A look back at some past Chicago Bears QB competitions

  • Chicago Bears quarterback Mike Glennon looks to pass during an NFL football training camp in Bourbonnais, Ill., Thursday, July 27, 2017.

    Chicago Bears quarterback Mike Glennon looks to pass during an NFL football training camp in Bourbonnais, Ill., Thursday, July 27, 2017.

Updated 3/21/2020 1:01 PM

Maybe it won't be a controversy, but the Bears did create quarterback competition Wednesday by acquiring veteran Nick Foles in a trade with Jacksonville.

Throughout their history, the Bears haven't exactly been known for stellar quarterback play, but there have been some memorable competitions. Here's a look back at a few:


2017: Mitch Trubisky vs. Mike Glennon

Glennon was signed as a free agent before the draft. He seemed surprised when the Bears moved up to take Trubisky, then told reporters, "It was made clear to me ... the 2017 season is my year."

It wasn't. He was underwhelming in four starts, which included 5 interceptions, 5 fumbles, 8 sacks, a long play of 29 yards and a 1-3 record. Trubisky started the final 12 games and didn't do much better, but at least he got some experience, leading to a division title the next year.

2005-08: Rex Grossman vs. Kyle Orton vs. Brian Griese

This one took some twists and turns. Orton started 15 games as a rookie in 2005, then the Bears added veteran Griese, who arrived with 72 starts under his belt. But it was Grossman who started all 19 games during the Super Bowl season of 2006, while Orton never got into a game.

In 2007, Grossman started seven games, Griese six and Orton three, setting the stage for Orton to become the full-time starter again in 2008. It also set the stage for eight years of Jay Cutler once Orton was sent to Denver in the Cutler trade.

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1997: Erik Kramer vs. Rick Mirer

Before the '97 season, the Bears thought Kramer might have a career-ending injury, so they sent a first-round pick to Seattle to get Mirer, a former No. 2 overall draft choice. Kramer recovered and Mirer couldn't win the job. The former Notre Dame star started just three games for the Bears and left after the following preseason.

1989: Jim Harbaugh vs. Mike Tomczak

After the 1988 season ended with a loss in the NFC championship, the Bears moved on from Jim McMahon, trading him to San Diego. The successor battle was Michigan vs. Ohio State, two very different personalities.

Tomczak started 11 games in the disappointing 1989 season. Harbaugh, a first-round pick, was going to get his chance and took over in 1990. He led the Bears to a 9-1 start before a separated shoulder ended his season. Tomczak stepped in and earned the last playoff victory of the Mike Ditka era, beating New Orleans.

Harbaugh spent three more seasons as the starter, then moved on and had his best years in Indianapolis.

1977: Mike Phipps vs. Bob Avellini


The Bears traded their 1978 first-round pick for Phipps, a four-year starter in Cleveland. Avellini persevered, though, and started all 14 games in '77, leading the Bears to their first playoff berth in 14 years. Phipps took the Bears to the playoffs in '79 and both quarterbacks eventually were beaten out by Vince Evans.

The trade turned out well for the Browns, because they used that draft choice on Hall of Fame tight end Ozzie Newsome.

1971: Jack Concannon vs. Kent Nix vs. Bobby Douglass

These three posted some ugly statistics, but the '71 season was actually promising for the Bears as they started 6-3 under coach Jim Dooley before finishing with 5 straight losses. The season began with Concannon starting and Nix often coming on in relief. Douglass got his chance and started seven games, while Nix started four.

Overall that season, Bears QBs completed a dismal 42 percent of their passes for 12 touchdowns and 28 interceptions.

1965: Billy Wade vs. Rudy Bukich

These quarterbacks were the same age, were both drafted by the Rams, then took turns starting for the Bears. Wade held the job from 1962-64, starting every game in the 1963 championship season, while Bukich was the backup.

Then Bukich started 26 of 28 games in 1965 and '66 with Wade in reserve. Wade often was regarded as a caretaker for a great defense in '63, but he does still rank third in Bears history in touchdown passes, behind Jay Cutler and Sid Luckman. Bukich was nicknamed "Rudy the Rifle" for his strong arm. The two died nine days apart in 2016 at age 85.

1960: Ed Brown vs. Zeke Bratkowski

Brown, who led the Bears to the '56 title game, started 11 of 12 games that season. But future Packer Bratkowski threw more passes (175 to 149). At the same time, George Blanda, who spent most of the previous decade with the Bears, led Houston to the initial AFL championship.

• Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls

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