You don’t have to be a Chicago Bears fan to know that the team’s history is full of greats. One of the most popular positions to watch is the quarterback. In the 1940s and ’50s, Sid Luckman was a QB to be feared. It was in the ’70s that the Bears drafted Jim McMahon, a QB who is now considered a legend. The ’80s brought Jim Harbaugh to the scene, and he may have been the most talented of them all. The trend continues today, with Jay Cutler leading the Bears to a new generation of football.
Navigating Bear Markets: Chicago’s First-Round QBs From Luckman to Fields About the author: Robert B. is a long time reader of Chicago Sports & Chicago Bears Blogs, and has been a fan of “europoints” since he started reading it.
- Sid Luckman.
- Frankie Albert.
- Johnny Ludjack.
- Bobby Lane.
- Bob Williams
- Jim McMahon.
- Jim Harbaugh.
- Cade McNown.
- Rex Grossman
- Mitchell Trubisky.
- Justin Fields.
Here are the big names of quarterbacks selected in the first round of the NFL draft by your legendary Chicago Bears team. I wonder if they don’t have something in common. Other than the fact that he was selected by the Bears in the first round and plays quarterback, what binds this group together?
Every QB the Bears have in the first round. The first round, when he made his first start and against whom.
No quarterback selected by the Bears in the first round has started Week 1 of his rookie year.
- Two of the last six QBs selected by the Bears in the first round sat out the entire season as rookies.
- Four of the last five QBs selected in the first round by the Bears started their careers against a top NFL defense. This should become a good tradition Welcome to the NFL.
- Of all the draft picks in each round, only one Bears QB started in his rookie year in Week 1. That QB is Kyle Orton, fourth-round pick in 2005. Orton was forced into the game when presumptive leading scorer Rex Grossman was injured during a preseason practice.
How long each selected Bears player has been in the Bears’ lineup.
No quarterback selected by the Bears in the first round of the NFL Draft has started more than 65 games for the Bears.
- The Bears’ first-round QB has never played more than 65 games for a team. That record belongs to Jim McMahon, who averaged 8.7 starts during his illustrious seven-year career with the Bears.
- Only three first-rate QBs since Sid Luckman (retired in 1950) have had their fifth year with the Bears: Rex Grossman, who played in eight games in his first three seasons, Jim Harbaugh, who played in seven games in his first three seasons, and the aforementioned Jim McMahon.
- Frankie Albert, chosen tenth in 1942, never played a game for the Bears. The Bears recruited Albert while he was serving in the Navy during World War II. When he returned home in 1945, he became the 49ers’ first-ever AFL quarterback.
- Quarterback Bobby Layne was a one-time starter for the Bears in his only season with the team. After Halas’ promising emergence, Lane served as the third backup QB after Luckman and Ludzek. He refused to return the following season and tried to arrange a trade with the Green Bay Packers. Instead, Halas traded him to the New York Bulldogs, where Lane played just one season with a 1-11 record. The Bulldogs then traded Lane to the Detroit Lions, where he began his Hall of Fame career. The true curse of Bobby Layne (Layne cursed the Lions so much that the Lions didn’t win 50 years after his transfer).
- 173 QBs were selected in the first round of the NFL Draft. They have averaged 89 games and 71 starts in their careers. The chosen Bears QBs have averaged 89 games played and 66 games started in their careers, and only 48 games played and 32 games started for the Bears. The Bears’ first-round QBs are averaging 4.6 years with the team.
How the Bears could pick any QB.
The Bears have only used their own pick four times to select a QB. The other seven QBs were acquired in an exchange of draft picks:
- 1939 : The Bears traded Ed Manske to the Pittsburgh Pirates (now Steelers) for Sid Luckman, the second pick.
- 1948 : The Steelers selected Lane third. Lane didn’t want to play for Pittsburgh because of their schedule (one wing). Chicago quickly bought the rights to him, although Sid Luckman and Johnny Lujack are still on the team. The AFL Baltimore Colts also selected Lane and offered him a $77,000 contract. Halas convinced Lane to sign with the Bears. Halas was clearly very concerned about having a stable QB team.
- 1951 : The Bears trade Jim Spavital to the Baltimore Colts for Bob Williams, the second-round pick. The next player on the board was J.A. Tittle.
- 1999 : The Bears go lower in the draft and trade the #7 pick to Washington for #12, #71, #106, #143 and a third round pick in 2000. Washington selects Champ Bailey at No. 7 and the Bears get Cade McNown, D’Wayne Bates, Warrick Holdman, Jerry Wisne and Dustin Lyman. In addition to Champ Bailey, the Bears refused to draft David Boston, Chris Claiborne, Chris McAllister and Dante Culpepper. After McNown was selected, John Tate, Booger McFarland and Javon Kearse were the next players.
- 2003 : The Bears sink in the draft and trade the 4th pick to the Jets for the numbers 13, 22 and 116. The Jets select Dewane Roberston at No. 4 and the Bears return Michael Haynes, Rex Grossman and Ian Scott. The Bears turned down the opportunity to go out at No. 13 with Byron Leftwich, Kevin Williams, Terrell Suggs, Marcus Trufant, Ty Warren and Troy Polamala. They missed out on a chance to go out at number 22 with Willis McGahee, Dallas Clark and Nnamdi Asomugha.
- 2017 : The Bears go higher in the draft and trade the No. 3, No. 67, No. 111 and a third-round pick for the 2018 No. 2 Mitchell Trubisky.
- 2021 : The Bears move up to No. 11 and trade the No. 20 pick, a first-round pick in 2022 and a fourth-round pick in 2022 for Justin Fields. Although Fields was considered the second-best QB in the class the past two seasons and had a great scouting profile, he inexplicably fell out of the top 10 and into the Bears’ lineup.
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