- Michael C. Wright, ESPN Staff Writer
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INDIANAPOLIS -- When former Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch revealed he had a meeting Friday with the Chicago Bears at Lucas Oil Stadium, thoughts immediately turned to the run of success experienced by Seattle’s Super Bowl champion signal-caller Russell Wilson, and the fact it's probably time this team found a young gem to develop behind Jay Cutler.
It's past time, actually.
Given the team’s myriad needs on defense, undoubtedly, adding a quarterback seems more luxury than necessity at this point; especially taking into account Cutler’s new seven-year, $126.7 million contract signed in January. But as it stands now, Cutler is the only quarterback on Chicago’s current roster who has thrown a pass in a regular-season game. Veterans Josh McCown and Jordan Palmer are free agents, and Jerrod Johnson is a developmental player who, after a brief stint on the practice squad in September, signed a reserve/futures deal in December.
The club wants to bring back McCown for 2014, and he wants to return, but even that’s not a slam dunk as the Bears still haven’t made an offer.
While not exactly pressing, a need at the position exists. Cutler hasn’t played an entire 16-game season since 2009, missing 13 of the team’s past 64 contests, including five last season because of two different injuries.
Asked at the combine whether the Bears would be open to drafting a quarterback, general manager Phil Emery said, "I'm open to drafting any position that will help us." So the Chicago brass continues to play it close to the vest. But given Bears coach Marc Trestman's pedigree as somewhat of a quarterback whisperer, perhaps with Emery’s help the club could uncover a gem in the mid-to-later rounds, much like the Seahawks did with Wilson.
"It's a process. We'll see where we are with the draft. We’re going to evaluate all the quarterbacks we think can play and we’ll make decisions accordingly," Trestman said. “At this point we’re excited about the fact we’ve got Jay in place because Jay in place allows us to work and fill the work in a lot of different other areas to complete our football team. I’ve been in quarterback rooms where we’ve had a young player. I’ve been in quarterback rooms where we haven’t. It’s whatever is best for the football team. If that player can be developed and help our football team now and in the future, I’m sure he’ll be in the consideration.”
Nearly every quarterback prospect at the combine mentioned the success stories of Wilson. The league's copycat element pretty much assures teams, perhaps even the Bears, are looking to uncover the next one. Chicago certainly needs to be at least making the effort.
Sure, Cutler signed a seven-year deal. But at age 30, he essentially signed a three-year contract containing rolling options that mitigate any cap hit if the team decides to part ways after 2016.
So maybe the Bears take an interest in developing a younger player such as Lynch, or maybe even taking a late-round flier on Georgia’s Aaron Murray, an undersized, yet productive prospect whose stock seems to be sliding because he tore his left ACL on Nov. 23 in a 59-17 win against Kentucky.
"I want a coach that's going to push me. I want someone that's going to drive me every single day to improve my footwork, to improve my accuracy, to never be happy with where I'm at," Murray said.
That guy sounds a lot like Trestman.
Lynch, a graduate of Chicgao's Mt. Carmel High School, is another undersized and highly scrutinized prospect, who was extremely productive in college (6,209 passing yards, 51 touchdown passes), generating a record of 24-4 a starter.
"I’m not that 6-foot-5 pocket passer that stands in the pocket," Lynch said. "One of those things about being 6-foot is that it does play to your advantage at times. Being that small, you’re sitting in the pocket and not a lot of defensive backs can get a read on your eyes. That's one of the advantages of being a shorter guy. I throw with anticipation. I throw to spots. Sometimes I can't really see the receiver so you have to buy into the system, trust the system and throw on time."
Trestman's scheme seems to fit that type of quarterback. Drew Brees, another shorter passer, flourishes in a system very similar in New Orleans.
The Bears last drafted quarterbacks in 2010 (Dan LeFevour) and 2011 (Nathan Enderle), but they weren't as well-equipped to develop the position as they are today with Trestman and quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh.
Going into Year 3 as Chicago's general manager, Emery still hasn't selected a quarterback in the draft. Interestingly, the GM has said he'd like to draft at that position every year.
Well, Phil, now's the time.