I woke Friday morning to the same world I wake to every time the Bears suggest they have finally found their quarterback of the future, an every three- or four-year occurrence.
I was greeted by the same tidal wave of civic hope that greeted me when they drafted Cade McNown, when they acquired Jay Cutler, when they traded up to take Mitch Trubisky and when they introduced us to the dozens of other quarterbacks of the future whose futures, as it turned out, none of us should have been forced to witness.
I woke to radio talk shows saying that the Bears had made a great move by trading up to take Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields with the 11th overall pick Thursday night. They said that the Fields should have been the second quarterback taken in the draft, not the fourth, and that only over-analysis by scouts and other experts had lowered his stock. A miracle is what it was.
I woke to praise for Bears general manager Ryan Pace for landing an athletic quarterback who will fit in well with coach Matt Nagy’s offense, the type of athletic quarterback the Chiefs have in Patrick Mahomes.
I wish I had slept in. For a month.
We never learn when it comes to hope and quarterbacks and the Bears, but that’s stating the obvious, like saying a recidivist never learns that crime doesn’t pay.
You’ll forgive me my cynicism. I’ve been here before. So have many of you. The difference between you and me is one thing: renewable belief. I don’t believe the Bears would know a good quarterback if one threw a pass through their sternums. You, on the other hand, get slugged over and over again by the likes of Bobby Douglass, Jim Harbaugh and Rex Grossman, yet say through swollen lips and puffy eyes: “We got Justin Fields? We got Justin Fields!!!”
No, we never learn. I hope Fields turns out to be the answer to the Bears’ decades-long inability to find a star at the position, but history, especially as it has been written by Pace, tells me Fields probably won’t be. In 2017, the GM chose Trubisky over the soon-to-be-superstar Mahomes, which should have ended up being an unforgivable sin. But these are the forgiving Bears, which means it turned into another chance for Pace to draft a quarterback.
The odds are that he’ll be wrong again, and wrong, of course, is the Bears’ enduring problem. Nothing against Fields. He might be great. But Pace, given his record, never should have been handed the keys to pick a quarterback again. His drafting of a QB in the first round this time around means he’ll likely gain another year or two of employment that he never should have. How can the McCaskeys fire him before they find out for sure about Fields’ abilities? They can’t, not in the tender, merciful world they’ve built.
The likeliest scenario has veteran Andy Dalton starting in 2021 and Fields taking over the following season. All of it under the watchful and gainfully employed eye of Pace. Oh, man.
So, yes, forgive me for not cannonballing into the pool of joy that so many people are splashing around in right now. When NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced the Bears’ choice of Fields on Thursday, I reflexively took it as proof that Pace should have taken Alabama quarterback Mac Jones instead, that Jones will turn into a perennial All Pro for the Patriots and that Jones will marry a supermodel.
I get the idea of hope. I do. We all need it, especially these days. But when it comes to the Bears, whenever a shiny, new quarterback comes along, hope shows up and it’s as if the past never happened. Any historical context gets washed away by all the salivating.
I saw Fields play well at Ohio State, and I saw him play poorly. If we’ve learned anything in Chicago, it’s that we don’t know when it comes to quarterbacks. We know what a good one looks like because the Bears play the Packers and Aaron Rodgers twice a year.
There were reports Thursday that Rodgers wants to be traded, which led a few radio yakkers to suggest that if the Packers dealt him out of the NFC North, it would be the most monumental development for the Bears in recent history. Such a Chicago thing to say. Such a Bears thing to think.
But then Thursday night happened, Monday dawned, and if you thought a potential Rodgers trade was big, you found out from the public reaction to the drafting of Fields that all the Rodgers chat was amateur hour.
The Bears had finally found their quarterback of the future. Again.