The Chicago Bears fan’s journey through team’s long search for franchise quarterback

Dec 17, 2023; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; A Chicago Bears fan watches a game between the Chicago Bears and Cleveland Browns.
Dec 17, 2023; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; A Chicago Bears fan watches a game between the Chicago Bears and Cleveland Browns. / Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Over the years, my best friend and I have often had a running joke where we would start naming completely random (mostly awful) Chicago Bears quarterbacks from the past 25 years or so of our collective memories. These names often included the likes of Craig Krenzel, Henry Burris, and Jonathan Quinn (who can forget that awful 2004 Thanksgiving Day game in Dallas?). Sure, we laugh about it now, but over the years Bears fans have endured heartbreak after heartbreak, mostly after getting our hopes up at the thought of the Bears finally finding their franchise quarterback.

It’s a tale as old as time it seems, and also a mocking point for many other NFL (mostly Packers) fans that the Bears quarterback situation has been a constant merry-go-round of names, many falling into obscurity. As fans we rode the emotional highs of the early promise of Rex Grossman and Jay Cutler, only to come crashing down into the emotional lows of expectations not being met and having to start all over again. From outsiders, it has been comical to see the high turnover (pun intended) of quarterbacks in Chicago. But for Bears fans who have lived the experience, this search for a leader and a generational foundation at quarterback is deeply personal.

Cade McNown, who was drafted 12th overall 25 years ago, is my first memory of a Bears quarterback (I was 11 years old), and it’s not a good one. That chapter was relatively short, with McNown lasting just two years with the Bears after going 3-12 as a starter. Next was a flurry of names that passed through Chicago including Shane Matthews (we’ll always have those back-to-back comeback miracles in San Francisco and Cleveland), Chris Chandler, Henry Burris, and Kordell Stewart. Then Rex Grossman led the Bears to the Super Bowl in 2006, only to lose to the Indianapolis Colts and then lose his starting job the following year.

Caleb Williams aims to end Chicago Bears' fans misery.

Jay Cutler came to Chicago in 2009 with high expectations and had some solid years statistically by Bears standards, but ultimately, he was too trigger-happy with his rifle of an arm and turned the ball over too much. Then Mitchell Trubisky was drafted second overall in 2017, but turned out to be a bust and was out of Chicago after the 2020 season. You’d think that by the time the Bears drafted Justin Fields 11th overall in 2021, we as fans would have our hopes tainted with a little skepticism, but a few insane touchdown runs broke right through any doubts we may have had. But Fields just couldn’t put it all together. Whether it was the fault of the coaching staff failing him or by his own inadequacies, Fields became yet another swing-and-miss for the Bears.

So here we are yet again in familiar territory, with the Bears set to draft their next quarterback with the first overall pick in the draft this week by selecting Caleb Williams. My hope is that Williams finally puts an end to the long search for the franchise quarterback we’ve all waited so long for. For myself and other fans alike, it’s a struggle for our hope to overcome our reservations given our past experiences. But for every Cade McNown or Caleb Hanie, the odds of the Bears finally hitting on a draft pick have to be improving, at least that’s’ what I’m choosing to believe.