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NFL Draft

Bears Fans Should Be Mad, Just Not At Andy Dalton

  • The Draft Network
  • March 17, 2021
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I get it, Chicago Bears fans. I really do. You deserve better. The chasm between the level of fandom and the level of franchise success in Chicago is wide. Sure, there’s the 1985 Super Bowl team to hang your hat on—and that’s more than 12 other franchises have to show for—but sustained, meaningful success has eluded one of the NFL’s cornerstone franchises.

The NFC Championship trophy is named after George Halas, for goodness sake, yet the Bears have only had the opportunity to win that trophy one more time in the Super Bowl era than the Carolina Panthers (who entered the NFL in 1995) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (who joined in 1976 but have a long history of being a league-wide laughing stock). No, the Bears aren’t the Cleveland Browns or the Detroit Lions—that’s a whole different level of prolonged mediocrity—but given the market size, age of the franchise, and the complete inability to figure out a solution to the most important position in sports, Chicago is one of the most frustrating teams in the NFL for their fans to root for.

That frustration boiled over on Tuesday when Andy Dalton’s one-year, $10 million deal was announced. 

While Dalton is getting too much hate—he’s nothing special, but is an upgrade over Nick Foles—the reaction really isn’t about Dalton at all. It’s not about how he was perfectly fine for the Dallas Cowboys last season after returning from a concussion/the COVID-19 list. It’s not about how he completed two-thirds of his passes for 1,718 yards and a 15-to-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio over the final seven games of the season. None of that matters because it’s about what led up to this point.

It’s about trading up one spot in the 2017 NFL Draft to take Mitchell Trubisky at No. 2 overall, only to see him flounder while the next two quarterbacks chosen turned into superstars. It’s about head coach Matt Nagy coming over from Kansas City to revolutionize the Bears’ offense only to watch it completely stagnate after one season. It’s about trading a fourth-round pick and handing over $20 million guaranteed to trade for Foles in the first place. It’s about Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace keeping their jobs for the 2021 season, operating the franchise in a state of panic while looking over both shoulders to avoid the inevitable guillotine. That doesn’t even include some of the questionable free agent signings like Robert Quinn, Danny Trevathan, Mike Glennon, Trey Burton, etc. And all of that is only since 2017! 

The Bears’ dreary history of quarterback play is well documented and well established—it’s basically woven into the fabric of the franchise. There are 15 quarterbacks active in the NFL right now (including Dalton) that would be the Bears’ all-time passing leader over Jay Cutler—17 if Drew Brees and Philip Rivers didn’t just retire. There are 153 quarterbacks in NFL history with more passing yards than Chicago’s No. 2 all-time passer, Sid Luckman—including illustrious current passers such as Blake Bortles, Jameis Winston, and Jared Goff. While the eras are certainly different in the latter example, the Bears haven’t been able to get the position right in any era. If that doesn’t drive the point home, consider this: Trubisky leaves Chicago—a team established in 1920—as the team’s No. 8 all-time passer.

The inability to establish a franchise quarterback has been an anchor for the organization. The Bears are known for having historically great defenses—units that carry anywhere from average to anemic offenses into the playoffs and even to a sporadic Super Bowl (hello, 2006-07 Bears). That’s why when the golden carrot of Russell Wilson was dangled out to Bears fans weeks ago, they couldn’t do anything but fantasize and hope for the best. That’s also why the Dalton signing was so maligned. 

Getting Wilson this offseason was a pipedream—circle back in a year because it’ll be more doable then—but one many had already begun to talk themselves into. Honestly, just hearing the Bears’ name on a star quarterback’s wishlist was remarkably refreshing for Chicago fans. But Lucy pulled the ball away from Charlie Brown again, and the Bears were left with the meh options they’ve been accustomed to over the years.

So once again, it’s not about Dalton… it’s about what Dalton represents. He represents the end of the 2021 pursuit of Wilson. He represents the deflating hopes and wishes of a franchise quarterback finally coming to town. He represents everything the Bears’ front office has done to mismanage their assets for years and years. He represents another season where a wild-card birth and early playoff exit is the peak.

Dalton obviously isn’t the long-term answer. The 2022 starting quarterback (and likely head coach and general manager) isn’t on the roster right now. But Dalton is better than what they had going into the free-agent tampering period and he won’t prevent the Bears from drafting a quarterback if they are fortunate enough to like whoever falls to No. 20—my guess, they won’t like who’s still there. Maybe they’ll reset the entire leadership group going into the 2022 season and make an even stronger run at Wilson than what’s been reported—Bears fans can only hope. But the one thing they couldn’t do is go into the season with Foles and only Foles as their starting quarterback.

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