When Ryan Pace was asked what he was looking for in a quarterback he might as well have said “not Jay Cutler.”
We’ve come a long way since last season’s season-ending press conference when Pace talked about building around Cutler. The best quarterback in the history of the franchise missed 11 games and was their least productive quarterback last season. Pace made it pretty clear that his days with the team are numbered.
When asked what attributes he looks for in a quarterback, the young Bears GM specified availability and ball security, Cutler’s two biggest weaknesses. Cutler was intercepted on 3.6 percent of his passes last year and his career average of 3.3 percent is worse than everyone on earth but Ryan Fitzpatrick. Cutler has also missed 23 games due to injury over the last six years. The fact that he missed so much time this season, with separate injuries, at 33 years old, doesn’t work in his favor.
Had Cutler played well in his five games last year, it might be a different story. Here’s how the QBs stacked up overall:
- Cutler starts: Bears scored 5.2 fewer points and averaged 23.6 fewer passing yards than their opponents allowed for the season.
- Hoyer starts: 4.5 fewer points, 78 more passing yards per game.
- Barkley starts: 3.1 fewer points, around the average number of passing yards their opponent gave up.
If the 2017 starter is on the roster, it’s Hoyer. Yes,he was the least accurate of the team’s quarterbacks. I charted him with 29 percent of his passes being inaccurate, compared to 27 percent for Cutler and 24 percent for Barkley. But it’s hard to completely discredit a guy who moved the ball so well. He topped 300 yards and had two touchdowns in three of his four starts and threw for 302 yards without a touchdown in his other.
The common thought is that Hoyer racked up yardage by throwing short of the sticks, but that isn’t true. Football Outsiders tracks such information and had Hoyer throwing an average of 1.2 yards beyond the sticks, behind Barkley (4.0) and ahead of Cutler (0.9).
Hoyer went against bad defenses and the Bears, of course, didn’t score enough, but he didn’t turn the ball over. This is quite possibly the top attribute on the Pace and Fox wish list.
Where Hoyer comes up short is the deep ball. On balls traveling over 20 yards, here’s how the QBs compared:
- Hoyer: 5-21
- Cutler: 10-19
- Barkley: 7-26
During the press conference, Pace used the words “stop gap” when talking about the team’s future at quarterback. Hoyer is perfect for that job.
Barkley provided us with the most interesting conversation. If he were a 2016 fourth-round pick, we’d probably all be excited about his future. But he wasn’t. He’ s 26 and has been intercepted on a mind-boggling 6.8 percent of his passes in his career. Barkley has talent and made a lot of good throws, but his mistakes were killers. He has upside and is worth keeping around to see if he develops, but he shouldn’t be competing for more than a backup job.
Preseason heroes Connor Shaw and David Fales probably don’t have a future in the NFL. Shaw has a backyard-style that works pretty well when playing in chaos, especially with a bunch of guys who won’t make it in the NFL. Fales is more structured, but simply lacks the arm to play in the NFL. I’d expect the Bears to bring Shaw back to compete for a third-string or practice squad back, but little more.
None of these guys are the Bears future and I doubt any are among their top choices to start in 2017. Whether that guy is on another team’s roster or is available in the draft remains to be seen.