You might be aware of this already, but we have an NFL team in town that can’t get the quarterback position right. I don’t want to suggest that the Bears are cursed in this regard, but if they were somehow gifted with Tom Brady, there’s a good chance he’d immediately forget how to grip a football.
You might be aware of this, too, but you have to go back to Sid Luckman to find the team’s last true star quarterback. That’s a bummer because he grew up with George Washington.
So the Bears are in a very bad predicament, exacerbated by the presence of two people — general manager Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy — whose job security is tied to their ability to solve the quarterback problem. It’s a very bad predicament because it was Pace who infamously deemed that Mitch Trubisky was better than Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson in the 2017 draft. And it’s a very bad predicament because Pace and Nagy are holding first-round picks, this year’s and future years’, that they might use to fix what Pace broke four years ago. They could cripple the franchise for a decade with another horrible decision.
So these are the guys you want deciding the Bears’ future? No. It’s why I described the predicament so eloquently as “very bad.’’ Let me make it worse for you. Would the Bears be willing to get down in the mud and trade for the Texans’ Watson, who can’t seem to go two hours these days without another massage therapist accusing him of either sexual assault or inappropriate behavior? The count is now 22.
The initial reaction is that there is no way the McCaskeys, who are as morally upright as a bishop’s ceremonial staff, would ever bring in a player with so much apparent baggage. And, with so much attention given to women’s rights these days, it would be public-relations suicide to trade for a man who allegedly wanted a lot more from his massage therapists than an answer to, say, tight hamstrings. It’s why Nike announced Wednesday that it has suspended its endorsement deal with Watson.
But this is the NFL, where decency is often told to take a hike when an ultra-talented player is involved. Or just a regular talented player. In 2015, the Bears signed defensive end Ray McDonald after the 49ers had waived him while he was under investigation for sexual assault. Not long after the signing, the Bears cut him after charges of domestic violence and child endangerment were filed against him.
So let’s not pretend that the franchise is above this sort of thing. Sure, it’s possible that chairman George McCaskey, who allowed Pace to talk him into signing McDonald, has learned his lesson. But it’s also possible that decades of being without a quarterback have lowered the McCaskeys’ threshold for what they’re willing to ignore. It’s amazing what people are willing to explain away in the name of a potential championship.
This whole discussion is an exercise in hypotheticals — if the Texans would be willing to trade Watson, if Watson would be willing to waive his no-trade clause and if the Bears would be willing to sell their souls for a quarterback. But here’s how NFL teams think, hypothetical or not: Can we get away with this?
And how about you, dear Bears fan? Would trading for Watson be worth the stain that won’t come out in the wash? Don’t play the innocent-until-proven-guilty card, that the quarterback’s word is worth just as much as the chorus on the other side. This is about the reality of the situation. You have to make this personnel decision knowing that the public backlash against the team would be massive. For anyone who wants the Bears to trade for Watson, the question, rightly and loudly, will be, this is what you think of women?
You can say I’m dealing in make-believe, that there’s no way any team besides the Texans would take on the risk of having Watson on its roster. There’s a chance that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will put Watson on the exempt list while the league investigates him. And there’s a chance that Watson could be facing criminal charges and prison time. You know what NFL teams say about that sort of thing: “And?”
I see the Bears with little to no chance of getting one of the so-called quality quarterbacks in this month’s draft. I see a franchise worth billions of dollars that knows it can’t be disliked much more than it is right now. I see a club that can’t possibly think that the recently signed Andy Dalton is the answer. Right? Right?
But the Bears couldn’t be so tone deaf as to trade for a pariah like Watson, could they? Could they?
Before the accusations started flooding in against Watson, I wrote that he wouldn’t want to come to the Bears after the way they had treated him before the 2017 draft. They declined to wine and dine him the way they did with Trubisky. But now he’s in a mess. Perhaps he’s looking for a change of scenery, even if the scenery includes a Bears management team that didn’t seem to think much of him when he was coming out of Clemson four years ago.
These are desperate times for a number of people. How low is everyone willing to go? I fear the worst.