Noise around QB Mark Sanchez misses bigger, far more important goal for Bears ’17 offseason

Noise around QB Mark Sanchez misses bigger, far more important goal for Bears ’17 offseason

The tumult around the Bears quarterback position this offseason – signing Mike Glennon, cutting Jay Cutler, not signing Brian Hoyer, now signing Mark Sanchez – was to be expected. (Well, not all the brouhaha around Sanchez; if there has ever been more hyperventilating around the arriving backup quarterback, it’s escaping my recollections of a quarter-century on the beat.)

All of that, and a lot of the noise around Mike Glennon is really missing a larger point. A couple, really.

GM Ryan Pace established fixing the quarterback situation as a top priority, something it has been just about since Jim McMahon left, with the exception of a few Jay Cutler years. Doing that to any meaningful degree with the castoff options available in free agency or via trades wasn’t ever going to happen. What Pace has done with the quarterback situation, however, is more than a little intriguing.

The quarterback additions and subtractions, coupled with also suggest a draft plan far from locked in on a quarterback. The signings of Glennon and Sanchez don’t mean the Bears have solved their quarterback position, but it does mean the Bears have positioned themselves with the distinct option of NOT taking a quarterback – this year.

But here’s the bigger point.

Even with the optimum quarterback solution unavailable – Pace arguably did go best-available in his and the coaches’ minds with Glennon and Sanchez, all derision aside – Pace’s goal needs to be building a team that can reach a high playoff level regardless of quarterback.

Meaning: defense. And while the 2017 free agent and draft classes did not offer must-have quarterbacks in most evaluations, there are those elite-level defensive talents, and every indication is that the Bears will look there, in the draft, and should be. It had that feeling when the Bears, with ample, money to spend, backed away from day one free-agency runs at a couple of pricey defensive backs. The Bears simply think they can do better for less in the draft.

A perspective: With a defense at its levels during the Brian Urlacher era, the Bears could reach the NFC championship game with what they have at quarterback now. They did, twice, with Rex Grossman and with Cutler. Sanchez got to AFC championship games in each of his first two seasons. The Bears reached a Super Bowl with Rex Grossman as their quarterback. They went 13-3 in 2001 with a solid-but-unspectacular Jim Miller as their quarterback. They reached the 2005 playoffs with Kyle Orton as their starter most of that year, and should have been in the 2008 playoffs with him as well. The Bears reached the NFC championship game in 2010 with Cutler.

There is a common denominator in all of these situations, and it is within Pace’s grasp, and that was an elite defense. Rex Ryan had one with the Jets and Sanchez, Grossman and Orton and Cutler had theirs with Urlacher, Lance Briggs, Mike Brown, Tommie Harris, Charles Tillman, etc.

Forget the quarterback situation for now. Nothing anyone, including Pace, can really do anything about it (other than land possibly Deshaun Watson, based on their turnout at his Pro Day).

But if Pace and his personnel staff do this right, they can lay in the foundation for something elite on defense that will transcend the quarterback, or at least allow the Bears to play more than 16 games in a season even if they do not have a great quarterback. With the Urlacher core defense, the Bears went to postseasons with four different quarterbacks.

The prime directive now for Ryan Pace is to create precisely that model again.

Rotoworld's latest NFL mock draft: At No. 3, the Bears select...

Rotoworld's latest NFL mock draft: At No. 3, the Bears select...

In his first two NFL mock drafts, Rotoworld's Josh Norris had the Bears selecting North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky.

Following the NFL Combine and the first week of free agency - in which the Bears signed quarterback Mike Glennon - Norris posted his latest mock draft on Sunday. And he's got the Bears addressing the defensive line this time around.

Via Josh Norris' Mock Draft III

3. Chicago Bears - EDGE/DL Solomon Thomas, Stanford - Thomas is a really, really, really good football player. He can rush from the edge or possibly work inside. The Bears’ older pass rushers are nearing the end of their contracts, or at least the guarantees. I would not be shocked to see a tackle, although many would scream against the value. Piling resources into the offensive line for a new quarterback can work.

Thomas, the 6-foot-3, 275-pound defensive lineman, is the same player CSN's Scott Krinch had the Bears selecting in his first mock draft posted last month.

Thomas said at the Combine that he's versatile enough to play in multiple schemes, and he'd certainly fit in what Vic Fangio is trying to do in bolstering the Bears' front seven.

Bears, Mike Glennon extensively scouted, picked each other apart

Bears, Mike Glennon extensively scouted, picked each other apart

Before the Bears locked onto Mike Glennon as their No. 1 target in free agency, with a commitment of $18.5 million of guaranteed money contained in a three-year contract topping out at $45 million, the Bears got into the minutiae of the now-former Tampa Bay Buccaneer quarterback.
 
And while they were scrutinizing Glennon from behind the glass, turns out he was doing the same to them from the other side.
 
Glennon on Friday revealed that he was "scouting" his prospective options in free agency, providing a first clue to the nature of his attention to detail in film study and preparation.
 
"I spent a lot of time over these last few months watching various teams in situations that may possibly need a quarterback," Glennon said. "When I watched the Bears' film, I saw a great offensive line, I saw a great running game and I saw playmakers on the outside. I saw a system that I felt fit my skill set. When I saw that, I thought if that was a place I would open up at the quarterback position, that was a place where I wanted to go."

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Once he signed, he gave another informal glimpse as to his idea of what represents preparation:
 
"The first question he asked is right away, 'Hey, so when I get in, obviously I want to get the playbook, can I get all the tape downloaded on an IPad?’" said GM Ryan Pace. "He [also] asked, 'Can I have pictures of everybody in the building I'm going to interact with, with their names, everybody in the building? Can I have the cell phones of every single player on offense and certain guys on defense so right away?’"
 
Glennon, like fellow signees safety Quinton Demps, tight end Dion Sims and receiver Markus Wheaton, sought opinions on the organization from current and even former players. If the narrative around the NFL is that no one wants to play for the down-spiralling Bears, apparently the memo didn’t get all the way around the league.
 
Wheaton got an immediate enthusiastic call from former Oregon State teammate Rashaad Reynolds, a cornerback signed late last season to the Bears practice squad and to a reserve/futures contract in early January. Glennon heard from receiver Eddie Royal, a college teammate of his brother, as well as cornerback Johnthan Banks, signed last December by the Bears and the Bucs’ second-round pick in 2013, one round before they drafted Glennon.
 
For their part, the Bears turned Glennon’s relative lack of playing time (18 starts, 630 total passes — roughly the average annual attempts by Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford for the past six years) into a slight positive: They were able to evaluate Glennon on every snap taken over his entire career.
 
"I think you look back to how he performed in college, you know he was highly successful player in college and then you just evaluate every single snap that he's taken the entire time in the NFL," Pace said. "On a player like this you're evaluating all his college tape, every single game he's played in the NFL including the preseason and then you're going off of that."
 
And the guy under the microscope has been looking right back at them the whole time.