Watching the playoffs from a safe distance since the Bears aren’t in them, you see things that make you think… .
Watching the Atlanta Falcons demolish the Seattle Seahawks might have raised a gee-what-if moment, as in what if Falcons coach Dan Quinn, the presumptive first choice of GM Ryan Pace to succeed Marc Trestman, had ended up directing the Bears instead?
Don’t spend a lot of time on that one. This isn’t quite GM Phil Emery deciding on Trestman over Bruce Arians, which earns some richly deserved second-guess time. And it’s not quite accurate to declare that John Fox wasn’t Pace’s first choice, because Fox did become that first choice when he somewhat unexpectedly came free from the Denver Broncos.
More to the relevant point, however, is that Quinn inherited Matt Ryan (not Jay Cutler) as his quarterback effected something of a breakthrough for the Falcons because of what he did having little to do directly with Ryan.
Ryan became “great” this season because Quinn, who has a deep defensive pedigree that included two distinguished stints with Seattle, turned the Atlanta defense into something ferocious. Ryan was 1-4 in playoff games before Saturday in very large part because the Falcons had given up 28, 28, 24, 48 and 30 points in Ryan’s five postseason games. Ryan didn’t have to throw-throw-throw this year because his teams weren’t behind; his total attempts this season (534) were the fewest of his last seven seasons.
So would the Bears have been better off with Quinn than Fox? Only if Quinn brought Russell Wilson with him from Seattle.
Jimmy Garoppolo the answer to the Bears’ quarterback quest? Consider carefully because those who do not learn from the mistakes in history are condemned to repeat them.
Ryan Pace is obviously right in placing the code-red priority on addressing his quarterback situation. And it increasingly difficult to envision a workable scenario other than Brian Hoyer signed as a veteran starter (more on that another time), Connor Shaw or Matt Barkley (probably not) as a No. 2, and a draft choice.
One reason was on display Saturday in New England, and a cautionary reason at that. Call it an object lesson.
The Texans cast their lot with Brock Osweiler to the tune of $72 million, their thinking being that he was a franchise answer based on his resume consisting of precisely seven starts (one against the Bears) with a really good Denver team in 2015. But Osweiler, who’d already been benched for a late-season week, was further exposed in the double-digit loss Saturday to New England, a game in which Osweiler threw 3 interceptions to dig a fatal hole for the Texans and a defense among the NFL’s elite even without J.J. Watt.
Like the Bears were with Jay Cutler’s contract in 2015 and 2016, the Texans are stuck for massive ($19 million for Osweiler) guaranteed money before next season even gets here. The cries for Houston to eat the deal have already started.
But the overriding lesson lies in expecting a backup, even a basically OK one, to somehow be more than he was with his previous team.
Notably, Brady proved what he was in 2001 when Bledsoe was injured and Brady guided the Patriots into the postseason, so effectively that Bill Belichick made the decision, as Jason Garrett did in Dallas between Dak Prescott and Tony Romo, to stay the course with the No. 2. He knew exactly what he had in Brady.
Others were victims of false hope/hype.
And the constant seems to be a mysterious assumption that if the guy is No. 2 to a pretty good quarterback, then HE must be a really good quarterback.
Scott Mitchell (behind Dan Marino), Matt Cassel (behind Brady), Matt Flynn (behind Aaron Rodgers), Kevin Kolb (behind Donovan McNabb), Chad Henne (behind Chad Pennington), Ryan Mallett (behind Brady), Osweiler (behind Peyton Manning) – all backups who gave enough of a tantalizing tease for some hopeful team to gamble – and lose, big.
Probably just a coincidence here, but Cassel, Mallett and now Garoppolo all back/backed up…yeah, THAT guy.
One epic exception is Drew Brees, whom the New Orleans Saints acquired as a free agent after the San Diego Chargers decided their future lay with Philip Rivers. But Brees is memorable for precisely that reason, that No. 2’s going on to greatness are easy to remember because they are so rare.
Pace was on the pro personnel scouting side of things with New Orleans when the Saints made the Brees move. Unlikely he would be a knee-jerk follower of something he was involved with that worked once.
But stranger, and worse, things have happened in the NFL.