Since the NFL/AFL merger in 1970, the Chicago Bears have selected a quarterback with a Top 5 overall pick just once: Jim McMahon in 1982.
Not surprisingly, McMahon is considered one of the best QBs in franchise history, who led the team to their only Super Bowl title.
Since McMahon, Chicago has been a wasteland for quarterbacks, particularly the past two decades. The yearly ineptitude under center compelled former GM Jerry Angelo to ship two first-round picks and more to the Broncos for Jay Cutler in 2009. Such was his level of frustration and desperation with the team's revolving door of mediocre passers, Angelo mortgaged the team's future to get a quarterback who threw 18 interceptions the previous year.
Angelo's mistake with Cutler is just one of numerous examples of NFL teams overpaying for quarterbacks. We see it every year in free agency and the draft, with teams consistently reaching for potential starting quarterbacks.
Current Bears GM Ryan Pace was in a similar situation yesterday heading into the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft. With Cutler gone and no assurances from Mike Glennon, Pace traded up one spot to the second overall pick to select former North Carolina QB Mitch Trubisky.
Pace gave up a third- and fourth-round pick in this year's draft, as well as third-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft to move up from third to second overall. It's a price tag that has been roundly criticized by Bears fans, yet Pace said it was a necessity.
“You always feel like there’s competition [from other teams who want to move up]," Pace said. "So when you have conviction on something – you never know half-the time. It’s like in free agency when the agent tells you he’s got three other teams he’s working with, you never really know. You’ve just got to trust your conviction on it and if you want a player you aggressively go get him.
“Just in my talks – we had a lot of feelers out there. You’re kind of feeling the situation out and I didn’t want to sit on our hands and have some team jump us and it not work out when we were this close within reach of a player that we all really valued. I didn’t want to sit on our hands and risk not getting that player.”
While Pace gave up a substantial amount to acquire Trubisky, consider the situation.
The Bears have won just nine games the past two seasons combined and are coming off the worst campaign in franchise history. Cutler is gone and the current No. 1 quarterback, Mike Glennon, hasn't started a game in more than two seasons. If Glennon is the second coming of Peter Tom Willis and Pace has no viable Plan B in place, he'll be looking for work next season.
Whether the threat of being leapfrogged by another team was real or not, Pace wasn't willing to take that risk. He knew that all he had to do was drop a few mid-round pick in San Francisco's lap and it would guarantee the Bears the top quarterback in the draft, whom many believe has long-term starter potential.
“As we talked at the end of the season, I stressed the importance of the quarterback position, the importance of getting it right and how critical that position is for our long-term success," said Pace. "We’re obviously excited to add a quarterback of this caliber. The only chance you get to add quarterbacks like this is when you’re picking this high in the draft and taking advantage of it. As an organization, we had conviction on this quarterback and his special attributes and we did what we had to do to get him. His potential to be a championship quarterback – and that’s all we focused on in this move."
Did Pace truly overpay to land Trubisky? We'll never know for sure but one thing I can say with firm conviction: if Trubisky turns out to be a good starting quarterback, no one is going to care about the third- and fourth-round picks it took to get him.
Others are extremely concerned with Glennon's price tag and how it relates to Trubisky, which is somewhat baffling. Glennon is being paid $14.5 million next season, which is one of the lowest salaries of any starting QB not still playing under his rookie contract.
Every team with a veteran QB allots at least $15 million for their starting QB because that's what they cost. Is Glennon overpaid? Sure. Does it hurt the Bears, who still have plenty of cap space? Not at all.
And if Glennon turns out to be great, then you potentially have two starting-caliber passers on your roster, which is a great problem to have, as competent QBs command top dollar in the trade market.
For 2017, Pace said there will be no quarterback competition.
"Mike Glennon is our starting quarterback," said Pace. "There is no quarterback competition when Mitch gets here. Glennon is our starting quarterback. We’ll focus on Mitch’s development and Mike Glennon winning games for the Chicago Bears."
Glennon's presence is a good thing. He's a four-year NFL veteran with starting experience who can help Trubisky throughout his development process. And with Glennon on board, the Bears won't need to thrust Trubisky into the fray as a rookie and risk shattering his confidence.
As far as Glennon's price tag on essentially a one-year deal? Who cares? It was a necessity to make sure the Bears were in proper position to draft a quarterback who needs time to develop.
In terms of the cost for moving up, remember, the draft isn't over. Last year, Pace traded back twice in the second round and still landed one of the best offensive linemen in the 2016 class (Cody Whitehair). The Bears have a premium spot in the second round and there is a ton of talent still out there, so you can be sure teams will be looking to move up.
Don't be surprised if Pace today moves back at least once, thus recouping one or two of those mid-round picks, and still lands a bona fide starting-caliber player.
Finally, is Trubisky "The Guy" to carry this franchise on his shoulders?
On film, Trubisky was very impressive last season. He has a strong arm, he's elusive in the pocket and he has very good mobility. He was also very judicious with the football, throwing just 6 interception compared to 30 TDs in 2016. If ball security continues to be one of his strengths, it will be a massive improvement over the turnover-prone Cutler.
Personally, I was on record multiple times saying Trubisky was the best quarterback in this year's draft. I believe the Bears landed their franchise quarterback of the future and when you consider the immense importance of the position, that's really all that matters.
If Trubisky takes Chicago to the promised land, this cacophony of small-claims complaints over one-year contracts and mid-round picks will all be very amusing in retrospect.