Mitchell Trubisky is in only his third season with the Bears, but already he's begun to climb the statistical molehill of the team's quarterbacks. Currently, Trubisky is number eight among the century-old franchise’s most prolific passers, with 7,856 yards. At his current rate, he'll make it to fourth place by the end of next season (should the Bears stick with him).
How is Trubisky able to make such a mark after so short a time? Because the Bears have some of the worst quarterbacking in NFL history. The team’s only great QB is Sid Luckman, who retired in 1950. In Luckman’s day, the forward pass was not the essential offensive weapon it is now. His job was to thrill the nation with the T formation. And he did, leading the Bears to four NFL championships.
But Luckman is only second on the Bears’ all-time passing list. First is… Jay Cutler.
Scrolling through the list of each NFL team's all-time passing leaders, one sees such names as Tom Brady, John Elway, Dan Marino, and Joe Montana. Then, near the very bottom, with 23,443 yards, is Cutler. His franchise record tops only Oakland (1,844 passing yards from Derek Carr), Tampa Bay (18,743 from Jameis Winston), and the Texans (23,221 yards, Matt Schaub). Carr and Winston, who are still active, will likely pass him.
In eight seasons with the Bears, Cutler threw 109 picks — dozens more than Schaub, Winston, and Carr so far. Cutler barely got the Bears north of Schaub's record, and the Texans are just 18 seasons old. Smokin' Jay was the definition of deadwood: good enough to hang onto his job, but not good enough to make it to the playoffs more than once.
The Bears were once a coin flip away from landing one of NFL’s greatest quarterbacks. During the 1969 season, they went 1-13, tying with the Pittsburgh Steelers for the league’s worst record.
To assign the number one draft pick, NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle tossed a 1921 silver dollar in a New Orleans hotel room. Ed McCaskey, George Halas’s son-in-law, called heads. The coin landed tails.
“McCaskey, you bum, you can’t even win a coin toss!” sportswriter Jack Griffin of the Sun-Times reportedly shouted at the luckless McCaskey.
The Steelers used their draft pick to select Louisiana State’s Terry Bradshaw, a future Hall of Famer and four-time Super Bowl winner. The Bears traded their second pick to the Green Bay Packers.
Winning that coin toss might have changed the entire history of the Bears. If Bradshaw had performed anything like he did in Pittsburgh, he would be the team’s leading passer. The Bears might not have gone 4 and 10 in 1974. They wouldn’t have been in a position to draft Walter Payton — but with Bradshaw, they might have won that Super Bowl a decade earlier.
The Bears’ search for a winning quarterback is endless, and endlessly futile. Since 1992, the Bears have started 33 quarterbacks. The Packers have started seven. Soon, the Bears could be 31st out of 32 in all-time leading passers. Then, the NFL’s oldest franchise will only be ahead of its newest.
Bears fans can only hope that Trubisky climbs to the top of that list, and beyond. This city has been waiting 70 years for a successor to Sid Luckman.