Friday, April 19, 2013
Bears draft preview: Quarterback
By Michael C. Wright
ESPNChicago.com continues its Bears draft preview series with a look at the quarterbacks.
With Jay Cutler entering the final season of his contract, drafting a quarterback might make sense for the Bears.
Pre-draft visits and formal meetings at the NFL combine and various college all-star games indicate the Bears aren't looking to use a pick on a quarterback.
Then again, maybe the team's perceived lack of interest in the position could be viewed as a smokescreen.
As it stands now, the Bears could go into the season with three quarterbacks on the roster in Jay Cutler, Josh McCown and Matt Blanchard. Having lost Jason Campbell in free agency, the team could certainly get by with McCown as the primary backup to Cutler.
But given Cutler's uncertain status with the Bears long term, the club should at least start preparing for the possibility of starting the 2014 season with a new quarterback at the helm, whether it's a free agent or developmental player acquired in this year's draft. Cutler enters the final year of his contract in 2013, and there's no guarantee the team will feel inclined to extend him after the season.
Interestingly, new coach Marc Trestman -- a noted quarterback guru -- and general manager Phil Emery have used measured responses throughout the offseason when questioned about Cutler. Emery once called Cutler a "franchise quarterback," but the coach wouldn't shower such effusive praise.
"I'm excited to coach Jay," Trestman said at the NFL combine. "I've had a couple of opportunities to talk with him on multiple levels, and (I'm) excited to work with him in all facets of the game. I really am. He's an extremely bright guy. He loves football. He's got a great skill set. So we've got to work hard to provide him the resources (we) can to maximize his ability, and that goes into everything we're doing in all three phases with the personnel department and with our coaching staff."
The Bears added protection along the offensive line this season in new starting left tackle Jermon Bushrod and guard Matt Slauson, and nabbed yet another receiving target for Cutler in tight end Martellus Bennett, which shows the team's commitment to building around the quarterback so he can succeed.
Analysis: During the team's marathon interview process to find a new head coach, multiple sources mentioned Emery wants the new head man to get after Cutler from a motivational standpoint to coax the best from him. Last season when the team struggled offensively, resulting in part of the firing of Lovie Smith and the majority of his staff, multiple members of that staff described the quarterback's relationship with coaches and players as tumultuous.
When Cutler suffered a concussion in the first half of the team's loss to the Houston Texans on Nov. 11, multiple members of the former staff hoped Campbell would step up and perform well enough to relegate the starter to a backup role. But in Campbell's lone start the following week at San Francisco, he suffered six sacks and tossed two interceptions during a 32-7 pounding. The drama that took place in 2012 won't be tolerated this season under Trestman, who mentioned that Cutler realizes at this point in his career -- which coincidentally is the final year of his contract in Chicago -- his own mortality in the NFL. So under new direction, Cutler should flourish and play perhaps the best football of his Chicago tenure in 2013. Still, the team needs to be thinking about the future at quarterback.