The Chicago Bears entered the 2011 season with two backups quarterbacks with zero NFL starts on their resumes and paid the price for it. A year later they have gone from the greenest corps of backup quarterbacks to one of the NFL's most experienced.
After the signings of Jason Campbell as the primary backup and Josh McCown as the third QB, the Bears have 103 career NFL starts behind starter Jay Cutler, a drastic improvement over Caleb Hanie and then-rookie Nathan Enderle a year ago.
"It's nice that [Campbell] has started 70 contests," Bears general manager Phil Emery said Thursday. "And it's nice that he's gotten six seasons under his belt and thrown for over 60 percent, he has 74 touchdowns and he has an 82.8 passer rating. Those are all extreme positives. It's also very positive that he has the size that he has. ... Arm strength is very important because of our weather and the division that we play in. You'll notice that Jay and Jason have big arms. That to me was a prerequisite moving forward."
Campbell, a first-round draft pick by the Washington Redskins in 2005, spent the past two seasons with the Oakland Raiders, finishing with an 11-7 record in his 18 starts there. His best season came in 2009 when he started 16 games for the Redskins, passing for a career-high 3,618 yards with 20 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.
Campbell, who will be introduced at a press conference on Friday at Halas Hall, knew heading into free agency that he would sign somewhere as a backup. Bears coach Lovie Smith is happy to have him.
"We did a lot of work on Jason Campbell when he came out of Auburn years back," Smith said Thursday. "Really liked him. I like the guy, the person, him being in the locker room. His size, his poise. His grandmother lives here in Chicago. He's got a lot of relatives here. We thought that he would be the perfect backup for Jay."
The Bears brought McCown back as the No. 3 quarterback after the nine-year veteran had a two-game stint as the starter at the end of last season with Cutler hurt and Hanie benched. He completed 63.6 percent of his passes and threw for two touchdowns and four interceptions in three games last season.
McCown, 32, has started 33 of his 50 NFL games played in nine seasons with the Arizona Cardinals (2002-05), Detroit Lions (2006), Raiders (2007), Carolina Panthers (2008-09) and Bears (2011) after entering the league as a third-round selection by Arizona in the 2002 NFL draft.
"There's a reason we brought back Josh McCown," Smith said. "He did a super job in a tough situation last year. And our fourth quarterback, Nathan Enderle, gets a chance to learn from not only one good quarterback with a lot of experience but three. We feel real good about our quarterback position now."