rookie quarterback and could be dismissed because of it.
Clausen, of course, floundered in 2010. He replaced struggling starter Matt Moore (four interceptions, eight sacks in the first two games) in Week 3 but was later benched for three games before Moore got injured in Week 8. Brian St. Pierre started in Week 11 with Clausen out with a concussion.
That season, Clausen went 1-9 as the Panthers’ starter, completing 157 of 299 passes for 1,558 yards and three touchdowns with nine interceptions.
Trubisky has been better for the Bears, particularly when it comes to ball security, since replacing Mike Glennon after Glennon accounted for eight turnovers in the first four weeks.
But there are certain parallels on offense to consider between the teams.
The Panthers finished 2010 ranked last in total yards per game (258.4), passing yards per game (143.1), scoring (12.3), passing touchdowns (nine) and first downs (225).
Former Panthers star wide receiver Steve Smith could only do so much. Smith played in 14 games that season but only had 554 receiving yards, his lowest total in a 12-year span.
The Bears, meanwhile, rank last in total yards per game (275.8), passing yards per game (160.3) and first downs (188). They’re 30th in scoring at 15.9 points and 28th in passing touchdowns with 11.
Of course, other factors matter when it comes to such offensive ineptitude. The Panthers dealt with injuries on their offensive line and at running back; the Bears are dealing with injuries on the line, at receiver and at tight end.
Still, the point is that it’s difficult to win and develop a quarterback at the same time. The Bears have been at that crossroads since Week 5.
“Obviously, as coaches, we’re always trying to win first, but as a quarterback coach [and] as an offensive coordinator, I do think about Mitch,” offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said. “Everything we’re trying to do is try to win one game at a time, but there is a big-picture thought process for myself and the offensive staff.
“We understand that this kid needs to develop, and there’s some situations that he needs to go through and fail at and learn from.”
As Fox should know, that learning process for a quarterback can lead to organizational changes.
The 2010 season was Fox’s last with the Panthers after joining the team in 2002. Hurney stayed on and hired their next coach, Ron Rivera.
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