Hub Arkush: Quarterback not Bears greatest need. Offensive tackle is
Pretty much everyone that's ever watched an NFL game knows about the Bears woes at quarterback, and that it's unlikely to get fixed this season.
There was never an answer available in free agency.
There is hope for the draft even though that marketplace got shook up a bit Monday with the New York Jets trading Sam Darnold to the Carolina Panthers.
But that trade probably doesn't impact the Bears having any chance at all at a Day 1 starter.
The problem is at pick Nos. 1, 2 and 3, the Jags, Jets and 49ers, respectively, are all taking quarterbacks, with the Jets now having traded Darnold. The price the 49ers paid to move from No. 12 to third overall can only be justified with a QB. Denver at No. 9, New England at 15 and Washington at 19 have just as great a need at the position as the Bears.
We can't rule out the Falcons at fourth overall and the Eagles at 12 taking one, and it wouldn't be at all stunning to see the Steelers trade up in front of the Bears.
Sure, the Bears could be the team to jump up and grab a QB.
But if you believe Ryan Pace's and Matt Nagy's jobs are on the line, how are they going to be better this year than last year with their first-round pick on the bench and the loss of several other valuable picks or key starters -- or both -- to get him?
Being stuck at quarterback, however, doesn't eliminate Pace's and Nagy's claim they are close to contending, and based on the makeup of the current roster -- and the cost of trying to fix the QB position -- it isn't even the Bears greatest need.
That has to be offensive tackle.
Based on their present talent, and what does still appear doable in the draft and remnants of free agency, the path to management's threat to contend is the following: Make the defense great again, create one of the league's best running games, play mistake-free football and make Andy Dalton or Nick Foles a good enough game manager.
Unless age and injuries take over, even with the loss of Kyle Fuller, the talent is still there to field a great defense. The coaching team of defensive coordinator Sean Desai and assistant Mike Pettine are intriguing, if unproven.
What Nagy and offensive line coach Juan Castillo did the last six weeks of last season with running back David Montgomery and the shuffling of the offensive line on the inside, along with the return of guard James Daniels and addition of RB Damien Williams, is actually kind of exciting for the run game.
The problem is Charles Leno and German Ifedi could very well be the worst pair in the league.
It's not that they're terrible blockers. Both are somewhere between slightly below average to average, and Ifedi is probably a bit better than that blocking the run.
But average isn't good enough for the way the Bears will have to play due to limitations under center. They become downright punitive when you realize that according to Pro Football Reference and the Football Database over the last four seasons Ifedi (44 penalties, 25 false starts and seven more declined) is the most penalized tackle in football. Leno (38 penalties, 18 false starts, six more declined) is third.
When you combine the blocks they either miss, or fail to execute and the plays that fail as a result, and the number of drives that are stalled or killed because of their penalties, it is just too great a handicap to overcome.
Yes, to execute what we'll call Plan B the Bears will also still need at least one more playmaking wide receiver and a starting safety but fortunately receiver and offensive line are the two strongest areas of this draft, and there are still at least significant upgrades for the Bears depth chart at both those positions and safety in free agency.
Now will Pace push the right buttons?
His misses at quarterback will look a lot less painful if he can notch a couple extra-base hits at tackle.
• Twitter: @Hub_Arkush