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With Trestman’s expertise, Bears should draft a quarterback

Updated: February 24, 2014 10:07PM



INDIANAPOLIS — Even with Jay Cutler essentially locked in as their starter for the next three seasons, should the Bears be looking for a quarterback in the NFL draft?

Always.

‘‘Jay’s contract status doesn’t impact it, [but] I’d like to draft a quarterback every year,’’ general manager Phil Emery said before the 2013 draft. ‘‘If we could find the right quarterback, those are very valuable.’’

That is true now more than ever after seeing what coach Marc Trestman can do with quarterbacks in a well-stocked offense.

Entering last season, Josh McCown was a journeyman quarterback with a 71.0 career passer rating whose value to the Bears was more in being Cutler’s buddy than a quality NFL quarterback. In Trestman’s hands, though, McCown became one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. His 103.0 passer rating in seven games (five starts) ranked third in the league. And that was with minimal work with the No. 1 offense from training camp until the day he was inserted as the No. 1 quarterback.

So if Trestman can work that kind of magic with McCown, what can he do with a younger, better quarterback he can handpick? Nothing against Cutler — well, a little against Cutler — but Bears fans should be eager to find out.

You only have to look to the conference championship games last month to see the importance of progressive thinking with the right coach. The Seahawks, 49ers, Patriots and Broncos had an obvious similarity: They all made bold moves to get the quarterback right.

The Seahawks named Russell Wilson their starter after signing Matt Flynn to a three-year,
$26 million contract ($10 million guaranteed) in 2012. The 49ers started Colin Kaepernick in place of Alex Smith, who had a 104.1 passer rating in 2012. The Broncos signed Peyton Manning to replace Tim Tebow, who just had beaten the Steelers in the playoffs. And the Patriots stuck with Tom Brady over Drew Bledsoe less than a year after signing Bledsoe to a 10-year, $103 million contract ($30 million guaranteed) that was the richest deal in NFL history at the time.

To varying degrees, all four teams could have thought they had their starter. Instead, they found somebody better. The Bears can win the Super Bowl with Cutler, but he needs everything to be just right to be that guy. And there’s also the injury factor. Cutler has missed games because of an injury six times in the last four seasons.

Suffice it to say that Trestman’s Wilson or Kaepernick is out there somewhere. And the Bears should be looking for him. Is it possible he’s in this draft?

‘‘They’ve all got holes in them,’’ said former Bears quarterback Jim Miller, an analyst for Comcast SportsNet Chicago and Sirius XM. ‘‘But if you’re looking down the chart, there are two quarterbacks I like that are coming off an injury: Aaron Murray of Georgia and Zach Mettenberger of LSU.’’

Miller’s pick to click last year was Florida State’s EJ Manuel, who was projected as a second- or third-round pick at the NFL Scouting Combine, ended up going 16th overall to the Bills and started as a rookie. So the 6-1, 207-pound Murray and the 6-5, 229-pound Mettenberger might be worth keeping an eye on.

‘‘They’ve got great mechanics
in terms of their arm talent,’’ Mil-
ler said. ‘‘They can clean up the footwork and things like that, but they’re good, smart guys. Aaron Murray played under Mark Richt. That’s a pro-style offense at Georgia. Mettenberger’s got great
mechanics. They’re both coming off ACL injuries. I’d draft those guys [in the middle rounds] all day long. They’re going to be solid guys you can groom who aren’t expected to play right away.’’

Email: mpotash@suntimes.com

Twitter: @MarkPotash



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