Can Caleb Williams make Chicago forget about the Bears’ sad QB history?

Ted Phillips had no intention of doing so.

He sat out that Zoom call with the Chicago Bears writers in January 2021, planning to condense the charter franchise’s long-running identity crisis with a pithy, viral quote that would haunt him for the rest of his days as president of the struggling Bears. .

But he said it. And it was perfect.

“Have we fully understood the quarterback situation? No,” Phillips said after an 8-8 season in 2020. “Did we win enough games? No, everything else is there.

That sums it up, doesn’t it?

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For decades, Chicago’s quarterback woes led to numerous losing seasons for the Bears. Since 1966 (the first year of the Super Bowl era), the Bears have had 32 losing campaigns compared to 19 winning campaigns.

The list of starting quarterbacks during this span would make a Cleveland Browns fan blush. On Thursday, USC’s Caleb Williams will add his name to the organization’s tortured history and, like those before him, promises to be different. But he is different. He will be the No. 1 overall pick. He was the consensus best QB in college football. He can be This One instead of another.

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Chicago has heard it before.

At the start of 2021, between the departure of Mitch Trubisky and the arrival of Justin Fields, Athleticism aired a series on the long and strange history of the team’s quarterbacks.

Given the amount of outside attention the franchise has received, it’s a good time to revisit it.

We wrote about Sid Luckman and Johnny Lujack and how in 1948, two years after his fourth NFL title in the 1940s, George Halas had a quarterback room to envy those two and future Hall of Famer Bobby Layne. Four years later, they were all gone. Sid’s son Bob, who still lives in the Chicago area, is amused when his old man is mentioned on national broadcasts. How many other QBs from WWII still get airtime in the 21st century?

In our series, we wrote about the oft-forgotten Bill Wade, who won that 1963 championship, and Bobby Douglass, who could have been something special. We covered Vince Evans, the team’s first black starting quarterback, and the man who replaced him, Jim McMahon, the Bears’ first Punky QB.

We analyzed the Rick Mirer trade and what Jay Cutler’s replacements thought of him. We’ve compiled all of the Bears QB’s big plays and an abbreviated account of the worst. We asked former center Olin Kreutz to name every quarterback he threw a ball to.

It was the trip down memory lane that no one asked for.

When longtime Bears fans (those predating the Mike Ditka years) talk about the good old days, they recall Ed Brown and Rudy Bukich, Jack Concannon and Bob Avellini with a sense of nostalgic derision.

From left, Johnny Lujack, Sid Luckman and Bobby Layne pose in 1948 during the best of times for Bears QBs. (Associated Press)

As for me, a Steelers fan condemned to covering the Bears for some unknown sin, I will never forget seeing old Todd Collins trying to win a game in Carolina or Mike Glennon trying to convince us (and maybe him- same) that he would start. an entire season on rookie Trubisky. I was there when a press box mocked Jonathan Quinn and when a Bears executive fumbled with a stat sheet against a wall after a Cutler interception. I tried to make sense of it all.

It could be argued that the “QB or Bust” era of the organization began in 2009 when general manager Jerry Angelo traded for Cutler. In the 15 seasons since, the Bears have had three potential franchise quarterbacks, three winning seasons and three playoff appearances. Their record over that span is 107-136, which equates to a winning percentage of .440.

Cutler, Trubisky, Fields. Everyone had so much potential. Everyone had their moments. Cutler owns most of the Bears’ passing records. Trubisky showed great promise. The fields have captured our imagination. Their intertwined legacies will be the arguments they inspired as they are the Bears quarterbacks of the Twitter era.

And now here comes Williams, a new contender for the role of orange and blue savior of the founding franchise.

While it was a no-brainer for general manager Ryan Poles to trade Fields to clear the way for Williams to be drafted, concerns remain. Rightly or wrongly, anonymous NFL coaches and football analysts trying to make a name for themselves have raised questions about Williams’ makeup, his personality and, more importantly, how his coaching style improvisation will perform in a league that regularly provides a reality check. high-flying collegiate stars.

And it’s not just the quarterbacks who let the Bears down. The Bears let them down. Bad coaching, organizational dysfunction, inappropriate deadlines, mediocre rosters. It takes a village to ruin a quarterback. With that in mind, are the Bears poised for success with Williams? As AthleticismAs Bruce Feldman and Kevin Fishbain have written, there are questions.

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For the past 15 years, the team’s incessant quarterback dilemmas have dominated Bears conversations. And the tone of these discussions has ranged from delusional to unpleasant. The cycle of hope, reality, despair and change remains undefeated.

But maybe Williams is the one to change it. There are signs. Although the Bears traded draft picks to get Cutler, Trubisky and Fields, thereby weakening the roster, this time the Poles are drafting Williams with a pick he received in a shrewd trade. Maybe it’s an omen.

I never got the impression that any of the three were really comfortable in their position. Beyond their unique personality, I believe this reluctance comes from their lack of success. Cutler only had two winning seasons (his coach, Lovie Smith, was fired after the second), Trubisky had one, Fields…not even close.

Being the Bears QB is not for the sensitive or thin-skinned. It carries with it the weight of expectations and the burden of this team’s long, unhappy history.

Williams seemingly has the personality to take on the challenge, as well as the physical skills to pull it off. But it’s just talking now. It won’t seem real until we see it.

For the Bears to start winning again, they need Williams to be the guy they’ve dreamed of since the days of Luckman, Lujack and Layne. Quarterbacks and victories. This is what the NFL exists for. Everything else is just background noise.

(Top photo of coach Matt Nagy talking with Mitch Trubisky in 2018: Patrick Gorski/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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