Surviving members of the Sid Luckman family had reason to celebrate Sunday at the conclusion of the 2008 NFL Draft.
Despite the fact that the Chicago Bears have a glaring need at quarterback and had the opportunity to select some quality prospects in each of this past weekend's seven rounds, general manager Jerry Angelo and Co. ignored the game's most important position altogether.Looks like another year of "The Bears haven't had a quarterback since Sid Luckman" jokes will be bandied about from sea to shining sea in 2008 – Luckman last put on a uniform when Harry Truman was in office, by the way.
Head coach Lovie Smith has said all along that Rex Grossman and Kyle Orton will battle it out for the starting job in training camp, but there is still need for a No. 3 since Brian Griese was traded back to Tampa Bay in March. Grossman's struggles have been well documented, as he was benched in favor of Griese this past season and then missed the final three contests due to injury. Orton won two of his three starts to close out the 2007 schedule, although he had to shake the cobwebs after sitting for almost two full years behind Grossman and Griese.
QB Matt Ryan
Al Goldis/AP Images
And while it was considered a so-so crop of signal-callers by most every pigskin prognosticator, it was assumed the Bears had to add one of them to serve as the third-stringer and possibly develop into that quarterback of the future this franchise has been missing for more than half a century.
Matt Ryan of Boston College was the only prospect universally given a first-round grade, as the Falcons took him at No. 3 with hopes that he could finally rid Atlanta of Michael Vick's lingering stench. Joe Flacco of Delaware had a private workout for the Bears and looked to be on the team's wish list heading into the weekend, but the Ravens took him off the board at No. 18 – much higher than anybody anticipated. Angelo opted to address his most immediate need by selecting Vanderbilt lineman Chris Williams, who has the tools to be a franchise left tackle, at No. 14 in Round 1.
And frankly, after everything the Bears have been through with Grossman since taking him in the first round of the 2003 draft, there was no way another QB was going to get the nod that high any time soon. Round 2 or 3? That made a lot more sense.
Brian Brohm of Louisville and Chad Henne of Michigan were the two quarterbacks expected to come off the board next. Brohm may have been the No. 1 pick overall had he come out as a junior, and Henne was a four-year starter for the Wolverines who did very well for himself at the Senior Bowl and NFL Scouting Combine. And while both of them were considered worthy of late first- or early second-round picks, much to everyone's surprise, both of them were still available with the Bears on the clock midway through Round 2 at No. 44.
Angelo instead chose Tulane running back Matt Forte, a clear sign that his patience with former No. 4-overall draft pick Cedric Benson has come to an end. Like the Williams selection a round earlier, it's hard to argue with the choice because Forte is a solid player and filled a hole on the depth chart. The Bears were 30th in the NFL running the football in `07 and dead last at 3.1 yards per carry, so adding a bruising blocker up front and a capable ball-carrier in the backfield at the top of the draft is logical on every level.
However, Angelo said himself at the team's pre-draft luncheon with the media this past Tuesday that there was an abundance of talent at tailback throughout the draft, so wouldn't it have made more sense to jump on either Brohm or Henne – neither should have been there that late and both could be ready to start in a year or so – and then use one of his two third-rounders on a runner like Jamaal Charles of Texas or Tashard Choice of Georgia Tech? Forte isn't a decidedly better prospect than either of those two. Conversely, the drop-off from Brohm and Henne to the next pack of passers was considerable.
QB Kevin O'Connell
Jake Schoellkopf/AP Images
Angelo is usually a best-player available guy when it comes to the draft, so this filling-needs approach he appeared to be employing was a surprise to some degree. But it didn't stop there.
No Kevin O'Connell of San Diego State in Round 3. He went to the Patriots despite the presence of perennial All-Pro Tom Brady. No John David Booty of USC in Round 4. He ended up a Viking and could put some immediate heat on incumbent Tarvaris Jackson. No Colt Brennan of Hawaii in Round 5. He is on his way to the Redskins, even though the Bears showed perhaps the most interest in him of any team throughout the evaluation process.
And even with five choices in the seventh and final round, the Monsters of the Midway didn't take a flyer on a Paul Smith of Tulsa or an Anthony Morelli or Penn State. Both of them are long shots and full of question marks, but they do have some ability. Smith and Morelli ended up signing as undrafted free agents with the Jaguars and Cardinals, respectively.
Instead, Angelo inked Nick Hill of Southern Illinois after the draft had concluded, a move that felt more like a ploy to curry favor with fans in Carbondale than a genuine effort to find a No. 3 for the depth chart.
So the beat goes on for the Bears, with a less-than-captivating war soon to be waged down in Bourbonnais between Grossman and Orton. Sure, both of them are capable of winning games at this level, provided they are well protected in the pocket. And surrounded with a slew of skill-position talent. And supported by a near impenetrable defense. And given incredible field position by scintillating special teams.
"By and large," Angelo announced to the Chicago media at the end of a whirlwind draft weekend, "we accomplished most of what we wanted to get accomplished and we feel real good about how things ended."
And Luckman's place in franchise history – still the greatest to ever line up under center in the Windy City – looks to be secure for another half a century or so.
John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.