Bears, Seahawks on similar trajectories, with 1 big difference -- quarterback
Two trades signaled rebuilds for NFC teams this offseason.
One sent quarterback Russell Wilson from the Seattle Seahawks to the Denver Broncos.
The other came when Bears general manager Ryan Poles traded pass rusher Khalil Mack to the Los Angeles Chargers in exchange for a pair of draft picks.
The Bears and Seahawks will meet in a preseason game at 7 tonight on ESPN. The game will feature two teams in full-on rebuild mode, even if their general managers won't say it. There is, however, one major difference between the two rebuilds -- the quarterback position.
If there's one thing that can fast track the Bears' rebuild, it's quarterback Justin Fields. The 23-year-old quarterback still has a lot to prove, but if he does prove to be capable of carrying an NFL team and winning big games, that will make Poles' rebuild a heck of a lot easier.
Half the battle in the NFL is finding a quarterback. Just look at Seattle.
Journeyman Geno Smith is currently the starter on the depth chart. Head coach Pete Carroll announced Tuesday that quarterback Drew Lock, who the team acquired in the Wilson trade, would start Thursday's preseason game. Just hours later, Lock tested positive for COVID-19. Smith and Jacob Eason are the only other quarterbacks currently on Seattle's roster.
But COVID-19 aside, the Lock vs. Smith quarterback battle is one of the few true QB battles going on in NFL training camps this summer. Neither QB is likely to provide much spark this season for a Seattle team that is probably going nowhere. Most betting establishments have the Seahawks pegged as one of the worst teams in the NFL (the Bears aren't much better).
The Seahawks unloaded Wilson and left themselves with no good options at quarterback.
At the moment, the most exciting thing going for Seahawks fans is the mountain of high-value draft picks that general manager John Schneider is holding. Seattle holds its own first- and second-round picks in 2023, plus Denver's first- and second-round picks.
Seahawks fans will likely be paying close attention to which quarterbacks are thriving in college football on Saturdays. Bears fans could be doing something similar, but the hope is they'll be watching college receivers, tackles and defensive ends, not quarterbacks.
That's why this is such a huge season for Fields. How many rebuilds start when a team has a high-potential, young quarterback who already took his lumps as a rookie? Poles would love to say he has an answer at the quarterback position. Then he can direct his attention -- his draft picks and his cap space -- elsewhere.
Thursday's game, of course, means little. Fields isn't going to play much, likely only six to 10 snaps, head coach Matt Eberflus said. But the Bears need to keep seeing progress out of their young quarterback.
A scoring drive against the rebuilding Seahawks would be a great boost.
"His drive, his mental makeup, what he wants out of his career, what he wants for this team, what he wants for this organization and this city, I think he cares about all of that," Bears QB coach Andrew Janocko said. "Just seeing his daily preparation. When you go in there in the morning, he's in the meeting room. He usually beats me into the meeting room every morning and he's ready to go. He has prepared the night before. That's the proof you need to see from a player that has that drive to carry his team."
Rest assured that Poles wants to see Fields succeed. Schneider might have more draft picks in his back pocket, but if Poles has a quarterback (not to mention twice as much 2023 cap space as nearly everyone else in the league) his rebuild might be only one or two years in the making, rather than three or four.