Analyzing the Chicago Bears' quarterback timeline since Jay Cutler
An argument can be made that securing a franchise quarterback is the biggest key to contending in the NFL.
For the Chicago Bears, it has been a struggle to do just that, especially since the departure of Jay Cutler in 2017.
Cutler spent nine seasons with the Bears from 2009-2017, leading them to the NFC Championship Game in 2010.
In the four years since Cutler's release in 2017, the Bears have signed six different quarterbacks.
As mediocre as that list is, it becomes an even harder pill to swallow when factoring in that they owned the No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 draft and elected to take Mitchell Trubisky instead of Patrick Mahomes or Deshaun Watson.
The Bears did spend this offseason trying to secure the services of an elite franchise quarterback, pursuing both Watson and Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson when both appeared to be available on the trade market.
Those pursuits were unsuccessful, though, and now they will turn their franchise over to a quarterback looking to prove that he still is capable of being a quality starter, veteran Andy Dalton.
Dalton brings a veteran presence to Chicago, if only for one season. He started 11 games for the Cowboys in 2020 in place of the injured Dak Prescott. Before that, he was a starter for the Cincinnati Bengals for nine seasons.
Last season was chaotic for Chicago. It started with an open quarterback competition heading into training camp, with Trubisky winning the job over Nick Foles and starting nine games. Foles later took over and started seven.
Former Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall believes the Bears naming Dalton the starter this early is an attempt to bring stability to the position heading into the 2021 season.
He explained why on "First Things First":
"This is the Chicago Bears eliminating distractions. This is the Chicago Bears letting their wide receivers know 'this is who you go hang out with during the offseason.' Andy Dalton is who I think is a good quarterback, he's not a championship quarterback, but he's a good quarterback."
While Marshall has taken a glass-half-full approach to Dalton as Bears starter, ESPN's Rob Ninkovich sees this as another case of the Bears settling for an average player who will hold the team back from true contention, which he detailed "Get Up."
"Another year where 'defense, we've got to go score.' They're going to be 8-8 again, they're going to be a .500 team. They aren't going to win the division."
The Bears are 33-31 over the last four seasons and if recent history is any indicator, they will be fortunate to finish 8-8 with Dalton. He has not posted a winning record as a starter since 2015 when he was 10-3 in 13 starts, and his career record is 74-66-2.
With the Bears struggling to find stability at the quarterback position, Colin Cowherd believes talented head coach Matt Nagy should find a team that can.
"It is time for Matt Nagy to escape Chicago, because I think he can coach. I really do... He is, right now, he's trapped."
And though it may appear that the Bears are running in place with another quarterback who isn't expected to be the long-term face of the franchise, signing Dalton and naming him the starter doesn't remove the possibility of them selecting a quarterback in the upcoming draft.
The franchise has shown its hand with Dalton being named the starter.
Now it is time for them to show improvement on the field or they might find themselves in the market for a quarterback once again next offseason.