John Mullin's answers

Yet another season ends with the Bears showcasing a horrible offense and dismal talent at the QB position. What I want to know is why some teams always seem to be strong (or at least acceptable) at QB, while this is never a position of strength for the Bears. I've been a fan since about 1960, and in that time, they've never had a franchise QB, and that includes McMahon. He, when all was said and done, lived on IR and if you add up all the games he played, had about two good years. The Bears are committed to "getting by" here and we've had knuckleheads like Phipps, Evans, Douglass, Avellini, Huff, Fuller, Kramer, Tomczak, Harbaugh and Miller. Regardless of what they say about getting a franchise QB, who is to believe this will change?
Mike Walsh, San Francisco

From your return address, Mike, you're probably spoiled when it comes to looking at quarterbacks. But the question is not only very legitimate but really one that has hung over this franchise since Sid Luckman left.

Sadly for Bears fans, the team did try to get that franchise guy when they brought in Cade McNown with the 12th pick in '99. They were convinced enough about him that they traded down knowing that they could still get the player they'd targeted (although if Minnesota had surprised them, and either taken McNown or passed over Daunte Culpepper, who knows what happens then). The choice just happened to be a disaster.

Also sadly, bringing in Erik Kramer was not just a get-by move; in fact, he was the guy who'd gotten the Lions to an NFC title game and who Wannstedt had seen destroy his Cowboys along the way. They thought Kramer was going to be the guy, instead of Scott Mitchell and Chris Miller, others out there at the time. That decision was made about the time they were going after John Thierry in the draft as the next Richard Dent/Charles Haley, although Kramer worked out a lot better than Thierry.

Phipps looked like the answer, as did Harbaugh when they used a No. 1 on him. And they gambled huge in '97 going after Rick Mirer. The one guy who worked out best was Miller, who came as a No. 3 alternate in '98 and really played his way into the job.

The problem hasn't always been whether there's a commitment to more than just getting by. It's sometimes whether they can pick the right guy, and the right guy for their system. Mirer and Ryan Leaf were complete busts as No. 2 overall picks of drafts, so the Bears aren't alone in gaffes. And when they have apparently gotten "The Guy," he, as in McMahon and Miller, keeps breaking. Will it change? Let's just say they are more than due.

Looking at the projection of the upcoming draft, you are predicting a RB or DT for the Bears. With the third or fourth pick, why would they not draft a QB? Jim Miller is not the answer, and this year's draft seems have at least two solid prospects at QB.
Gregory Hamilton, Roanoke, Va.

The chances of hitting at QB this year are suspect. Just because a guy is the best QB in the draft does not make him a future top NFL quarterback, and I think Leftwich and Palmer, and even Dave Ragone, are far from no-brainers. Leftwich is as big as Daunte Culpepper. But so was Dan McGwire, and without that speed afoot and with a knee question, are you prepared to gamble with what Bears fan hope is a rare shot at a super-high pick? Carson Palmer? He’s had one good season, and Heisman quarterbacks like Andre Ware and Gino Toretta mean nothing. I have not studied Palmer enough at this point, but Rob Johnson and Scott Mitchell were two guys who had brief super-nova moments (in the NFL too) that caused everyone to fall in love with them. They have never come close to those moments since, no matter how much money people pile on them.

Defensive tackle or end is a franchise-grade position and I believe easier to scout. Running back, same thing. And there is the potential for more immediate impact at those positions. What I generally believe should underlie all of this is getting the best possible mega-player at either position. If you can get a Warren Sapp or Walter Payton, you grab him no matter what other needs you have. Period. Exclamation point. Particularly if you have any reason at all to question talent levels at another draft position, say, quarterback. Do you want to reach on a QB who might be just another guy, or look at that Urlacher-type player for your defense or Marshall Faulk for your offense? I'll take the sure thing.

With the salary cap, aren't the Bears in better position with guys who are in the last years of their contracts, like James Williams, Chris Villarial, Keith Traylor? Isn't the last year of a deal relatively cheap, even with bonus averaging? So where does that leave those guys, versus going with a young guy or signing a free agent? Thanks for all your excellent coverage.
John Moran, Reston, Va.

Thanks for reading. Always appreciated. You readers are why we have jobs.

The last year of a deal isn't necessarily cheaper; some are structured with a bogus last year that no one honestly expects to be paid at its original level. The Bears don't have many of those and the guys you mention are not overpriced in their last years; all range from $1.9 million to $2.3 million base salaries. They could be approached to renegotiate (Villarrial has been in the past) and actually extend a year for a lower base that helps the cap.

Your point about young guys and free agents is well taken, and NFL teams absolutely need young guys to play, for the simple reason that they are affordable under their rookie deals. Mike Gandy is a prime example; Rex Tucker and Olin Kreutz were last year. Free agents tend to be more expensive and I'm not convinced they’re always an upgrade. Traylor and Ted Washington were fabulous additions, but all the Bears had at the time was Mike Wells, whose shoulder problems made him a real question. They did well there in a situation of extreme need, which helped the development of Brian Urlacher. But those are exceptions to the bigger rule. Signing free agents doesn’t usually help you financially if the players have any market value at all.

Do you think all the free agents will re-sign? Who can the Bears afford to lose?
Shane Ferguson, Lawrenceville, Ga.

Rosevelt Colvin is a longshot simply because there could be a lot of interest, which translates into a higher price. The Bears would like him back and he would like to stay with Holdman and Urlacher with a contract that makes him feel appreciated by the organization, which he doesn't always. John Davis, Leon Johnson, Stanley Pritchett, and Larry Whigham are unrestricted. Their value vs. what the Bears are willing to play is difficult to establish right now. Whigham would be a big locker room and special teams loss. Dez White, Mike Green and Paul Edinger are restricted FAs so the Bears can protect themselves with tender offers. They will in all probability be back.

What lies ahead for the Bears coaching staff? Is anyone's job on the line or is Jerry Angelo happy with who he has?
Adam Pullen, Jacksonville, N.C.

Next season will answer your question better than I can. No one is in real jeopardy this offseason, though I believe the Bears will add a quarterbacks coach. That may be a step toward improvement, which makes jobs more secure. If next season is a train wreck, giving this coaching staff four losing seasons in its first five years, Angelo will not be at all happy and neither will anyone else. Let's meet right here after next season and see how it looks.

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