October 7, 2009: QUARTERBACK
In contention: Rex Grossman, Erik Kramer, Shane Matthews, Jim Miller, Kyle Orton
Single season honorable mentions: Harbaugh ’93, Walsh ’94, Krieg ’96, Griese ’07
While watching Brett Favre battle Aaron Rodgers Monday night, we on the readjack.com All-Bears Post-Ditka Committee were reminded of a (hopefully obsolete) NFL broadcast staple: The List of Bears Starting Quarterbacks Following McMahon. This was a close cousin (and actually, there was only a one man difference between the lists), with The List of Bears Starting Quarterbacks Since Brett Favre Took Over in Green Bay.
This “Bears QBs since” graphic was obnoxious and repetitive in either form, so of course it was used at least four times a season. Another list shown less often but perhaps more interesting is The List of Favre Backups in Green Bay Who Were Better than Most Chicago Starters.
As a matter of historical record, and in hopes that we will never see it again, (though of course, we will, for Cutler-Favre I), we here at readjack.com will now present both lists.
(Note, for the Bears lists, we have also included the quarterbacks who did not start. After all, the only difference between Mark Hartsell and Jonathan Quinn is an injury to Rex. Starters in CAPS.)
1. MIKE TOMCZAK, 1985-1990, starter ’86-’90
2. JIM HARBAUGH, 1987-1993, starter ’88-’93
3. PETER TOM WILLIS, 1990-1993, starter ’92-’93
4. WILL FURRER, 1992
5. ERIK KRAMER, 1994-1998
6. STEVE WALSH, 1994-1995, starter ’94
7. DAVE KRIEG, 1996
8. RICK MIRER, 1997
9. STEVE STENSTROM, 1996-1998, starter ’98
10. MOSES MORENO, 1998
11. SHANE MATTHEWS, 1996, 1999-2001, starter ’99-’01
12. CADE McNOWN, 1999-2000
13. JIM MILLER, 1999-2002
14. Mark Hartsell, 2000
15. Danny Wuerffel, 2001
16. CHRIS CHANDLER, 2002-2003
17. HENRY BURRIS, 2002
18. Cory Sauter, 2002
19. KORDELL STEWART, 2003
20. REX GROSSMAN, 2003-2008
21. JONATHAN QUINN, 2004
22. CRAIG KRENZEL, 2004
23. CHAD HUTCHINSON, 2004
24. Jeff George, 2004
25. KYLE ORTON, 2005-2008, starter ’05, ’07-’08
26. Jeff Blake, 2005
27. Kurt Kittner, 2005
28. BRIAN GRIESE, 2006-2007, starter ’07
29. Caleb Hanie, 2008-present
1. Ty Detmer, 1993-1995 with Green Bay, playoff starter with Philly ’96
2. Mark Brunell, 1994
3. McMahon, 1995-1996, playoff starter with Minnesota ’93
4. Steve Bono, 1997, playoff starter/Pro Bowler with KC ’95
5. Kurt Warmer, 1998
6. Matt Hasselbeck, 1999-2000
7. Aaron Brooks, 1999
8. J.T. O’Sullivan, 2004, put up a Bears-acceptable season in San Fran ’08
9. Aaron Rodgers, 2005-present
So, yes, Green Bay’s backup QB arsenal in the Post-Ditka Era topped Chicago’s starters in Pro Bowls and playoff appearances, and probably a whole mess of other stats The Committee does not currently wish to compile.
But that’s not to say the Bears had zero quality signal callers. One, in fact, is Erik Kramer, our starter.
When evaluating 21 starting quarterbacks over 16 seasons, one needs to begin a series of eliminations. So the first round of chops covered all of the spot starters: Willis, Furrer, Stenstrom, Moreno, Burris, Quinn, Krenzel, Hutchinson. We then chucked Rick Mirer and Kordell, two guys brought in to be starters who lasted only one season and ranged from Bears-decent (Kordell) to terrible-even-for-the-1997-Bears (Mirer). And we chucked Cade, whose two seasons with the team weren’t nearly as bad as we remember, but who, nevertheless, was a “lottery” pick who lasted only two seasons on the team.
Next up were four guys who deserve mention for their performances in single seasons. It’s not enough to get them into the final round, but all four deserve some kind of mention. So here’s to Jim Harbaugh’s 1993 season, the only year he played under Wanny, and one of only eight Bears QB seasons that produced 2000 yards. And here’s to Steve Walsh’s 1994 season, in which he filled in for the injured (and ineffective) Kramer to lead the Bears to an 8-3 record, playoff birth, and orgasmic road upset over the Vikings in a 35-18 laugher.
And, incredibly, here’s to Dave Krieg’s 1996 season, another Kramer fill-in. 12 starts in 13 games, a Bears-respectable 6-6 record, more touchdowns than picks (14 to 12), another of the eight 2000 yard seasons (listed below), and a QB rating that topped playoff QBs Miller ’01, Orton ’05, and Grossman ’06.
Finally, here’s to Brian Griese’s 2007 season, in which the veteran started six games, won three, and produced a three-game string in which he came from behind to beat Green Bay in Green Bay, threw for 381 yards and three scores in a come-from-behind barn burner of a loss to Minnesota, and led a 97-yard game-winning drive to beat the Eagles in Philly, capped off by his TD to Moose Muhammad.
We are now left with five quarterbacks—Grossman, Kramer, Matthews, Miller, Orton—and the process now breaks down to career stats, best seasons, playoff appearances, and memory value.
GROSSMAN: 31 starts/36 games, 19-12 (61.3 winning %), 521-962 for 6164 yards, 33TD/35INT, 54.2 completion %/70.2 rating, 198.8 yards per start
KRAMER: 46/49, 18-28 (39.1%), 913-1557 for 10,582, 63/45, 58.6%/80.7, 230.0
MATTHEWS: 15/21, 8-7 (53.3%), 366-599 for 4018, 19/18, 61.1%/79.0, 267.9
MILLER: 26/32, 15-11 (57.7%), 565-965 for 5867, 34/26, 58.5%/76.7
ORTON: 33/33, 21-12 (63.6%), 505-913 for 5319, 30/27, 55.3%/71.1
Grossman ’06: 16 starts, 13-3, 262-480 for 3193, 23/20, 54.6%/73.9
Kramer ’95: 16 starts, 9-7, 315-522 for 3838, 29/10, 60.3%/93.5
Matthews ’99: 7 starts, 3-4, 167-275 for 1645, 10/6, 60.7%/80.6
Miller ’01: 13 starts, 11-2, 228-395 for 2299, 13/10, 57.7%/74.9
Orton ’08: 15 starts, 9-6, 272-465 for 2972, 18/12, 58.5%/79.6
Grossman: 2-2 playoff record…started playoff game in ’05 despite starting only one regular season game…quarterbacked franchise to second Super Bowl appearance…one of 12 Super Bowl starting quarterbacks (86 total) to post a SB completion percentage of 70% or higher
Kramer: no playoff appearances, with possible negative points for going 1-4 in first season with team (1994, FA signing to be starting Q) and losing job to the eventual 8-3 and playoff victor Walsh
Matthews: technically no playoff appearances, but went 2-1 in three starts filling in for Miller in ’01, and then played majority of playoff game (terribly) after Miller injury
Miller: led team to 2001 division title…11-2 record in 13 starts…knocked out of playoff game after blah start (3-5, 23 yards, INT)
Orton: technically no playoff appearance, but went 11-4 in 15 starts in 2005, only to lose starting job to the recently not-injured Grossman…missed opportunity for first career playoff start by losing 2008 season finale to Houston
Grossman: The Highs (2-1 rookie record, the Green Bay win in ’04, exciting return in ’05 in night game at Soldier Field against Atlanta, bombs to Berrian, first five games of ’06, 2006 playoffs) and The Lows (injuries, 2006 Bad Rex games…especially against Arizona, three Super Bowl turnovers and a loss, the Disaster vs. Dallas in ’07)
Kramer: record-setting 1995 season
Matthews: remarkable come-from-behind win vs. New Orleans in 1999 (two TD passes to Conway in final couple of minutes for 14-10 win)…two wins in 2001 were the Mike Brown Miracle Games with significant contributions from Matthews, including game-tying Hail Mary in Cleveland game (and, vs. SF the week before)
Miller: winner of the Bryan Robinson/Walter Payton blocked FG game against Green Bay in ’99…the 1999 Jim Miller Head-Exploding Games (422 vs. Min, 357 at SD)…2001 playoff season
Orton: 11-4 record as 4th round rookie following Grossman injury and Hutchinson preseason flameout…strong 2008 season (stats over first eight games: 5-3 record, 151 of 244 for 1777, 10/4, 61.9%, 90.8…COMPARED TO…Grossman’s first eight in 2006: 7-1 record, 148 of 260 for 1849, 14/10, 56.9%, 81.1)
So there it all is. Who would you pick?
Here’s how we did it.
Matthews was the first to go. The only one of the five who was never a full-time starter; his stats just don’t measure up. Next to go were Orton and Grossman, who are, naturally, the two QBs with the most wins (21 and 19, respectively) and the best winning percentages (63.6 and 61.3). But they have the two worst passer ratings and two lowest completion percentages of our Final Five.
That leaves Kramer and Miller, and as it did with receiver, the starter at quarterback for the readjack.com All-Bears Post-Ditka Team came down to a Committee discussion, with Kramer winning out.
Marc Siegel presents the argument for Kramer: Sadly, I think it’s a no brainer that Erik Kramer be named the starting QB. The guy produced several single season record numbers for the franchise over three seasons as a full-time starter. Although I agree that the true measure of a player is the number of championships, I hesitate to blame or reward the Quarterback for the win/loss record of the team. Football is unique in that that it has the highest number of players with a title of ’starter’, 22, and one player cannot truly carry a team to playoff wins without a good surrounding cast. So in my mind, Erik Kramer did the most with what he had, and managed to stay healthy enough to play 3+ seasons and put up decent numbers (in the context of a Bears QB).
His nickname is also ‘Brass Balls’, which puts him up a notch in my book – that puts him at notch 1.
Jack M Silverstein presents the argument for Miller: When I think of the best quarterback in the Post-Ditka Era, I think of one man: Jim Miller. Miller’s numbers suffer from playing during Cade’s two years. If the Bears were not in investment-mode with a #12 pick for two seasons, Miller would have undoubtedly played more in ’99 and 2000. Of all PD Bears QBs, Miller, Matthews, and Walsh were the only ones who had some magic, and Miller outdoes both of them statistically. He has the best arm, throws the best deep ball, and can rack up the most yards and scores. And he matches Walsh, Orton, and Grossman as the only PD Bears QBs to take the team to the playoffs. The complete package.
Andy Shlensky presents the (illegal) argument for Cutler: As a lifelong Packer fan, I would have to say that Jay Cutler should be the starting quarterback without even having started a regular season game. This is the first Packer-Bear week of my life that I’ve ever been concerned with the Bears passing attack. He may be a whiny, entitled and cocky gunslinger, but I absolutely hate that he’s your quarterback. And I can tell you I never said that about anyone else on the list.
Jake Bressler has nothing nice to say, and presents the anti-argument for Grossman: If Grossman makes the roster, this team becomes an absolute farce. He didn’t take us to Super Bowl, we got there despite his awful performance after Week 6. I refuse to acknowledge his first 5 games of that year. I’d rather have Orton on this team.
QBs who completed at least 70% of their passes in a single Super Bowl: (it’s a good list to be on…)
Dawson IV, Griese VII, Griese, VIII, Anderson XVI, Simms XXI, Montana XXIV, Aikman XXVII, Aikman XXVIII, Brady XXXIX, Grossman XLI, Roethlisberger XLIII, Warner XLIII
PD Era Bears QBs with 2000 yards in a season
Kramer ’95: 3838 yards, full stats listed above in “standout season” section
Grossman ’06: 3193 yards
Kramer ’97: 4-9 record, 275 of 477 for 3011, 14/14, 57.7%, 74.0
Orton ’09: 2972 yards
Miller ’01: 2299 yards
Krieg ’96: 6-6, 226 of 377 for 2278, 14/12, 59.9%, 76.3
Walsh ’94: 2078 yards
Harbaugh ’93: 7-8, 200 of 325 for 2002, 7/11, 61.5%, 72.1
The best passing season in Bears history…the 1999 three-headed monster of Matthews (7 starts), McNown (6 starts), and Miller (3 starts): 6-10, 404 of 684 for 4352 yards, 25/22, 59.1%, 76.6
Favorite QB-WR duos in the PD Era (in order of appearance)
Kramer to Conway
McNown to Robinson
Miller to Booker
Mastrole to Christian (preseason edition…best duo to never make an active roster)
Grossman to Berrian
Griese to Hester (only happened once, but HOT DAMN!)