Free Agent Fix: Leftwich vs. Garcia

Brett Basanez isn't a solution, meaning the Chicago Bears still need an experienced passer. Both Byron Leftwich and Jeff Garcia can be had in free agency, but which one of them would prove to be the better fit in the Windy City? Bear Report again goes to the tale of the tape to make a decision. Do you agree?

Byron Leftwich

The Skinny: A classic pocket passer at 6-5 and a sturdy 250 pounds, Leftwich was originally selected No. 7 overall in the 2003 NFL Draft – the same draft the Bears ended up with, gulp, Michael Haynes and Rex Grossman in the first round. Although he was abruptly cast aside in Jacksonville and didn't do much in a short stint with Atlanta, the former Marshall Thundering Herd has done very well for himself as the primary reserve to Ben Roethlisberger for the world champion Steelers. He played in five games this past season, putting together a scintillating 104.3 passer rating on 21-of-36 through the air.


QB Byron Leftwich
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The Pros: Offensive coordinator Ron Turner likes to get the ball deep downfield with relative frequency, and there has never been any question marks about Leftwich's arm strength. His career passer rating of 80.3 is better than the likes of J.P. Losman (75.6), David Carr (74.9), and Kerry Collins (73.8), all of whom will also be on the market as free agents this offseason. He has a reputation as a team-first guy and a likable character in the locker room, meaning there shouldn't be any soap operas if he's inked to compete for the starting job but ultimately has to settle for being the backup to Kyle Orton.

The Cons: This franchise hasn't had a mobile passer that can buy some extra time with his legs in quite a while, and Leftwich invariably fits that mold. Not only does he subject himself to lots of punishment because he's less than nimble on his feet, but he also has a slow delivery because of an elongated windup that has never been corrected. Not once has he played in all 16 games during a regular season, topping out at 15 all the way back in his rookie year of 2003.

The Odds: Many Bears fans wanted the organization to make a run at Leftwich six years ago instead of settling for Grossman, so perhaps his path to the Windy City will prove to be just a little more circuitous than expected.

Jeff Garcia

The Skinny: Garcia was forced to learn his craft in the Canadian Football League first, but he eventually took over in San Francisco after back-to-back Hall of Famers called it a career – first Joe Montana and then Steve Young – and turned himself into an unlikely Pro Bowler. Even knocking on the door of 39 years old, he's one of the more creative quarterbacks in the league because of his ability to improvise and make a play when one isn't really there. Always efficient, he hasn't posted a passer rating under 90.2 since a disastrous one-year stint with Detroit back in 2005.


QB Jeff Garcia
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

The Pros: Garcia has been a winner most everywhere he's gone, which means he should be able to hit the ground running with Chicago's playbook much quicker than most younger players. He's certainly no stranger to competition for a No. 1 job, so there's little doubt he'll push Orton to be better in training camp and won't expect anything to be handed to him. And since the Bears have at best an adequate offensive line, finding someone that can move around and defend himself might not be a bad idea.

The Cons: Turner's aforementioned deep-ball game would likely have to be scaled back to some degree, as Garcia has never had a cannon for an arm. He's quick and accurate on short- and intermediate-range throws, but asking him to hit Devin Hester routinely on posts and flies would be irresponsible. He also has a bit of diva in him, so he may rock the boat if he doesn't win the starter's gig in Bourbonnais.

The Odds: General manager Jerry Angelo obviously keeps a close eye on his former team in Tampa Bay because he's made myriad deals with the Bucs since coming to Chicago, so chances are he's seen lots of Garcia tape the last two years.

The Verdict

There's no way Angelo can look himself in the mirror and claim that bringing in former Northwestern star Brett Basanez completes his work at the game's most important position – another move needs to be made.

Leftwich is the higher-upside option, as he can still rotate it with the best of them and hasn't realized his full potential just yet. Garcia is the safer choice since he's been to the Pro Bowl as recently as 2007, plus his learning curve probably won't be as steep.

While Garcia has more credentials any which way you slice it, Leftwich makes more sense for the Bears because Turner's offense won't need much tweaking should the big man find himself at the helm.

Judgment: Leftwich


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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.


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