No. 4: 1969 – Virgil Carter vs. Bobby Douglass vs. Jack Cocannon
So, let’s imagine for a second that you get the chance to step in “Papa Bear” George Halas’ shoes. The year is 1969, and you have the say in who the starting quarterback is going to be. Who do you play?
- Player A — a talented quarterback who saved your season by coming in and winning his first four starts before fracturing his ankle; referred to you as a “chickensh—“ after one loss.
- Player B — a left-handed cannon thrower, literally. He consistently overthrows open receivers, and even though he’d probably be better at a different position, he issued you an ultimatum. “Play me at quarterback, or trade me.”
- Player C — a skilled quarterback frustrated he couldn’t throw more because of Gale Sayers. A popular teammate, but with just 11 touchdowns to 23 interceptions to show for it.
Who do you start?
Halas, and head coach Jim Dooley had their work cut out for them. All told, this version of the Bears went just 1-13, a season in which some call the worst season in Chicago history. On the depth chart, Cocannon was No. 1, Carter 2, and Douglas 3. But after the Chicago Bears fell to 0-4, Dooley looked right over Carter, and threw in Douglass.
As Robert Markus of Chicago Tribune later made note of, that proved to be a mistake:
"In one of the more infamous locker room scenes of all time, the usually mild-mannered Carter went ballistic, calling Dooley “gutless and a liar.” While Concannon sat nearby cooing, “Where you gonna be next year, Virgil?” Carter snapped: “Anywhere but here.” Reminded that the Bears could insist he play out his option, Carter uttered the line that touched off the infamous “chickenbleep” incident. The next day Halas fined Carter $1,000 because of the insult. “I’m not going to get into a personality duel with a guy who’s played 6 1/2 games in a league that’s 50 years old,” said Dooley, just before dressing down Carter in front of the whole squad and then dismissing him from the team for the final game against Detroit."
Carter watched the rest of the season from the stands. Unfortunately, he would get his revenge in 1972 as a Bengal, beating the Chicago Bears 13-3. But, not before giving us some entertainment on the way out.
Along the way, we have some honorable mentions:
- Jim Miller vs. Shane Matthews vs. Cade McNown — A true triple-threat match. Miller survived 1999 cuts, and helped lead the Bears to an 11-2 record in 2001, but couldn’t stay healthy. Matthews, most known for his Hail Mary against Cleveland, struggled with throw power, and the Bears moved on quickly. McNown, sometimes described as the Bears’ worst Draft selection ever, lasted just two seasons. From 1999 to 2001, each of them started between 15 to 18 games, and put up near-identical stats, leading to a QB carousel for the ages.
- Mike Glennon vs. Mitchell Trubisky — Anytime marital terms get involved, it’s controversy. Glennon came over from Tampa Bay to compete for the Bears starting QB job with first-round pick Trubisky. Glennon says he feels the Bears “cheated on” him. By October, Chicago moved on to Trubisky. Glennon was paid $18.5 million guarantees. Not bad for a heartbreak.
- Bill Wade vs. Rudy Bukich — Wade led the Bears to an NFL title and an 11-1-2 record in 1963, but that still wasn’t enough. Tight end Mike Ditka made mention at a team luncheon that Bukich, nicknamed “The Rifle,” should be starting. That led to controversy throughout the season.
- Jay Cutler vs. Josh McCown — Cutler led the Bears to a 4-2 record before getting injured in 2013. McCown held the fort down, throwing 13 touchdowns to 1 pick. At 7-6, the Bears went back to Cutler, later seen as a divisive factor in the locker room. The Bears missed the postseason, Cutler got paid, and the rest was history. Not that that’s necessarily a good thing.
Wow. That was probably painful to read. Now we will see if the Mitchell Trubisky and Nick Foles competition finds its way onto the list. Maybe Ryan Pace surprises us and we find ourselves cheering on a rookie to end the horrid drought? Either way, we much all stick together and at least take some solace in knowing the defense will be great again.