NFL draft 2024: Assessing Chicago's all-time first-round quarterbacks

ByCourtney Cronin ESPN logo
Friday, April 26, 2024

Before the 2024 NFL draft, the Chicago Bears selected a quarterback in the first round six times in the common draft era (since 1967) with lackluster results that have kept the franchise in a perennial search for a long-term answer.

Those six quarterbacks combined for zero selections to the All-Pro teams (first or second team) and only two Pro Bowls while in Chicago. The Bears are the only NFL franchise that has not had a quarterback throw for 4,000 yards or 30 touchdowns in a season.

Chicago hopes its luck will change on Thursday after selecting USC's Caleb Williams with the No. 1 pick. As Williams officially makes his way to Chicago, here's a look at how other first-round Bears quarterbacks have fared during their time in the Windy City.

Justin Fields

Record: 10-28

Length of tenure: Three seasons (2021 to 2023)

The Bears moved up nine spots in the 2021 draft to select the former Ohio State standout with the 11th pick. Fields' NFL career began as the third party in a quarterback competition with veterans Nick Foles and Andy Dalton. He eventually won the starting job in Week 3 of his rookie season and was sacked nine times by Cleveland in his debut.

Fields' dynamic skills were the backbone of Chicago's top-ranked rushing offense for two seasons as he put his stamp on NFL history by running for 178 yards againstMiamiin 2022, the second most by a quarterback in a regular-season game. Fields worked with two offensive coordinators -- Bill Lazor and Luke Getsy -- in three seasons. While he showed promise in his third season, the 25-year-old ranked in the bottom third in nearly every passing category in 2023, from EPA per dropback (minus-0.05) to completion percentage (61.4).

Fields was traded to Pittsburgh for a conditional sixth-round pick in 2025 on March 16.

Mitchell Trubisky

Record: 29-21

Length of tenure: Four seasons (2017 to 2020)

Chicago traded up to No. 2 to draft Trubisky in 2017 over eventual three-time Super Bowl champion quarterback Patrick Mahomes and three-time Pro Bowler Deshaun Watson. After initially being named the backup to Mike Glennon, Trubisky earned the starting job in Week 5 of his rookie season, a role he held consistently for three years before getting benched four games into the 2020 season.

Backed by their No. 1 ranked defense, the Bears won the NFC North in 2018 and made the playoffs as a wild-card team twice during Trubisky's tenure. Trubisky had two postseason starts (2018 vs. Philadelphia, 2020 vs. New Orleans), and the Bears offense failed to score more than a touchdown in each loss. The Bears did not exercise Trubisky's fifth-year option in 2021, which led the quarterback to sign as a free agent with the Buffalo. Trubisky remains the Bears career leader in completion percentage (64.0) and passer rating (87.2).

Rex Grossman

Record: 19-12

Length of tenure: Six seasons (2003 to 2008)

Grossman was drafted 22nd in 2003 and did not become the Bears starting quarterback until the 2006 season. Injuries and inconsistent play marred Grossman's time in Chicago despite the Bears going 13-3 and making it to Super Bowl XLI during his lone season as the full-time starter.

He threw more interceptions (35) than touchdowns (33) in 31 starts with the Bears. Grossman had one of the worst performances by a starting quarterback in a Super Bowl when he threw for 165 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions and had two fumbles in Chicago's 29-17 loss to Indianapolis. Grossman lost his starting job three games into the 2007 season and was a backup over the final four years of his career between Chicago, Houston and Washington.

Cade McNown

Record: 3-12

Length of tenure:
Two seasons (1999-2000)

Months after finishing third in Heisman Trophy voting, McNown was drafted by Chicago with the No. 12 pick in 1999. The former UCLA quarterback set rookie franchise records with 27 completions, 301 passing yards and four touchdowns in a win over Detroit, one of the lone highlights from a career that spanned just 15 starts. McNown quickly outwore his welcome in Chicago due to poor play and comments directed at teammates and fans and was traded to Miami ahead of his third NFL season, where he competed as the Dolphins' third-string quarterback but never saw the field.

Jim Harbaugh

Record: 35-30

Length of tenure: Seven seasons (1987 to 1993)

The Bears drafted Harbaugh with the No. 26 pick in 1987 after he was named Big Ten MVP during his senior season at Michigan. His breakout season came in 1991, when he threw for a career-high 3,121 yards and led the Bears to back-to-back 11-5 finishes, which included an NFC Central title in 1990. Harbaugh missed the final two regular-season games and playoffs that year with a shoulder injury.

His lone postseason appearance as the Bears starting quarterback resulted in a 17-13 loss toDallasin the wild-card round in 1991.

Jim McMahon

Record: 46-15

Length of tenure: Seven seasons (1982 to 1988)

McMahon was selected fifth overall in 1982 and led the Bears to their lone Super Bowl victory during the 1985 season, one year removed from sustaining a lacerated kidney that sidelined him for the final six games in 1984. He threw for 256 yards and rushed for two touchdowns in the Bears' 46-10 win over thePatriotsin Super Bowl XX and led Chicago to five straight NFC Central titles from 1984-88.

Injuries limited the quarterback throughout his seven seasons in Chicago (McMahon played a career-high 14 games just once in 1983). He was traded to the Los Angeles Chargers in 1989 after a "falling out" with Bears president Michael McCaskey and coach Mike Ditka.

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