Why Bears Must Consider Keeping 3 QBs on Roster

Gene Chamberlain

The last time the Chicago Bears started a regular season with three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster, they were just coming off an appearance in the NFC championship game.

Maybe it's time to begin the practice again.

Since Matt Nagy became head coach, the Bears have operated with Mitchell Trubisky as starter and Chase Daniel as the backup who doesn't challenge for a starting job. In the background has been Tyler Bray, who was on the practice squad except when Trubisky suffered shoulder injuries. But they never tried developing Bray as a potential starter and understood Bray knew the offense but hadn't really played in it.

They operated with two quarterbacks or two quarterbacks and a practice squad quarterback on the opening day roster all the way back to when they were convinced they couldn't risk losing Mike Martz's personal protege, 2011 fifth-round draft pick Nathan Enderle. Enderle never played in a Bears game.

Bears general manager Ryan Pace was asked when he came to Chicago about drafting quarterbacks as developmental projects and said he'd like to select one every year. And to date, he hasn't drafted any quarterbacks except Trubisky. 

 So the third quarterback automatically gets banished to the practice squad, and is always going to be a low-talent long shot unlikely to ever make the roster for an extended length of time. That's because practice squad players can be signed by other teams, so who is going to risk putting a valued draft pick at quarterback in place for other teams to take.

Bears general manager Ryan Pace was asked when he came to Chicago about drafting quarterbacks as developmental projects and said he'd like to select one every year. To date, he hasn't drafted any quarterbacks except Mitchell Trubisky.

"To be honest, when we got here, we had so many needs, so many holes to fill throughout the roster," Pace said at his season-ending press conference. "You're doing whatever you can to fill those holes. Sometimes when you look at the draft board, wherever it is, you have more talented players on the board that are also hitting major holes on this offense, just doesn't always line up.

"But I do think drafting a quarterback, developing quarterbacks, that's important for the franchise. I mean, for a lot of different reasons, you've seen teams do that to their advantage, flipping for draft picks. It's something we talk about. It just hasn't been something that's aligned up in recent drafts. Doesn't mean it's something we don't believe in, something that can happen. It just hasn't happened in recent drafts."

So the Bears will be looking for a backup in free agency, unless they want to continue with Chase Daniel again. Daniel has already shown he's a fine stop-gap answer for a game or two, but the backup the Bears need now is a player who can take the offense from Trubisky and possibly win for an extended period of time or hold the job permanently.

Even if it's Daniel or another veteran who can play if Trubisky fails, they need to draft another young quarterback and carry him on the roster.

If Trubisky washes out and the veteran backup is playing, they're going to want to move on from Trubisky the next year rather than pay him a big salary in his fifth season to sit around and watch. 

In other word, he'd just be getting in the way. 

So it would be good to draft a quarterback to learn and watch for a year just as Patrick Mahomes did behind Alex Smith for a year, and then let him play in the future.

To do this would require putting the draft pick on the 53-man roster or they could lose him on waivers off of the practice squad. 

This wouldn't always have to be the case. In future years, the drafted quarterback could be the backup or even become the starter and another backup could be brought in, but as long as there's a question about Trubisky going forward without a contract extension, and the backup has to be someone brought in to win right away, then there needs to be third quarterback on the 53-man roster learning so he can eventually take the reins.

And if the end result is something like it was in 2010, except taking it a couple wins beyond, then no one could have a problem with it.

Twitter: BearDigest@BearsOnMaven

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