By Dan Durkin–
(CBS) The recent trend for teams that push reset on their football operations has been to not only allow a general manager to select his new coach but his franchise quarterback as well. While working with New Orleans in 2006, Bears general manager Ryan Pace saw firsthand what the union of a quality head coach (Sean Payton) and quarterback (then-free agent signee Drew Brees) can do for a franchise. The Saints hoisted a Lombardi trophy at the end of the 2009 season.READ MORE: Chicago Weather: A Wet Start
In Chicago, Pace has inherited the polarizing-yet-talented Jay Cutler. However, given the fact that Cutler’s heading into his 10th NFL season, the discussion is no longer about his talents. It’s simply about results at this point.
Pace has been on record stating that he’s aligned with Ron Wolf’s philosophy of drafting a quarterback every year. Given that quarterback is the most difficult position to scout and play in all of professional sports, a team must keep swinging until they connect. Thus, it’s not surprising that the Bears have met with Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, per a report from ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter. Chicago holds the No. 7 overall pick in the NFL, which starts April 30.
The 2014 Heisman Trophy winner, Mariota put up gaudy statistics in college and was recruited and groomed by Chip Kelly, the current head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. There’s no denying Mariota’s talents and athleticism. He possesses rare movement skills for a quarterback, which will make him a dual threat at the NFL level who can move the chains with his feet or arm. Mobile quarterbacks force a defense to account for every player on an offense, instead of playing 11-on-10.READ MORE: Baby Magellanic Penguins At Shedd Aquarium Take First Swim
As a passer, Mariota has a quick, compact release. From Kelly to Mark Helfrich to Scott Frost, the Oregon staff devised a scheme to capitalize on his strengths, giving him quick and simplified reads to determine where and when to deliver the football. Oregon’s running game and corresponding passing concepts are designed to open both horizontal and vertical voids in the defense, ultimately allowing the defense to dictate the quarterback’s decisions. Such concepts have been adopted by most NFL offenses since Kelly’s arrival in 2013.
The concerns about Mariota are legitimate. He played in a no-huddle, shotgun-based offense that heavily utilized pre-determined reads. Thus, it’s fair to wonder how quickly he will adapt to working from under center, commanding a huddle by confidently speaking NFL verbiage and navigating three reads on most dropbacks. He also hasn’t shown the ability to consistently stand tall in a collapsing pocket, dig his cleats in the ground and deliver accurate NFL throws on a line.
However, in a quarterback-hungry league, Mariota’s an intriguing prospect who will pique the interest of most teams with quarterback questions positioned at the top of the draft. Assuming the Bears’ interest is legitimate and not a ruse to entice another team to trade up, the question then becomes will he still be on the board when they’re on the clock? Given the list of teams in line ahead of the Bears, that scenario seems unlikely.MORE NEWS: Woman, 85, Stabbed By Man, 71, In Portage Park, Police Say
Dan Durkin covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @djdurkin.