The backup quarterback sometimes is the most popular player in preseason Chicago. This year the No. 1 candidate for the job — Jordan Palmer — is perhaps the most questioned.
But the real question for those debating whether Palmer is this year’s Josh McCown or Todd Collins may be: Who should the Bears have gotten?
“When you look at the talent pool that’s out there, 26 percent of the players [drafted] at that position end up being short-term starters,” GM Phil Emery said last week on WSCR-AM 670’s “The Mully and Hanley Show.” Only 26 percent become starters; only 54 percent of those players have winning records.
“So when you talk about backup quarterbacks, what are you really talking about? You’re talking about a lot of inexperienced guys, guys that have not been winning quarterbacks in the NFL.”
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Rookie minicamp ended last Sunday for Bears hopefuls, including quarterback David Fales, selected in the sixth round out of San Jose State. But one focus this offseason, training camp and preseason will be above him on the initial depth chart, on whether or not Palmer is the second coming of McCown if the Bears need him.
The Bears have been clear that Palmer will be expected to win the job over Fales and Jerrod Johnson, although he is being accorded first shot at the job, making it effectively his to lose.
Because Palmer has thrown just 15 passes in his NFL career, and none since 2010, the doubters have had the floor.
But “I think we were sitting in the same spot a year ago with people having questions about Josh,” Emery continued. “At the time I was asked if I was comfortable with him as the No. 2 and I said absolutely yes, and it worked out fairly well.”
Emery has made the same “comfortable” statement about Palmer, whom the Bears made a point of signing before the start of free agency.
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Palmer was in training camp last year with the Bears just eight days, signing after Matt Blanchard was lost to a wrist injury, and went into Cleveland and completed 11 of 17 passes, a touchdown and passer rating of 102.8. That earned him a spot on the Bears’ speed-dial, which they used to bring him back when Cutler suffered his groin injury against Washington.
Marc Trestman with his experience at handling quarterbacks, offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer with his time around Drew Brees, and quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh with his two Super Bowl rings as a backup quarterback, were satisfied with what they saw in nine weeks with Palmer on the roster last year.
“The prerequisites are the smarts, sufficient arm strength, and being in the league helps,” Emery said. “It’s not the bottom-line prerequisite because if that was the reason guys were quality backups, you would never draft a quarterback, because they come in with zero experience.
“And guys that guys will play with and play hard for. If you go in and you have no quality receivers, no running back and an iffy offensive line, you’re not going to have success. But you take someone with the prerequisites, put them around good players, and you’ve got a chance to have success.”