For the Bears to beat the Green Bay Packers on Sunday – and ensure a spot in the playoffs – they need to finally get a return on their $30 million investment in Robert Quinn.
After all, wasn’t Quinn signed for games like this?
“When I look at it, I’m still shocked. I still can’t believe I had a season like I’ve had this year,” Quinn said. “But there’s no excuse. The only person I’ve got to blame is myself for that.”
Pairing Quinn with Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks was supposed to give the Bears an unstoppable pass rush. Quinn was guaranteed $30 million to go get Aaron Rodgers in a game that matters, or at least help Mack and Hicks go get the best quarterbacks in NFL every week.
Quinn has two sacks and four quarterback hits entering Week 17; the Bears are tied for 15th in the NFL with 34 sacks.
“One of the first things that comes to mind as you strengthen your team is your pass rush affecting the opposing quarterback,” general manager Ryan Pace said in April. “We just feel like Quinn’s a proven pass rusher. … I think we can take a position of strength on our defense and we make it even stronger and more dangerous when you add Quinn and you combine him with the players that are already up there, especially up front.”
There’s been little danger for opposing offenses against the Bears’ $90 million pass rush – the total money guaranteed to Quinn (two sacks, four quarterback hits) and Khalil Mack (nine sacks, four quarterback hits). Unless Quinn breaks out with two and a half sacks on Sunday, the 30-year-old will finish 2020 with a career low sack total; he enters Week 17 with fewer sacks than fellow outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo, who signed for a little over a million bucks this offseason.
To beat Rodgers, though, the Bears cannot settle for mere pressures from Quinn, Mack and their defensive front. They have to hit Rodgers. It’s no coincidence that Rodgers’ worst games of the year coincided with him getting sacked four times (vs. Tampa Bay) and five times (vs. Carolina). Those are his only two games with a passer rating below 100.
And the Bears have to get to Rodgers – not just “affect” him, but hit him – mainly by rushing four. All five of Carolina’s sacks on Rodgers came when not blitzing, per Pro Football Focus; while Bucs defensive coordinator Todd Bowles short-circuited Rodgers by blitzing him (three sacks, two interceptions) that success is the exception, not the rule.
“(Carolina) did a nice job and there’s very few of them that have been able to,” Pagano said. “Tampa obviously did a really good job down there with that win, but again it’s really hard to get No. 12 and confuse him. He’s seen it all and he’s so smart and he’s so efficient.”
Quinn will be back with the Bears in 2021 – he carries a dead cap figure of $23.9 million – and Sunday will mark a potentially final opportunity to change the narrative around his disappointing 2020. The Bears want to see Quinn have more counter moves at the top of his rushes instead of being re-routed upfield, as has happened too often this year. But this isn’t a new thing on which Quinn needs to work – he only has those two sacks, after all, and went over 450 snaps between sacks.
But if the Bears win on Sunday, there’s a good chance Quinn will have played up to his contract.
“I guess if I can double my season production come Sunday and make it impactful, that’s a heck of a great season I guess, to get us in the playoffs,” Quinn said. “But for me personally, it’s been a frustrating year, but I wish I could focus on me right now. But I just want to get into these playoffs. My year hasn’t been great, but as a team we gave ourselves a chance, so that’s all I can really focus on.”