Ryan Pace inherited Jay Cutler and kept him for two years.
Since the Bears general manager cut him in March 2017, though, he hasn’t been able to find anyone better. He traded up to draft Mitch Trubisky, traded for Nick Foles and took free-agent fliers on other veterans.
When he signed Andy Dalton on Wednesday, Pace increased the number of meaningful quarterback acquisitions — defined as those who took regular-season snaps — to eight.
A look at all eight, and the rationale behind Pace’s moves, shows exactly how he now finds himself trapped in quarterback hell:
The deal: Signed to a one-year, $2 million deal on April 30, 2016
The rationale: Rather than select a collegian to accompany Cutler, Pace signed Hoyer soon after the draft ended. Pace cited Hoyer’s starting experience — the 30-year-old had played 11 games for the Texans the year before — and his time with former offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains as reasons for the signing.
The result: He went 1-4 in five starts while replacing an injured Cutler before breaking his left arm in a primetime loss at Lambeau Field. He completed a respectable 67% of his passes and didn’t throw a single interception. His 98.0 career passer rating trails only one other player — Josh McCown, who played from 2011-13.
The deal: Signed to the practice squad Sept. 5, 2016, promoted Sept. 22
The rationale: Pace signed Barkley at the end of the preseason and said later that he was impressed that he could “function well for a guy that wasn’t even with us during training camp.”
The result: The former USC star replaced Hoyer against the Packers but didn’t make his first start for the Bears — and the first of his career — until five weeks later. He went 1-5, throwing eight touchdowns and 14 interceptions, but revived his career and earned a contract from the 49ers. He spent the last three seasons as the Bills’ backup — a role that now belongs to Trubisky.
The deal: Signed to a three-year, $45 million deal on March 10, 2017
The rationale: Pace gave Glennon $18.5 million guaranteed to replace Cutler. In return, he got the cover of secrecy to draft Trubisky less than two months later. Pace said Glennon had “all the traits we all value at the position — he’s intelligent, he can quickly process, he can see the field, he’s accurate, he gets the ball out quick.” Pace signed Mark Sanchez two weeks later, but he never took a regular-season Bears snap.
The result: Ugly. Glennon was schmoozing with fans at the team’s draft night party when he found out on television they’d picked Trubisky. He started the Bears’ first four games, fumbling five times and throwing five interceptions. Candy company Butterfinger mocked his hands on Twitter during a prime-time loss to the Packers, the last appearance of his Bears career.
The deal: Drafted No. 2 overall on April 27, 2017
The rationale: Pace identified the quarterback he wanted in the draft — and no, it wasn’t Patrick Mahomes or Deshaun Watson — and traded four picks to move up one spot. “If we want to be great, you just can’t sit on your hands,” he said. “There are times when you’ve got to be aggressive.”
The result: Trubisky won 29 of his 50 starts in four years and went to the Pro Bowl as an alternate in 2018, but never showed the promise that Pace envisioned on draft night. The GM chose not to pick up the option on his rookie contract, leaving Trubisky to sign with the Bills as a backup Thursday.
The deal: Signed to a two-year, $10 million deal on March 14, 2018
The rationale: Pace worked with Daniel in New Orleans, while head coach Matt Nagy had him in Kansas City. The GM called Daniel “a quarterback we believe in — but also someone that we feel is going to greatly help Mitch’s continued development.”
The result: Daniel made three starts over two years because of Trubisky injuries — including the 2019 game in London — but was never a threat to push him for the starting job. The quintessential veteran backup, Daniel’s Bears career would have lasted longer had Trubisky played better. He left via free agency last offseason.
The deal: Was acquired for a fourth-round pick on March 31, 2020
The rationale: Nagy, offensive coordinator Bill Lazor and quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo had all previously worked with Foles. “You have a lot of people in our building that are comfortable with him as a person and his makeup, which made the decision easier,” Pace said. The Bears reworked his contract, making it a three-year, $24 million pact, as part of the trade.
The result: Having no offseason practices put Foles behind Trubisky. He replaced Trubisky in Week 3 and led the Bears to a miraculous comeback against the Falcons to claim the starting job. Foles then won two of seven starts before hurting his hip. He finished with a disappointing 80.8 passer rating.
The deal: Signed to a one-year deal on March 16, 2018; re-signed to one-year deals the next two seasons.
The rationale: Bray played for Nagy in Kansas City and was brought to the Bears in 2018, in part, to help teach Trubisky the offense. Pace was pleased enough with his performance to bring him back twice. Fun fact: he’s the only Bears quarterback Pace has ever re-signed.
The result: The Bears protected the 29-year-old former Tennessee star on their practice squad last season, considering him an insurance policy in case Foles or Trubisky contracted the coronavirus. He appeared in only one game over three years — a last-minute drive after Foles hurt his hip — and completed 1-of-5 passes for 18 yards.
The deal: Signed to a one-year, $10 million deal — worth $13 after incentives — on March 17.
The rationale: The 33-year-old Dalton was a three-time Pro Bowl player, with his last appearance coming in 2016, and knows Lazor’s offense from their time together in Cincinnati. Dalton’s one-year deal allows them to pivot and draft a quarterback — or somehow, against all odds, trade for Russell Wilson or Deshaun Watson.
The result: We’ll see. The Bears told Dalton he’ll be the starter — they said the same to Glennon, you’ll remember — and it’s clear they trust him to run the offense more than they did Trubisky or Foles. Dalton went 4-5 after replacing Dak Prescott in Dallas last year; he went 3-1 in the last month of the season, posting passer ratings of 96.7 or better three times.