For a team as old and iconic as the Chicago Bears, it’s rather puzzling that they haven’t boasted huge names at the quarterback position. There are still some solid signal-callers that have taken snaps throughout the franchise’s 100-year history, and here are the five best.
5. Erik Kramer, 1994-1998
Kramer signed with the Bears in 1994 after spending his first four seasons with the Atlanta Falcons and Detroit Lions. In his two years as a full-time starter, Kramer went 13-16, with his best season coming in 1995, when he lead the Bears to a 9-7 record while throwing for 3,838 yards and 29 touchdowns, both of which are still team records to this day. That feat alone is enough to make this list, even though the rest of Kramer’s relatively short time with the Bears wasn’t that impressive.
4. Jim Harbaugh, 1987-1993
Now the head coach at the University of Michigan, Harbaugh quarterbacked the Bears for seven years, starting 65 games and winning 35 of them. Chicago went 11-5 in Harbaugh’s first two seasons as a full-time starter, making the playoffs both years. Overall, Harbaugh threw for 11,567 yards, 50 touchdowns, and 56 picks. Pedestrian numbers, but Harbaugh had a rather long stint with Chicago relative to other QBs.
3. Jim McMahon, 1982-1988
McMahon was the fifth overall pick in 1982, and while he may not have lived up to his billing statistically, he started for seven years in Chicago, went 46-15, made a Pro Bowl, and was the team’s QB when the Bears won Super Bowl XX, although that was more due to their terrific defense. McMahon threw for a total of 11,203 yards, 67 touchdowns, and 56 interceptions. He was a big personality who didn’t always get along with coaches and teammates, but he played hard and endeared himself to the fanbase. McMahon may not have been great, but in order to win a Super Bowl, you still have to be pretty good.
2. Jay Cutler, 2009-2016
From a pure talent perspective. Cutler outmatches every other QB in Bears history. At 6’3″ 231 lbs, he was mobile and had a cannon for an arm. He was selected 11th overall in 2005 by the Denver Broncos, and made his first and only Pro Bowl in 2008 after throwing for 4,526 yards and 25 touchdowns. It appeared as if the Broncos had their franchise QB, but they traded Cutler, along with a fifth-round pick, to Chicago for Kyle Orton, two first-rounders, and a third-rounder. It was a high price to pay, but for a 26-year-old coming off a Pro Bowl, it seemed worth it. Cutler spent eight years with the Bears, throwing for 23,443 yards, 154 touchdowns, and 109 interceptions. Cutler’s Bears went 51-51 with one playoff appearance coming in 2010, when Chicago lost to the rival and eventual Super Bowl Champions Green Bay Packers.
Cutler’s lackadaisical attitude and deadpan demeanor endeared him to some and rubbed others the wrong way. He never did live up to his potential, but starting for eight seasons is no small feat. He is the franchise’s all-time leader in attempts, completions, passing yards, and passing touchdowns.
1. Sid Luckman, 1939-1950
Luckman is hands-down the greatest QB in Chicago history. He spent 12 years with the Bears, throwing for 14,686 yards and 137 touchdowns. His numbers don’t compare to Cutler’s, but Luckman played in a completely different era, and basic stats only prove so much. Drafted second overall in 1939, Luckman would go on to win four NFL Championships and one MVP, make three All-Star teams and six All-Pro teams, and led the league in passing yards and passing touchdowns three times. His career 8.4 yards per attempt ranks second in NFL history only to Cleveland Browns legend Otto Graham.
From 1943-1946, Luckman was enlisted as a United States Merchant Marine, and was unable to practice with the team, meaning he played only on Sundays. He will always be remembered as the quarterback of the ‘Monsters of the Midway’, and the greatest QB in Bears history.