The Bears had no 4,000-yard passers in the 16-game era

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Doug Farrar
·3 min read
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Now that the 17-game season appears to be upon us in time for 2021, it behooves us to look back at one of the NFL’s pillars of both statistical and positional mediocrity: The Chicago Bears and their quarterbacks. From 1978, when the NFL upped its season calendar from 14 to 16 regular-season games through 2020, Chicago has suffered through some of the worst — and perhaps even more maddeningly, mediocre — quarterback play of the last few eras.

Bob Avellini, Mike Phipps, Vince Evans, Jim McMahon, Mike Tomczak, Jim McMahon again, Mike Tomczak, Jim Harbaugh (yes, that Jim Harbaugh), Steve Walsh, Erik Kramer, Dave Krieg, Erik Kramer again, Shane Matthews, Cade McNown, Jim Miller. Kordell Stewart (yes, that Kordell Stewart), Chad Hutchinson, Kyle Orton, Rex Grossman, Brian Griese, Kyle Orton again, Jay Cutler. Matt Barkley, and Mitchell Trubisky. Those are the Bears’ primary quarterbacks from 1978 though 2020. Some of those guys failed to hit water while falling out of a boat, others were part of the most remarkably disgusting “QB WINZZZ” performances in NFL history, and others were full of potential and just couldn’t put it all together.

One thing we know — in an age when passing has become the thing, and as 12 quarterbacks threw for over 4,000 yards in the 2020 season alone, the Bears were never able to find a quarterback to pull that off in the 16-game era.

(We could also mention that the Bears never had a quarterback throw for 30 touchdowns in a season from 1978 through 2010, but that would be mean).

Erik Kramer came the closest on both counts in 1995, completing 315 of 522 passes for 3838 yards, 29 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions. Comparatively speaking, speaking, that’s an all-time, Hall of Fame campaign. And had Kramer done better than the 15 completions in 30 attempts for 169 yards against the Eagles in the final game of the season, he had the best chance to bust 4k. Alas.

Jay Cutler is next on the list, with four seasons in which he threw for between 3,274 yards (2010) and 3,812 yards (2014). Like Kramer’s 1995, Cutler’s 2014 ended in ignominious fashion — he was benched in favor of Jimmy Clausen (say WHAT?!?!?) in Week 16, and returned in Week 17 against the Vikings, throwing for just 172 yards. So, Jimmy Clausen is as responsible for this as anyone. How appropriate.

Next on the list is Mitchell Trubisky, currently the Bills’ backup quarterback, who threw for 3.223 yards, 24 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions in 2018. Yes, kids, there was a brief thunderbolt moment when Mitchell Trubisky was pretty decent.

Then, there’s Rex “YOLO” Grossman, who threw for 3,193 yards, 23 touchdowns, and 20 interceptions in 2006. If that isn’t a perfect encapsulation of the Rex Grossman Experience, I don’t know what is. Of course, that was also the season in which Grossman convinced Dennis Green that the Bears are who we thought they were.

Do we know who the Bears’ starting quarterback will be in 2021 and beyond? No, we do not. Do we care? Well, we’re paid to care here at Touchdown Wire, so of course we do. You, dear reader, may not, and we can’t blame you. Still, whoever that next unfortunate quarterback may be, he’ll have one more game to crack the 4,000-yard barrier.

Here’s hoping.