First in a series looking at the top Bears in the history of the franchise at each position. In this installment, CSNChicago.com Bears Insider John Mullin gets things started with the quarterback position.
With the NFL season on indefinite hold, by virtue of the latest court ruling enabling the owners’ lockout and tepid efforts at mediation, the present isn’t particularly interesting and the future isn’t... well, it just isn’t right now.
So CSNChicago.com’s “View from the Moon” is taking this opportunity to bring unprecedented clarity to the Chicago Bears’ past, with some “present” folded in. Rather than undertake another analysis of the 2011 roster, which necessarily remains in a molten state pending yet-uncertain free agency, training camp and preseason, “View” will establish the franchise depth chart position by position.
Specifically, who are the three greatest Bears of all time at each of the 22 positions, plus special teams?
The obvious place to start: Quarterback.
3. Ed Brown
The falloff at the position after Nos. 1-2 is pretty steep. That would be a franchise problem. But that’s another story.
Brown had the misfortune of playing in the same conference and during primes of Johnny Unitas and Bobby Layne, which didn’t leave a lot of championships lying around. But Brown was a two-time Pro Bowl QB (1955-56) and had the Bears in the 1956 title game that ended badly for the Bears.
Bill Wade and Rudy Bukich had seasons with higher passer ratings. So did Jim Miller and Erik Kramer. But Brown’s career-best 83.1 in ’56 led the NFL, even as he was throwing more INT’s than TD’s, which he did in all but one of his years.
2. Jim McMahon
McMahon was not the passer that Jay Cutler is, or maybe even Ed Brown or Rudy Bukich. But wobbly passes aren’t the point. Winning is, and McMahon did. As I said, if we’re talking about a single game, assuming both are healthy, I think very hard about going with Jimmy Mac (although for every Super Bowl XX for him, there was an ’87 divisional game vs. Washington or ’88 championship game vs. San Francisco for him).
Forget the image and myth. McMahon had a consummate grasp of defenses, something that separates him from even some of the best in the game today, and McMahon was dealing with defenses like Bill Parcells’ in New York and was playing in a decade speckled with teams like the Giants, Redskins, 49ers and Buddy Ryan Eagles (even if they didn’t win beyond a regular season).
McMahon was a quarterback. He may have had an awfully good supporting huddle around him (three of his offensive linemen -- Jimbo Covert, Mark Bortz, Jay Hilgenberg -- were voted to Pro Bowls) but he also made the group better, and that is a tenet of greatness.
1. Sid Luckman
A gimme, with apologies to No. 2 on the list. There is only one Bears quarterback in the Hall of Fame (other than a George Blanda or a Bobby Layne, whose most notable accomplishments came after they left Bears uniforms), and that is Luckman. In an era when the passing offenses were still in their formative years, Luckman threw seven TD passes and for 433 yards in a single game.
But this is a “quarterback” rating, not simply a “passer” rating, and there’s a difference. Runner-up McMahon arguably ranks with Luckman and possibly ahead of him if you were looking at a one-time, winner-take-all pickup game. But this is an award for a body of work and McMahon’s body doesn’t add to his vote total here.
McMahon threw for 300 yards once in his career. The Bears lost that game. Luckman did it three times and the Bears won all three. The Bears won four NFL titles with Luckman to one with McMahon. Luckman rarely spit the bit in a game of magnitude.
Both QB’s were central figures in perhaps the greatest teams of their eras. But Luckman, who also played some defensive back, was good to the point of the Detroit Lions sparking an investigation of Luckman for off-field associations, just trying to get him out of the way.
Bernie Masterson: It was Masterson who Luckman replaced but in the seven seasons under mostly Masterson, the Bears had zero losing seasons, were 13-0 in 1934 (then lost to the Giants in the title game) and 9-1-1 in 1937 (but again lost in the championship game). It was a different game, a different time, but Masterson was a winner.
Cutler: One really bad year, one pretty good one and reaching the NFC Championship game -- not enough to make the cut. And still more passer than quarterback, but with an arrow pointing up.
JimMillerJimHarbaughSteveWalshErikKramerBillWade: A lot of guys respectable with some good years, some bad years, kind of all running together.
Rex Grossman: Hey, you get to a Super Bowl, with as many 100-plus passer ratings that season as Peyton Manning, you come up in the conversation, if only for a moment. (OK, just kidding...).
Erick Kramer... Guy was so under rated.
Jay Cutler... Head case, but so gifted.
Jake Delhomme... Yeah, I know. But I just wanted to remind everyone that I wanted this guy way back when he wasn't "proven". Say what you want but he had a better career than any Bears QB in the last 20 years.
This kind of depends on the criteria you use to pick. If we look at he modern era alone (1960-current) I'd say that Wade, McMahon and Cutler are the three best with an honorable mention to Erik Kramer for his one outstanding season. In the era prior to the 60's it would be Luckman, Masterson and Brown. To me it's tough to compare QB's from the 30's, 40's and 50's to guys from the 60's forward althoug a guy like Billy Wade kind of straddles both era's.
I'm getting to that age where a lifetime warranty just doesn't mean as much to me anymore as an afternoon nap.
Honey Badger Don't Care. Honey Badger Don't Give a Shit.
When was he on the Bears? I knew we had a chance to get him when the Saints released him, but..
He wasn't. Jake was the Kevin Kolb of 2001, we went the Grossman rout instead. I still think the Panthers got a steal, but most Bears fans(one in particular that is pretending not to read this) wanted Kordell Stewart because he was "proven".
For the time it was in, Luckman gets cred, but for all out talent, He's not getting my vote. If Grossman were alive back then, he'd have torn the league up. With that said:
3. Jim Miller - A glimpse at who could've taken us far, had he not been injured
2. Erik Kramer - See Above
1. Jay Cutler - Has more talent and potential than any QB to don a Bears uniform, doesn't have the same kind of players as Jim McMahon, who really only had one good season.
Sid won 4 championships in 6 years( and if not for WW2 would likely have won 6 in a row).. the 1942 teams scord the 2nd most points in league history- I don't a re what era when avg 35+ points a game( and went 11-0) you are a great qb in any era, heck in 1943 he threw 28 td's in only 12 games( would be the equiv of 37 in today's 16 games) and a 107.8 q rating( back when 80 was considered great)..he acg 10.82 yards a pass in 1943
Another meaningful method of determining Luckman's true effectiveness may be gained by studying the latest career rankings of forward passers in the NFL. Even though Sid played well before pass patterns had become so sophisticated that pass defenses were severely tested every time a forward pass was thrown, he still ranks No. 14 among the all-time leaders. He is the only passer whose career took place before 1950 to make the Top Twenty. His TD pass percentage of 7.9 is the best ever and his 8.42-yard-per-attempt mark is the second best.