For nearly 30 years, the Bears-Packers rivalry has come down to a simple yet enormous difference: The team with the quarterback beats the team that has everything but a quarterback.
Between Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers, the Packers have repeatedly outclassed the Bears at the most important position on the field. Those two have dominated against the likes of Rex Grossman, Kyle Orton, Kordell Stewart and Cade McNown. Both have had a better chance with no help than Bears QB Mitch Trubisky has with tons of it.
It’s the biggest reason the Packers — who host the Bears on Sunday — are 40-15 in the series with Favre or Rodgers under center and about to go to the playoffs for the 20th time in 28 seasons. They have given the Packers a chance regardless of whether they had top-shelf receivers or a viable defense.
Favre went to a Super Bowl with a 17th-ranked defense. Despite sitting dead last in total defense in 2011, the Packers went 15-1 thanks to an MVP season by Rodgers, and three years ago he got them to the NFC title game with a bad defense. A star quarterback can cover a litany of roster flaws.
Rodgers and the Packers are 10-3 this season and closing in on the NFC North title with a defense that’s 25th against the run and 21st against the pass. And Rodgers has exactly one receiver the rest of the league covets: Davante Adams.
Meanwhile, the Bears have stumbled to 7-6 and are on the verge of mathematical elimination from the playoffs even though their defense has allowed the fourth-fewest points. Trubisky is 20th in passer rating, and his numbers are down across the board.
Trubisky got the better of Rodgers last December and helped knock the Packers out of the playoff race by completing 20 of 28 passes for 235 yards and two touchdowns, but he posted a combined rating of 77.3 in his three losses against them. Rodgers has a 105.2 rating against the Bears for his career and has beaten them 17 of 22 times.
“There’s nothing you can really put your finger on,” Rodgers said when asked to explain his success in the rivalry. “It just means a lot, and sometimes those types of environments can bring out the best in you.”
The Bears played against Rodgers as well as any defense could in the season opener, but he escaped with a 10-3 win on a night when Trubisky completed 26 of 45 passes for 228 yards and threw an interception from the Packers’ 16-yard line at the end.
Trubisky’s first three seasons haven’t been great or terrible. He’s certainly not an absolute bust like Grossman or McNown. He has been OK. But the Bears should have gotten the point — after Favre and Rodgers have beaten it into their heads for nearly three decades — that OK isn’t enough at quarterback. Before Favre’s arrival in 1992, the Bears led this series 80-56 (they’ve had six ties). They now trail 98-95.
How much different would it feel if they were sending out Patrick Mahomes or Deshaun Watson? At least it would be a fair fight.
It’s great that general manager Ryan Pace went all-in to land linebacker Khalil Mack and brought in stars like safety Eddie Jackson and wide receiver Allen Robinson. But he whiffed on a chance to flip this rivalry on its head with a quarterback who could trade punches with Rodgers.
It won’t matter how many smart moves Pace makes if he can’t get it right at quarterback. And the Bears are yet again chasing the team that always gets it right.