A good number of questions posed to Bears players this week were some version of this: Nathan Peterman is an awful quarterback, so how do you take him seriously?
Peterman has had a historically terrible beginning to his NFL career, throwing nine interceptions on 81 passing attempts covering seven games. His career interception rate of 11.1 percent is the third worst since the merger among players with 75 or more passing attempts (raise your hand if you’ve heard of the guys ahead of him: Alan Pastrana, who played for Denver in 1970; and Wayne Clark, who bounced between San Diego, Cincinnati and Kansas City from 1970-1975).
“We just got to defend their offense regardless of who is playing quarterback for them,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. “I know that they like him there. He did earn the starting job coming out of camp. They pulled him for the rookie at some point and I do know that they have a lot of confidence in him, and we got to be able to defend their offense and he’s a capable player.”
While Peterman is at times a joke and at times an example of how ludicrous it is that Colin Kaepernick doesn’t have a job, the fact of the matter is the Bears do need to take the former fifth-round pick seriously. The 6-foot-2, 225 pound 24-year-old was seen by some as a mid-round sleeper back in 2017, the same year the Bears drafted Mitch Trubisky second overall.
NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein drew a comparison to Kirk Cousins in Peterman’s draft profile, and summed him up thusly:
“Peterman's experience in a pro-style passing attack gives him a head start headed into the league. His physical attributes are just average, but his accuracy, composure and anticipation are what sets him apart from some of the more physically gifted quarterbacks in this year's draft. Peterman's tape is sure to catch the eye of at least a few teams in need of a quarterback and he should come off the board by day two with a chance to become a solid starting quarterback in the future.”
That was written less than two years ago, but it already feels dated — and not just because Peterman’s been an unmitigated disaster every time he’s taken the field in a Bills uniform. The part about him running a pro-style offense, and that being a benefit, doesn’t apply as much in 2018 as it may have even as recently as last year.
Look no further to the success the Kansas City Chiefs have had with Patrick Mahomes — “He is going to drive his head coach crazy for the first couple of years and there is no getting around that,” an NFL executive told NFL.com prior to the 2017 draft — or what the Bears have done running an offense with plenty of non-pro-style influence.
The NFL has changed to open the door for more innovative offenses, and with it, it’s left behind guys like Peterman who’s best asset seemed to be that he ran a pro-style offense in college.
Trubisky vs. Peterman II
Here’s an amusing side-by-side statline:
Tomorrow will be the second time Mitch Trubisky and Nathan Peterman have squared off against each other. The box score from the first time: pic.twitter.com/ZFAzKZkEjY— JJ Stankevitz (@JJStankevitz) November 3, 2018
Seeing those numbers, you’d think North Carolina won easily, right? Not at all — Trubisky needed to find Bug Howard for a two-yard touchdown with two seconds left for the Tarheels to earn a 37-36 win over Peterman’s Pitt.
Peterman totaled 47 touchdowns and 15 interceptions in 26 starts at Pitt, though he only topped 300 yards in a game once. But that game was an upset of No. 1 and future national champion Clemson, in which Peterman threw for 308 yards with five touchdowns. Perhaps that game was the biggest contributor, at least on film, to upping his draft stock in 2017.
Small sample size
All this being said, 81 passing attempts is not enough to definitively say the Bears’ defense will feast against Peterman. His tape, yes, is sub-optimal, but it’s not like Brock Osweiler did a lot of impressive things before he dink-and-dunked the Dolphins to 31 points against the Bears three weeks ago.
Chances are, the Bears’ defense will do well against Peterman and the Bills on Sunday. But only if they truly do take their opposition seriously.