Chicago Sun-Times

Four Down Territory, Feb. 10: From Orton to Sanchez and Stafford

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As we pledged to do this offseason, we're not going to take our eye off the quarterback position for long. With that, let's dive right into Tuesday's Four Down Territory and start with a couple of QB queries.

Q: What are your thoughts on Kyle Orton? How much is his dropoff in production in the second half attributed to his ankle injury? Is he the longterm answer at quarterback? How much can he reasonably improve if the wide receiver corps remains so mediocre?

Joe B., Oxford, Conn.

A: If anyone has the answer to this question, Jerry Angelo would like to hear from them. Pronto. Here is the bottom line--Orton will be the starting quarterback for 2009. Even if the club brings in a veteran there isn't going to be any type of derby. Not after the maneuvering the team has done since the season ended to make sure everyone knows it believes in Orton.

There's no question Orton made steady progress from his rookie season of 2005 after watching for two years. The first half of the season he looked like a quarterback the Bears could invest in for the long haul. The second half of the season he looked like a quarterback the Bears needed to replace. Is he the passer you saw the first two months? The passer you saw the final two months? Or somewhere in between? Keep in mind that Brandon Lloyd going down in Week 4, and never really returning, didn't help him. He had emerged as a steady target.

Orton never blamed the ankle injury for his deteriorating performance but certainly it played a factor. The club came out and admitted, after the fact, that he shouldn't have been pressed back into action Nov. 16 at Green Bay. The club has pinned high hopes on him. If he plays well, the Bears will work to lock him up with a multi-year contract. If he doesn't, the Bears are back to the drawing board and Angelo will be seeking his 12th starting quarterback. Yes, the GM has used 11 starters at the position since 2001.

The Bears are hoping he can take a significant step forward. He hasn't had one offseason where he's been the No. 1 and gotten the bulk of the first-team work. He split those duties with Rex Grossman last year. It's fair to call the wide receivers mediocre, no question, but Orton needs to take some blame here too. There were plenty of instances when Devin Hester was open to make a play and didn't get the ball. Orton has to hit some of those plays and that's an area he'll need to improve upon.

Q: Looking at all the mock drafts out there most prognosticators have the Bears going defensive end, wide receiver or offensive tackle. Considering the needs of the teams ahead of the Bears, I really think either Mark Sanchez or Matthew Stafford will tumble if the Lions choose to go a different route than quarterback with the first pick in the draft. The last few years have seen a few quarterbacks drop (Brian Brohm, Aaron Rodgers, Brady Quinn) because there was simply not a team out there who wanted to gamble on a franchise quarterback or felt that they had bigger needs. If Sanchez or Stafford fell to the Bears, would they jump at the chance to take him or are they more likely to try and negotiate a trade back with another team in the second half of the draft order looking for a quarterback?

Nick L., Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

A: You're right, we've seen some quarterbacks do freefalls through the draft the last few years. Remember, Ben Roethlisberger was getting antsy in the green room when he was selected in 2004, 11th overall. So, you're suggesting the Lions, with a pseudo new management team in place, are going to continue old habits and draft Texas Tech wide receiver Michael Crabtree with the No. 1 pick? OK. I'll buy that, or at least agree there is a chance Detroit addresses a need other than quarterback, which is a glaring one.

Let's take a look at some teams drafting before the Bears at No. 18:

2. St. Louis: Is Marc Bulger still the answer?
3. Kansas City: New head coach Todd Haley takes over a club with Tyler Thigpen and Brodie Croyle at quarterback.
10. San Francisco: That Alex Smith Era didn't last too long.
11. Buffalo: Trent Edwards?
13. Washington: The Redskins have been known to think outside the box, far outside the box, and Jason Campbell didn't get it done for first-year coach Jim Zorn.
17. New York Jets: The contingency plan without Brett Favre is what?

There are six clubs right there that could pull the trigger on a quarterback. Don't discount the fact that Tampa Bay (19), Detroit (20), Minnesota (22) or even Miami (25) could have an interest in a passer and consider swinging a deal to trade up. The Lions could go with another position at No. 1 and then target a quarterback later in the round. I'm not saying that is going to happen, and I can't give any certain idea what the draft plans of other teams are, but you can't rule anything out on draft day. Certainly the Bears will have to consider a scenario and what to do if Stafford or Sanchez falls to them at No. 18 in the draft. That will surely be done in the coming weeks and months. Don't discount the needs of some other teams, too, in this process though. The Bears aren't the only quarterback-starved franchise out there. They're just the one that has been starving longest.

Q: When, if ever, have the Bears traded up in the draft ?

Crystal Z., Parts Unknown

A: How easily you forget. The Bears packaged the 176th, 193rd and 218th picks in 2003 for No. 143, getting that from the Jacksonville Jaguars to select wide receiver Justin Gage in the fifth round. Gage was selected four picks after the team drafted fellow wide receiver Bobby Wade. That is the only time general manager Jerry Angelo has traded up--picks for picks--in seven drafts he has conducted with the Bears.

He's more prone to dealing down in the draft to collect picks. The Bears traded down in the fourth round twice last April. In fact, Angelo has traded down in five of the last six drafts, dealing down twice in the first round in 2003. The Bears have adapted a philosophy of looking for a combination of players. The theory was born at the very top of the draft where teams are required to spend so much money on one player who isn't a sure thing. At some point, the Bears came to the conclusion that rather than invest that heavily in one player (they dealt out of the No.4 pick in 2003) they would look at the combination of players they could get for the pick. Since, they've adapted that approach to other areas of the draft.

Angelo traded the 26th pick in 2006 and turned it into Danieal Manning and Dusty Dvoracek. In 2007, he traded the 37th pick to San Diego (who selected safety Eric Weddle) and that became Dan Bazuin, Garrett Wolfe, Kevin Payne and Marcus Harrison.

Basically, when the Bears' turn to pick comes if there are three or four players they like equally and they believe at least one will last, they'll explore options to move down and add more picks. Unfortunately, they haven't done a very good job of pulling it off lately and they've missed on getting impact players at the top of the draft.

For what it's worth, and it's not much, the second-most recent trade up occurred in 1997. That was when the Bears traded picks No. 40 and No. 173 for No. 38, a move made to select Southern Cal tight end John Allred. Oops. They also traded up in 1996, dealing picks No. 18, 83 and 201 for No. 13 to select cornerback Walt Harris.

Q: I have seen you say that Marcus Hamilton $10 million likely to be earned incentive is now with the Bears. Why would it transfer from the Tampa Bay? Seems to be double dipping then. When the Bears picked him up on waivers, doesn't only his salary come to the Bears? Because Tampa had to account for it in the cap space before the year began?

John D., Parts Unknown

A: When a player is claimed off waivers, a team gets the player and his existing contract. So, all of the terms of Hamilton's contract applied when he was claimed by the Bears. Any bonuses or other money already paid to the player are the responsibility of his former team. By shedding Hamilton when they did, the Buccaneers created $10 million in cap space at that time. To add him, the Bears needed $10 million in room, which they had.

Since, Hamilton's contract was adjusted. The Bears renegotiated his contract on Dec. 6, lowering the LTBE incentive to $9.7 million. That freed up $300,000 in cap room, which was likely needed for some of the moves down the stretch--signing wide receiver Devin Aromashodu Dec. 9, linebacker Gilbert Gardner Dec. 12 and safety Cameron Worrell Dec. 26. The cornerback is an exclusive rights free agent.

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Of course Kyle Orton will be the starting QB in 2009. Why? Because he's affordable and safe for a team that doesn't really care about winning.

Of the 2, Rex Grossman was the better QB by far. Personally, I wouldn't want to play for the Bears based on what they have done with talent over the last 5 years.

"The Bears aren't the only quarterback-starved franchise out there. They're just the one that has been starving longest."

This is an interesting topic. Are the Bears the worst NFL franchise when it comes to QB play throughout history, and what other teams come close? Answering this questions might be a bit of a project, but it would be one hell of a read.

I understand the frustration of not having a playmaking QB for so many years. But that doesn't mean the Bears don't care about winning. It might mean they have certain blind spots in their philosophy of how to build and maintain a winning team. I believe two signficant events occurred that give hope.

1. Jerry Angelo openly expressed questions about the position, based on the failure to make the playoffs. If the light went on in Jerry Angelo's head about the position, I say great. Let's hold his feet to the fire.

2. Anyone with eyes could see that the Steelers, with a defense better than the 05/06 Bears, and much better receivers, needed a playmaking QB to win the game. If not for Ben R. , it's likely they lose that game.

Forget about Stafford, He won't be there. But if Sanchez is a possibility, the Bears should do all they can to get him. He's accurate and athletic and a winner. If he can't beat out Orton, he's the QB of the future.

Don't they call Chicago "The Second City"??? Second rate, that is! Why must we settle for average QBs all the time??? Orton is nothing but a stop gap, below average, game manager!! I'm sick of watching him dink dunk until something bad happens....Jerry and Lovie, grow some balls and get someone else or play Caleb Hanie!!! I'd rather take my chances with a younger player with a much better upside then "good old" Kyle anyday!!!

"Of the 2, Rex Grossman was the better QB by far. Personally, I wouldn't want to play for the Bears based on what they have done with talent over the last 5 years."

Wow, did you actually watch any of the Bears games the past (6) seasons ??? all those good Rex/Bad Rex performances ???

Rex's career numbers:
521/962, 6164 yds, 54.2 compl%, 6.41 YPA, 33 TD's, 35 INT's, 70.2 QB rating

worste QB rated games: 43.4 47.1, 10.2, 36.8, 23.6, 1.3, 0.0

Kyle's career numbers:
505/913, 5319 yds, 55.3 compl%, 5.83 YPA, 30 TD's, 27 INT's, 71.1 QB rating

worste QB rated games: 14.7, 43.3, 42.8, 23.9, 39.6, 39.1, 48.7

Most of Kyle's worste rated games came in his rookie season in 2005. Most of Rex's worste rated games came in 2006 including the infamous 0.0, the 1.3, 23.6, 36.8 and 10.2..... All that in his 4'th season with the Bears, a top-5 defense behind him, Berrian, Moose, TJ, Clark, Devin Hester breaking out as the leagues best KR specialist as a rookie ect.....

Why would David Carr sign with the "Gmen" knowing he'll never beat out Eli when he could come here and be the starter because Kyle sucks????? might have something to do with our team sucks, receivers suck, turf sucks, fans suck (one incompletion and you're booed off the field), defense is so old it sucks, coaches suck, media sucks, GM sucks, CEO sucks,...etc,etc,etc.......

Either way you slice it Orton will be the starter for 09, instead of trading for Byron L. from the Stealers, a quarter back that had his shot and is already seasoned the Bears should try to get a young back-up and then see where Tebow falls in next year. The Redskins have a sleeper on their bench in Colt Brennan who was a rookie last year but didn't see any action in the season. Oh, did I mention this kid holds 31 NCAA passing records!

Orton will get at least another year. I think the best strategy is to try and trade the 1st rd pick for a 1st rd pick next year. The biggest needs are on the lines. They can get a solid RT in the 2nd rd.

With 2 1st rd picks next year they can go after McCoy or Bradford.

I don't see a great pass rusher droppping to 18 this year and there should be WR's there in the 3rd or 4th rds.

We are, will be, and are going to always be nothing more than an average team as long as Orton is our QB!!!!!!....the sooner the big shots realize this, the better!!!!

Tripper- Are you a Bears fan? If so it sounds like you need a new team buddy. Carr SUCKS, end of story.

Dj- Colt Brennen is no sleeper. He played for Hawaii which is in such a weak conference. Who cares if he broke 31 records? You know who else broke about 31 records, the clown we just signed Basanez. Neither have or will see the field.

But I do agree with you on Tebow. What a quality young man he is. He will make any team better. I hope we wait until next year when the QB crop is a plenty with Tebow, McCoy, Bradford and the list goes on. We need to address so many other postions and can address a rookie QB next year.

WR, O-line, 2 Free safetys, strongside linebacker and guard. Thats what the team should draft.


Can anyone explain why Tampa Bay had $10 million dollar in cap room allotted to Marcus Hamilton a 7th round draft pick in 2007, and if he's worth that much?

I like what you had to say Tomk.

As much as it grates on me to say it, maybe a year's patience at QB is the best way to go. This year's draft looks really weak after Sanchez, and Sanchez, at best, isn't going to be ready till next year anyway. I don't like any of the answers in free agency.

Next year's draft looks like it could be really stacked, Tebow or not. If that is true, an indirect impact will be that the quality of free agents should go up too. Teams don't like paying big bucks to two QBs. Some decent vets will probably hit the street.

Next year we will either be saying Orton's the man and look at his shiny new contract, or he will be gone. I don't see "maybe" in the equation. Looking at it that way, I could see taking a look at an Alex Smith or Boller in camp. See if a change of scenery makes a difference on them without making a lot of commitment.

Ever post something you hate to say? There tis. If Angelo is going to essentially let it ride on QB, he really needs to hit gold on some other big roster holes.

Tomk4054......I'm as big a Bears fan as you.....I just calls 'em as I sees 'em!!!!!!

Tripper ? or should I say Rex is that you ? lol

Orton was just fine but can and should continue to improve.Here we are after the defense let us down talking as though we expected 4000 yards and 35 td's from our QB. Everyone knows full well Orton had a solid year but that that he still needs to get better .How can anyone say he sucked is beyond me. As Brad said this will be Ortons first year with full preparation as "the guy".This next year is his to show us that he can be our longterm answer and I think his play this year earned him that much.

I looked at him this season no differently than I did Hester,Olsen,or Forte.A developmental year within our current system and grading them based on our philosophy they all had their ups and downs but look to be a solid group if we can shore up that line and add a big game breaking receiver.

I agree completely with Tomk and MsBear. Wait on the QB and let Orton show if he’s skilled enough in ‘09. We still have Calib. With all the talk about a QB, WR, DE, S and DT, has anyone seen our O-Line? Shouldn’t there be more articles about how ridiculously overachieving they were last year? Here’s that lineup with their ages from St. Clar - 31 (9 seasons), Beekman - 25 (2 seasons), Kreutz - 31 (11 seasons), Garza - 29 (8 seasons) and Tait - 34 (10 seasons) and the backups = Williams, Buenning, Metcalf, Reed and Balogh. Does this look like a Super Bowl Offensive Line or a line with an upside? Who's going to block for the QB? (Whoever the QB ends up being) Forte and Wolfe need a whole to run thru and the receivers needs time to get open and the QB needs time to throw.... or am I crazy here?


I wouldn't completely agree with your draft needs list, but I think it is close. Rather than WR, 2 Free Safeties, SSLB, and OG, I think it would be best for the Bears to look at:

Wide Receiver (Agree, but I expect Bennett to start contributing this year, and he is a real talent)

Defensive End (we were one of the most blitzing teams in the NFL, and ranked 29th at getting to the QB. Marinelli does not automatically mean Ogunleye and Co. start getting 10+ sacks).

a Free Safety (and I don't believe any deserve to be taken in the first 2 rounds)

Offensive Tackle (It would be nice to add a guard as well, but tackle should be priority because its our oldest and most inexperienced position, right and left respectively.)

I think the Bears need to address the above, and minus Tackle, Larry Mayer said as much in his offseason report interview (FS, DE, WR, complimentary running back, new face in the wings at QB).

It would be nice, but less critical, for the Bears to add a startable Guard or Center-in-waiting; a developmental Corner, that complimentary running back, a much better blocking fullback, a third string tight end that knows his blocking techniques,and competition at Strong Side Linebacker.

Just my thoughts though, and I do agree with you on at least a few priorities.

Oh and MsBearsFan - I definitely think we have to just give 2009 to Orton and go from there in 2010 offseason. We can't screw Orton out of a full camps worth of reps again, we have to let him develop timing with the wideouts, and see if he earns a payday in his contract year. If not, then I agree, some talented first round pick next year, because if we bet on Orton and he fails, we should have the pick to replace him!

Go Bears!

Brad could you identify the strengths of this Bears team from the organization to the positions? Like when I look at the Steelers I see a team that has a great front office with a great owner and a great Defensive Coordinator. The are strong at drafting and identifying talent, there defense is the best in football, and ther LB's are excellent. There offense has a very good QB and and a solid RB and 2 solid recivers, not to mention a very good TE.

What are the Bears strengths?

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This page contains a single entry by Brad Biggs published on February 10, 2009 6:53 PM.

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