A day after Lovie Smith said, “Of course, Kyle Orton is our quarterback,” Jerry Angelo insisted Orton will have to compete for his job next year – and the title of Chicago’s quarterback of the future.
Kyle Orton brought hope, but no guarantees to the Bears’ most troubled position. That was enough for coach Lovie Smith, but not for general manager Jerry Angelo. Not yet, anyway.
A day after Smith said, “Of course, Kyle Orton is our quarterback,” Angelo insisted Orton will have to compete for his job next year – and the title of Chicago’s quarterback of the future.
“I’m not convinced 100 percent,” Angelo said in his season-ending news conference Tuesday at Halas Hall. “I believe in Kyle, but until Kyle puts a good year together, we can’t say for sure.”
Orton, who has one year left on his contract, set a Bears record of 205 consecutive passes without an interception and passed for 2,972 yards, sixth-most in Chicago’s pass-challenged history. But the fourth-year pro slumped in the second half of the season and finished with a 79.6 passer rating. That was Chicago’s best rating in nine years, but only 25th in the NFL this season.
“We really do feel good about Kyle, but he is a work in progress,” Angelo said. “We are going to take our time and just have to wait and see.
“We have to have competition at that position. You have to get that position right.”
No Chicago receiver had as many as 700 yards, but Angelo said the Bears offensive problems start at quarterback.
“It’s all about the quarterback,” Angelo said. “You don’t win because of wide receivers. You don’t win because of running backs. You win because of the quarterback.
“You’ve got to get the quarterback position stabilized. The rest of that is peripheral stuff.”
Angelo said the Bears would consider signing a veteran free-agent quarterback this winter. Chad Pennington, Jeff Garcia, Kerry Collins and Kurt Warner are all low-priced veteran pickups who led their new teams to the playoffs in the last few years.
“I won’t know that until I know who is out there, but if we feel that’s our best option, we have to look at it seriously,” Angelo said. “I can’t say one thing and come back and do another. That position has got to get righted.”
While six NFL quarterbacks passed for more than 4,000 yards this year, the Bears have had only one quarterback in their history top 3,200 yards passing – Erik Kramer with 3,838 in 1995. The Bears also have had no continuity at quarterback. This was the seventh year in a row Chicago had a different leading passer, and it’s been 15 years since the Bears had the same starting quarterback three years in a row (Jim Harbaugh from 1990-93).
“We have gone through so many different scenarios at that position we can write a book, more so on what not to do than what to do,” Angelo said. “We do believe in Kyle, but Kyle has got to take another step. That’s the bottom line.
“It’s a very big decision. We’re going to measure twice to cut once on this one.”
Rockford Register Star assistant sports editor Matt Trowbridge can be reached at 815-987-1383 or firstname.lastname@example.org.