The Bears decided to select Idaho quarterback Nathan Enderle in the fifth round of the NFL Draft despite much bigger needs at other positions. (Joe Nicholson/US Presswire)
When the Patriots selected Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett in the third round of the NFL Draft, it was viewed as yet another genius move by coach Bill Belichick.
You see, he has a track record for finding and developing talent at the game's most important position. And I'm not referring to sixth-round golden boy Tom Brady, who was the first unanimous MVP in league history this past season and will be in the Hall of Fame five years after he puts away his eye black for good.
Belichick took a flyer on USC's Matt Cassel in the seventh round of the 2005 draft, despite the fact that he hadn't started a game since high school. After Brady was lost in Week 1 of the 2008 campaign with a shredded knee, Cassel took over and went 10-5 as a starter, put together a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 21-to-11 and assembled a passer rating of 89.4. Then the following offseason, Belichick was confident enough in Brady's ability to return to All-Pro form that he shipped Cassel to Kansas City for a second rounder.
Not a bad return on investment for New England, plus the Chiefs are pleased because Cassel rebounded from a tough 2009 to make the Pro Bowl in what was an AFC West-winning performance in 2010.
Mallett was a luxury pick for Belichick two weekends ago, as he had already made several selections in the first three rounds and even stockpiled some choices for 2011 along the way. The rocket-armed Razorback is little more than a potential bargaining chip for down the road, when another QB-desperate team inevitably comes calling -- my guess is Mallett never takes a meaningful snap for the Pats.
Bears general manager Jerry Angelo probably had the same thing in mind when he grabbed Idaho's Nathan Enderle in Round 5, but he made one critical error: He forgot that he's Jerry Angelo, not Bill Belichick.
Since coming to Chicago in 2001, Angelo has taken five signal callers: Rex Grossman (2003, Round 1), Craig Krenzel ('04, 5), Kyle Orton ('05, 4), Dan LeFevour ('10, 6) and now Enderle. Grossman is considered a bust even though he was the starter for Super Bowl XLI, Krenzel started five games as a rookie and was so bad that he never played again, Orton wasn't viewed as a reliable No. 1 until he was a success in Denver and LeFevour got axed after his first preseason.
In part because he couldn't find a competent passer in the draft, Angelo surrendered two first-round picks -- and gave up on Orton in the process -- to acquire Jay Cutler from the Broncos and then signed him to a $30 million contract extension through 2013 five games into his Bears career. True, Cutler is only 17-14 as a starter in the Windy City and has thrown almost as many INTs (42) as TDs (50), but he's light years better than anybody this franchise has put under center in a generation. With more experience in offensive coordinator Mike Martz's system and increased protection up front, his best football could still be in front of him.
Getting Wisconsin offensive tackle Gabe Carimi in the first round should help Cutler stay upright in the pocket, but targeting Enderle meant sacrificing more pressing needs at running back and wide receiver. Matt Forte needs a better complement because the Chester Taylor signing in free agency last year didn't help much, and this team still hasn't featured a 1,000-yard pass catcher since Marty Booker in 2002.
Not to mention the fact that Enderle, a 6-4, 240-pounder, didn't stand out at the Scouting Combine and only had 10 teams show up to his Pro Day, so it's not like he was given "steal" status when Chicago sent a card to the podium with his name on it -- he may have gone undrafted altogether.
"Drafting Nathan Enderle in the fifth elicited a wave of groans, not only from the media members inside Halas Hall but also from the football faithful throughout Chicago," says Jeremy Stoltz, the publisher of Bear Report and BearReport.com. "Bears fans see a pick with Martz's fingerprints all over it, the same coach that just turned down a contract extension, and are worried this new signal caller will become the next LeFevour. Having given up three early draft picks in the Cutler trade, plus the selections of LeFevour and Enderle, the organization has essentially spent five draft picks on quarterbacks the last three years -- a surefire way to set an organization back."
And for some reason, possibly because Martz has never seemed to be very smitten with him, the Bears simply refuse to commit to fourth-year pro Caleb Hanie as the No. 2 behind Cutler.
Originally an undrafted free agent out of Colorado State, Hanie came to the Bears in 2008 and unexpectedly made the roster as the No. 3 behind Orton and Grossman. Once Cutler arrived in 2009, Hanie was elevated to primary backup and looked terrific for the second consecutive preseason.
But that was before Martz arrived in 2010, when all of a sudden rumors circled that the Bears were in the market for a veteran. Hanie suffered a minor shoulder injury a few weeks before the season started, so the 38-year-old Todd Collins was given $1 million in guaranteed money to back up Cutler – Hanie got pushed down to third string again. Collins played in three games, including the NFC Championship Game against Green Bay after Cutler left with a knee injury, and he totally embarrassed himself all three times, while Hanie got thrown into the mix and almost pulled a rabbit out of his hat vs. the Packers.
Enderle completed only 54.6 percent of his passes at Idaho and had a TD-to-INT ratio of 74-to-60, plus he was sacked 115 times in 46 career games -- mobility isn't one of his strengths. Perhaps even more telling, the Vandals went 17-33 and appeared in just one bowl game while he was there.
Like Mallett in New England, I'm guessing Enderle never takes a meaningful snap for the Bears, albeit for much different reasons.
|John Crist is an NFL analyst for Scout com, a voter for the Heisman Trophy and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America.|