clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Bears Quarterback: The Most Cursed Position In Pro Sports

Why can't the Bears ever develop a true franchise quarterback? George looks at the sorry history of the position since Sid Luckman retired -- sixty years ago.

When Sid Luckman got old in the late 1940s, the Bears groomed Johnny Lujack to take his place. And the eternal merry-go-round began.

Lujack had some sensational games. But he did not have a long Bears career. At the same time, the Bears sent Bobby Layne on his merry way to stardom with the Detroit Lions. Soon the Bears had a young quarterback named George Blanda. He languished on the bench while dependable but not star-quality Ed Brown held down the starting job. Blanda left to become a legend in the old AFL, culimating with dramatic early-Sunday-evening (Chicago time) touchdown passes and field goals for the Raiders in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Rudy Bukich led the NFL in passing in 1965, but went quickly downhill the following season while he narrated his own highlights ("red hot color film!") with Bukich's studio portion in black and white on Sunday nights on ABC-owned WBKB-TV.

Virgil Carter was a savior for several games in 1968, but called George Halas "chickenshit" the next year and was exiled to the Bengals. There, he helped lead a third-year expansion team to a playoff spot in 1970. Meanwhile, in Chicago, Bobby Douglass, Jack Concannon and Kent Nix became a three-headed monster at quarterback in 1970 and 1971; none could pass at 50 percent efficiency. Ah, but Douglass ran for 968 yards in '72; that was an NFL record for quarterbacks until Michael Vick broke it (in a longer season) in 2007.

The Bears were commited to veteran Mike Phipps at quarterback in 1979, so they passed up Joe Montana in the draft to select running back Willie McClendon as Walter Payton's backup.

Rusty Lisch, Will Furrer, Peter Tom Willis, Rick Mirer, Cade McNown, Moses Moreno, Henry Burris, Chad Hutchinson, Jonathan (The Mighty) Quinn, Craig Krenzel. And how can we forget "Rex is our quarterback?"

All of the above is a mini-essay in itself. Jay Cutler was supposed to end that sorry six-decade thread. But he's only strengthened it and taken it to new heights (or depths). Four interceptions to the very same Redskin? You haven't seen that before, and for good reason. It tied an NFL record.

Amid all the noise, the accusations and hand-wringing is a simple fact: since Luckman the Bears have never been properly set up to handle a competent quarterback, let alone a potential franchise chap like Cutler. They don't have the coaching, they don't have the passing system and until recently they never had tradition of paying for a top passer.

Maybe Montana lucked out after all. Had the Bears taken him instead of McClendon, he would have never developed in Chicago.

Look all around the NFL. Packers -- colder weather than Chicago, but great quarterbacks from Starr to Rodgers with that Mississippi exhibitionist in between. Vikings -- Tarkenton, Moon, the exhibitionist. 49ers, self-explanatory. Rams, great names through Warner. Cowboys, self-explanatory. And on and on.

The Bears never had a system for handling a quarterback. No "West Coast offense." Not even a Lake County offense. Ram it up the middle with a great running back and kill the opponent's back with a great middle linebacker.

The coup de grace was obtaining Cutler and sticking him with Ron Turner's Model-A offense. Then import supposed wizard Mike Martz without stocking the lineup with competent offensive lineman and receivers.

The Bears and the Cubs are thus linked. If the Bears never knew how to handle a quarterback, they don't know how to give Cutler the necessary guidance and personnel. If th Cubs never won, how will they play off a winning tradition to win?

The position is the most cursed of any in pro sports. But like the real curse afflicting the baseball team from which the Bears took their name as a variance (bears are bigger than cubs, remember), the source is not supernatural or other-worldly, but executives and coaches who are grossly underqualified for their jobs.

The day the Bears develop a quarterback-nurturing system with no holes in the personnel involved will be the day the curse is lifted. Not a second sooner.