Friday, April 19, 2024

The Bears Are Due For Historically Good Draft Fortune After Their Draft Blunders Of The Late 90s


The new NFL League year is roughly a month from starting, following the conclusion of Super Bowl 58 this weekend in Las Vegas. The Chicago Bears will be the main focus of the 2024 NFL Draft as they have the first overall selection tied with another first-round pick and could even acquire another one depending on a trade outcome for quarterback Justin Fields. With the amount of draft capital general manager Ryan Poles has depending on what trades potentially unfold, a momentous situation would be welcomed after the colossal draft failure by the Bears in the late 90s.

Chicago Missed Out On Multiple Hall of Fame and Pro Bowl Players from 1997 To 1999

In a three-year span from 1997 to 1999, the Bears front office had back-to-back-to-back mismanagement of the first and second round of the draft, doing everything wrong. It began in 1997 when the team traded their first-round selection, 11th overall, to the Seattle Seahawks for quarterback Rick Mirer. Mirer had been the second overall pick in the 1993 NFL Draft and had started over 50 games in four years with Seattle. The trade was heavily mocked by NFL analysts who believed Chicago had significantly overpaid for a quarterback who had thrown 41 touchdowns to 56 interceptions.

To make matters worse, Chicago would take USC tight end John Allred with the 38th overall selection. Allred, in four seasons with the Bears, recorded 30 receptions and one touchdown catch. Mirer was only with Chicago for one year, as he only started in three games, played in seven contests, and never led the offense to a touchdown drive.

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Most puzzling was the execution of head coach Dave Wannstedt and general manager Mark Hatley’s draft strategy as they targeted the quarterback position and tight end position with their first two draft picks. Had the Bears held on to the 11th overall selection, they could of drafted Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez, who was chosen by Kansas City two spots later. Chicago could have then addressed the quarterback position in the second round and taken Jake Plummer 38th overall, who was taken by Arizona Cardinals four spots later. The Bears would heavily pursue Plummer in free agency five years later, only for him to sign with the Denver Broncos and make the Pro Bowl in 2005.

In December of 1997, the Bears had a chance to rectify their quarterback position as they were the worst team in the NFL, with only two wins heading into the final month of the season. Despite knowing Peyton Manning was the likely first overall selection in the 1998 NFL Draft, Chicago won two meaningless games against the Buffalo Bills and St. Louis Rams that dropped them to the fifth overall spot in the draft at season’s end. The Bears would take running back Curtis Enis despite wanting to trade down, as other teams wanted to draft the Penn State running back. Enis would play only three seasons with the Bears after suffering two season-ending knee injuries in 1998 and 1999.

Chicago would finally address the quarterback position in 1999, as they drafted Cade McNown 12th overall. McNown would play for only two seasons as his erratic play and immature attitude alienated the locker room. In the second round, the Bears would select defensive tackle Russell Davis, who only played one season with the team and recorded two sacks.

Ryan Poles Appears Poised To Have A Historic Draft One Way Or The Other

Since becoming the Bears’ general manager in January of 2022, Poles has done a terrific job rebuilding the team by creating immense salary cap space while stocking draft picks. His trade of the 2023 first overall draft selection could go down as one of the most brilliant front office moves in NFL history as he can either take Caleb Williams first overall in the 2024 NFL Draft or trade back one spot and select another quarterback prospect, along with additional draft picks or a veteran player. Additionally, if a bidding war ensues for Fields, Poles could have multiple second-round picks in return or even an additional first-round selection.

Having multiple options can be a win-win situation for Poles and the Bears, as the front office appears to have a firm idea of what they want to do if a unique opportunity unfolds. With a young roster in place, Chicago can potentially have a chance to add several prospects who are the best at their respective position in the draft. Additionally, in the unlikelihood of the franchise getting a first-round selection in return for Fields, they will be able to address both the offense and defense while addressing one side multiple times.

In the late 90s, it appeared that the Bears’ front office did not have a concrete plan for utilizing the draft to potentially find prospects they were looking to address their positional needs. In three consecutive drafts, they managed to mismanage the quarterback position despite having injury issues with starting quarterback Erik Kramer. Whether it was Plummer or Manning, the Bears missed several chances to find a promising prospect at the position.

It wasn’t just the quarterback position, but other spots too, as they missed a chance of selecting elite-level players like Gonzalez, Warrick Dunn, Fred Taylor, and Jevon Kearse over those three years. Almost 25 years later, Poles appears ready to set a high-water mark in executing a draft plan, especially if he acquired even more high-level selections. Although the potential players selected will need to develop and play, Chicago’s front office deserves to be trusted to find the best prospects in 2024.


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Feb 9, 2024 7:50 am

I for one think we need more ads in the middle of the paragraphs. I love when the article bounces up and down when I am reading through it!

Feb 8, 2024 4:58 pm

Sorry Dr. Melhus. He doesn’t have the “lat strength”. Better?

Dr. Melhus
Feb 8, 2024 2:56 pm

@jmscooby: Arm strength is kind of a misnomer. Randy Johnson doesn’t throw a 100 MPH fastball with the strength of his arm. It’s about the whole body, using proper biomechanics to push off the ground and concentrate all the force into the arm and the ball. Core strength is more pivotal than powerful biceps and triceps. Doubt this? Bears backup QB Bagent doesn’t throw with great velocity. His father is a world record holding arm wrestling champion. So his genetics for ‘arm strength’ should be good. With proper coaching, Bagent could probably learn to throw with more velocity. The same… Read more »

Feb 8, 2024 12:49 pm

BLAH BLAH BLAH Hindsight is always 20/20

Feb 8, 2024 12:31 pm

I defer to the old timers, Walsh, Parcells, Gibbs. The first thing I would do is take Maye and McCarthy off my board. I want a QB that has started 3 years in college. Going for traits guys will get you burned. One year wonders should stay in college. McCarthy should have. He either got bad advise or he didn’t hear the good advise. I’m not sure if he has the arm strength, but workouts should reveal that.

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