Hoge: Was Russell Wilson Almost A Bear?
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By Adam Hoge-
(CBS) — It’s not uncommon to later hear about how a team coveted a player they didn’t draft.
This especially tends to happen when a mid- to late-round pick exceeds expectations and makes a lot of scouts and NFL executives look foolish.
“Yeah, sure,” would be a common sarcastic response to such hindsight.
But in the case of Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, a third-round pick out of Wisconsin in 2012, there is a connection to the Chicago Bears that gives the following story credence.
According to Sports Illustrated, former Bears offensive coordinator Mike Tice tried to lobby the Bears’ draft decision-makers to select Wilson, even though Jay Cutler was locked in as the starting quarterback.
“Mike believed in him and said he was trying to build a case for him in Chicago,” Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez told Sports Illustrated. “He was saying he was trying to give him more value on our draft board, saying he could play Wildcat quarterback for you, or be a wing back.”
During Wilson’s electric 2011 season at Wisconsin, Tice’s son, Nate, was also a quarterback for the Badgers, albeit well behind Wilson on the depth chart. Tice had become a close observer of the program at the time, even attending some practices. Thus, his support of Wilson as an NFL quarterback isn’t all that surprising.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean the Bears were seriously considering taking Wilson in the 2012 draft.
Remember, it’s that same Tice connection that aided the Bears’ selection of former Wisconsin left tackle Gabe Carimi in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft. Carimi dislocated his knee in the second game of his career, struggled through the 2012 season, and was traded to Tampa Bay before the Bears even reported to training camp in 2013.
Of course, when the 2012 NFL Draft rolled around, Carimi wasn’t quite considered a bust yet, but keep in mind that Phil Emery had just taken over as the Bears’ new general manager and, by December of that same year, he had fired head coach Lovie Smith, ending Tice’s tenure with the Bears. The point is, Tice may have wanted Russell Wilson, but how much did Emery depend on the opinion of an offensive coordinator he inherited and later let go?
Meanwhile, Emery has always thought highly of Cutler’s talent and status as the Bears’ starting quarterback ($54 million guaranteed backs that up), so how big of a priority was drafting Russell Wilson in 2012? It wasn’t a big enough priority to take him in the second round, when the Bears traded up to grab wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, a 2013 Pro Bowler. Their next pick was at No. 79 in the third round, but the Seahawks ended up taking Wilson with the 75th pick.
So would the Bears have taken Wilson four picks later? Who knows, but it seems doubtful.
And it doesn’t seem to matter anyway. They successfully traded up to grab a future Pro Bowler in the second round, and by the time their third round pick came around, Wilson was gone.
Ahh, NFL Draft hindsight. It’s always fun.
Adam Hoge covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamHoge.