The Bears went into the 2013 hoping to add a young quarterback but resigned to the reality that they lacked the draft ammunition to make a dramatic move in a middle round.
A growing indication is that they also were not feeling undue pressure to add a young passing prospect because of what the new coaching staff was seeing in Matt Blanchard.
Because it is reasonable to assume that if coach Marc Trestman, coordinator Aaron Kromer and quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh saw a bare cupboard behind Jay Cutler and Josh McCown, the personnel area of general manager Phil Emery would have addressed the situation with any one of a number of veteran backups before the draft or even a late-round flyer on a prospect.
Why No. 3 matters
If Blanchard plays to his heightened expectations, this would not be the first time that a Bears team with significant postseason expectations has approached its season with an important share of franchise hopes resting on an undrafted-quarterback foundation.
Mike Tomczak held matters together in 1986 after Jim McMahon was injured. When Tomczak was injured, the No. 3 – Doug Flutie – was not up to the playoff challenge.
Caleb Hanie nearly had the Bears in the 2010 Super Bowl after an injury to Jay Cutler and Todd Collins’ ineptness. Hanie also played the Bears from 7-3 to out of the 2011 playoffs, a reminder that not every such story ends happily.
This year the Bears will be going to Josh McCown as their No. 2 instead of as a last option at No. 3 as they did in 2011. The order of McCown first, then the young prospect makes exponentially more sense than the order of battle employed by Mike Martz, who preferred veteran backups over unprovens.
Every indicator points to the Bears needing at least McCown at some point. Cutler has played 16 games in none of the last three seasons. The Bears have been 2-6 in games behind starters other than Cutler and one of those wins was the work of McCown (game 16, 2011)
Before and after the draft
The Bears sat out the run on quarterbacks in the draft’s fourth round and opted for Rutgers linebacker Khaseem Greene. Four quarterbacks were taken in the seventh round but the Bears stayed put with the pick acquired from the Atlanta Falcons and chose Washington State wide receiver Marquess Wilson.
Coaches had studied film on Blanchard, an undrafted free agent last year who spent much of the season on the practice squad. They had more film to evaluate after Blanchard was the primary quarterback at last weekend’s rookie minicamp.
The results justified their pre-camp assessment of Blanchard.
“I saw a lot of potential,” Cavanaugh told CSNChicago.com. “I think he’s done a real good job of learning, he’s got a good, quick mind, processes information really well, and playing that position is about getting a lot of information from whoever is calling the play and processing it, spinning it back out the right way. And then making a decision in two-and-a-half seconds. He’s shown that ability.
“He’s got all the physical tools. He’s got mobility, a strong arm and can make plays with his legs. Now he’s just inexperienced so preseason is going to be huge for him.
“I think he has a chance to do very well.
“The tough part will come when everybody gets here and he gets less work. I told him that every opportunity he has, to make the most of it, and every rep for another guy should be a rep for you.”
Blanchard gets that and has to put that into practice this week as the majority of work during organized team activities goes to Cutler and McCown.
“Sometimes as a third- or fourth-string quarterback, Jay’s the guy and he’s running the show so you’ve really got to take notes, so I’ve been doing that, watching him and Josh [McCown] over the last year, learning how to be a pro,” Blanchard said.
Trestman, however, wants to see more out of the quarterback position, whether Cutler, McCown or Blanchard.
“[Blanchard’s] got a long way to go,” Trestman said. “We’re in shorts. I think we’ll see a little bit more out of him getting into camp with some pads on when we get into the preseason games we’ll see more of what he has.”