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.

Bears adding Mark Sanchez shouldn't come as a surprise

Bears adding Mark Sanchez shouldn't come as a surprise

The Bears went into the 2017 offseason with a clear plan to make changes, presumably positive ones, at the quarterback position. The idea was and always is to improve the quality of players at this or any position.
 
With the Bears agreeing to terms with former Jet/Eagle/Bronco/Cowboy Mark Sanchez, as first reported by NFL.com's Ian Rapaport, GM Ryan Pace and the organization are addressing the quantity aspect of the position, if not necessarily the quality. And that should not be dismissed.
 
Sanchez fits the template of a Brian Griese, Jason Campbell and even Josh McCown, veterans with less than auspicious resumes' but with more a David Fales or Caleb Hanie had brought to previous rosters. He gives the Bears a third quarterback under contract; expect another to be added before training camp, most likely through the draft next month.

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It really does not matter that Sanchez, the No. 5 overall pick of the 2009 draft, could not beat out Trevor Siemian in Denver two years ago or Dak Prescott in Dallas last season (while Prescott was still an unknown backup to Tony Romo). The Bears before Thursday had just Mike Glennon and Connor Shaw under contract, and teams typically go into training camps with four passers, if for no other reason than to have arms to spread drill work around.
 
But Sanchez, whose career began with trips to the AFC Championship game his first two seasons in the NFL, represents the kind of backup that teams crave, irrespective of any journeyman status they might have. Sanchez is 30, whose teams have gone 37-35 in his starts, and has experienced winning, albeit less and less as his career has played out.
 
Not that the comparison is particularly notable, but Mark Sanchez or Matt Barkley? If Sanchez somehow surprises perhaps even himself and challenges Glennon, the Bears and Glennon are the better for it.

Report: Bears expected to sign Mark Sanchez

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USA TODAY

Report: Bears expected to sign Mark Sanchez

The Bears met with Mark Sanchez on Thursday and are expected to sign the free agent quarterback, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

Sanchez began last season in Dallas, first backing up Tony Romo and later eventual Rookie of the Year Dak Prescott. He appeared in two games, completing 10 of 18 passes for 93 yards and a pair of interceptions. Prior to that Sanchez spent two seasons in Philadelphia, starting 10 games.

The Bears are in the process of retooling their quarterback position after releasing Jay Cutler in March. Free agents Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley both signed with the 49ers, leaving the cupboard bare. Mike Glennon will begin the season as the starter after signing a three-year deal earlier this month.

The Bears hold the No. 3 pick in the upcoming NFL Draft and could select one of North Carolina's Mitch Trubisky, Clemson's Deshaun Watson or Notre Dame's DeShone Kizer with the pick.