Earlier today, inspired by NFL Networks Top Ten QB Controversies of All-Time, I decided to compile a list of the Top Ten Bears QB Controversies of my lifetime (1988-Present). Here's the rest of the list:
4. Jim Miller vs. Cade McNown, 2000
During the 1999 NFL Draft, the Bears tabbed Cade McNown, quarterback from UCLA, with the 12th overall pick. As you may have figured out, I was not a fan of this pick, and things didn't turn out too well. The Bears entered the 1999 season with the plan that Shane Matthews would start until McNown was ready. Miller was simply a journeyman who'd managed to beat out Moses Moreno for the third spot on the depth chart. Matthews was the starter for most of the season, while McNown started a few games after Matthews got hurt, and Miller started a few games after both Matthews and McNown were knocked out. Miller performed the best of the three, but was given a suspension for taking a banned supplement.
Going into the 2000 season, the Bears held a "competition" for the starting job, with McNown getting the majority of the reps. The second year QB started off the season in a promising fashion, racking up 377 total yards and 3 total TDs in a losing effort against Minnesota, but as the weeks went by his performance regressed drastically. After 8 games under McNown, the Bears stood at 1-7, with the fans chanting for Miller every week. Dick Jauron, likely pressured by management to support the "QB of the Future," continued to state that McNown gave the Bears the best chance to win. In that 8th game, McNown went down after a tremendous hit by Eagles DE Hugh Douglass (who would ironically knock Miller out of the playoff game a year later), and Miller finally got his chance. While the Bears lost that game, Miller won his first start against the Colts, 27-24, but blew out his ankle the next week against Buffalo. The controversy ended there, as McNown's career was essentially over thanks to his injury and his ineffectiveness, and Shane Matthews took most of the snaps the rest of the way.
3. Kyle Orton vs. Rex Grossman, 2005 and 2008.
The Bears selected Rex Grossman with the 22nd overall pick in the 2003 NFL Draft. He started three games his rookie year and looked very promising, and his first three starts of the 2004 season were mostly impressive as well, but then his bad luck began. A torn ACL in the 3rd game of 2004 wiped out the rest of that season. In 2005, Grossman was joined on the depth chart by 4th round pick Kyle Orton out of Purdue. The Patron Saint was supposed to hold a clipboard as the third stringer during his rookie year, as Grossman's back-up was Chad Hutchinson, who saved the 2004 Bears season like Neifi Perez saved the 2005 Cubs. The star-crossed Grossman broke his ankle in the second preseason game of 2005, which left Hutchinson holding the keys to the starting job. Not surprisingly, he fumbled. Hutchinson was so abysmal in the third preseason game (completed just 1 of 12 passes against the Bills), that Lovie rightfully concluded that the rookie was the best option at quarterback.
Orton then started the first 14 games of the season, and the Bears were a surprising 10-4 in that span. Orton was playing fairly well for a rookie outside of one 5 interception abortion against the Bengals (57% comp., 73 rating in his first 10 games excluding CINC.).
As Grossman became healthy and available to play around the time of the Tampa Bay game, however, Orton went into the tank. Orton was terrible against the Bucs, Packers, and Steelers, and the fans really began to clamor for Grossman. Orton went just 2-10 for 12 yard in the first half against the Falcons, and that was the end. Grossman entered to a standing ovation in the second half, started the next game against the Packers (a division-clinching win) and then started the playoff game against the Panthers after Orton got one more start in a meaningless game against the Vikings. The controversy seemed at an end as the Bears signed veteran Brian Griese to back up Rex in 2006, and Kyle was quickly forgotten.
The controversy arose again, however, in 2008. Grossman's notorious struggles in 2006 and 2007, and Griese's failure to do much of anything at all in his stead, led the Bears to open the QB job to a competition between Grossman and Orton. Despite many (yours truly included) thinking the Bears were sure to hand the job to Rex, Kyle won, and shocked the hell out of everyone by leading the Bears to a 5-3 record while averaging 222 passing yards per game, throwing for 10 tds, and posting a 90.8 QB rating. Unfortunately, Orton injured his ankle in the 8th game of the season against Detroit, leading to Rex's last start in a Bear uniform the next week against Tennessee. Grossman had clearly lost his touch by then, and had just a 59.7 rating in his three appearances. When Orton returned, he was much less effective and the Bears missed the playoffs. Jerry Angelo decided to end this controversy by jettisoning both, with Grossman headed to free agency and Orton traded for Jay Cutler.
2. Jim McMahon vs. Jim Harbaugh vs. Mike Tomczak, 1987-1990
This one I'm going to cite from the history books, as I'm too young to actually remember a game started by Tomczak or McMahon. McMahon was the Bears first round pick in 1982 and was without a doubt the best quarterback the Bears have had since Sid Luckman, at least in terms of ultimate results (46-15 as a starter, Super Bowl Champion), but was undeniably brittle, as he never started more than 13 games in a season during his Bears career, and only started more than 10 games twice in his seven years with the team. Because of McMahon's frequent stints in the trainer's room, the Bears drafted Jim Harbaugh in the first round of the 1987 draft. This was despite the fact that some in the locker room (primarily just McMahon and Tomczak himself) thought that Mike Tomczak was a better option as McMahon's back-up. McMahon and Tomczak were close friends while both were bitter rivals of Harbaugh and barely spoke to him at all, according to rumor. The saga of the McMahon-Harbaugh-Tomczak trio plays itself out in the number of starts each had from 1987 until Harbaugh became the undisputed starter in 1990.
1987: McMahon- 6 starts, 210 attempts, Tomczak- 6 starts, 178 attempts, Harbaugh- 0 starts, 11 attempts (replacements Mike Hohensee and Steve Bradley started a combined 3 games during the strike)
1988: McMahon- 9 starts, 192 attempts, Tomczak- 5 starts, 170 attempts, Harbaugh- 2 starts, 97 attempts.
McMahon was traded to San Diego after the season, leaving Tomczak and Harbaugh to battle it out.
1989: Tomczak- 11 starts, 306 attempts, Harbaugh- 5 starts, 178 attempts.
1990: Harbaugh- 14 starts, 312 attempts, Tomczak-2 starts, 104 attempts.
Tomczak departed after the 1990 season, leaving Harbaugh as the winner of the contest. As I mentioned before, however, Harbaugh's hold on the job was always fragile, as Ditka never seemed to embrace him and he found himself in another controversy with PT Willis soon enough.
1. Rex Grossman vs. Brian Griese, 2006-2007.
The top spot should surprise no one. The paint had barely dried on the "savior" label that the fans had applied to Rex after he relieved Orton in 2005 when Rex found himself on the other end of the fans' support. During the 2006 preseason, Grossman compiled just a 60.7 quarterback rating while Griese led the NFL at 141.7. Some fans and pundits argued that Lovie Smith shouldn't risk the Bears Superbowl aspirations by going with Rex Grossman and his 7 career starts over a "proven" veteran like Griese (although I maintained that the only thing Brian Griese had proven was that he wasn't a good quarterback at all). That controversy seemed to end, however, when Rex won NFC Offensive Player of the Month in September of '06 after leading the Bears to a 5-0 record, throwing for 10 touchdowns, 3 ints, 1243 yards, and a 100.8 rating. All Bears fans know what happened next, however, as Grossman melted down with a four interception game against the Cardinals and had a 61.4 rating and 17 interceptions over the last 10 games of the season. By the time the playoffs rolled around, many felt that Griese should have been the postseason starter, and they only grew louder after Grossman's 2 interceptions in the Superbowl helped Indianapolis seal the game.
In 2007, Grossman vowed to cut down on turnovers, but instead seemed indecisive and regressed even further, and was benched after he posted a 45.2 rating during a 1-2 start in the first 3 games. Griese finally stepped in and responded by throwing 3 interceptions against the god damned Detroit Lions. Oh, I'm sorry. I'm supposed to keep my rational, analytical "professional" tone while writing about Brian F*&king Griese? Not going to happen. Brian Griese sucks. Brian Griese sucks so hard that bystanders have been injured by the vortex of suck that he generates while walking. Brian Griese is a god awful journeyman so bad that he goes to bed with delusions of one day being Jeff Garcia. Sure, you may argue, Griese's 75.6 rating in 2007 was way better than Rex's or even Kyle's that year. But you, sir, are an idiot. Do you realize how hard it is to throw SEVEN interceptions and choke away two games to the DETROIT LIONS? Let's compare the passer ratings of Rex Grossman, Kyle Orton, Brian Griese, and Jay Cutler when it comes to Detroit:
That's right, folks, when it comes to facing the Detroit Lions, Brian Griese morphs into Ryan Leaf. Now some of you may have realized by now that the reason Start Kyle Orton was founded actually had less to do with our love of the Patron Saint (not that we don't love him) but with our hatred of the weak-armed, hair-brained Griese. Because seriously, f*&k that guy.
Anyways, Griese started 6 games, lost 3 of them, got injured against the Raiders, and was relieved by Rex who won the game with a bomb to Berrian. Rex then started the next four games and played much better, but was injured against the Redskins and replaced by Griese (who, not surprisingly, threw 2 interceptions as the team lost by a touchdown), who was then replaced for the last three games of the season by the Patron Saint, who was the only quarterback the Bears started that year who had a winning record (2-1). So remember kids, when asked the following question:
When Brian Griese and Rex Grossman face off, who wins?
The answer is Kyle Orton.