Building from the Top Down

Dan Pompei , writing for The Athletic, addresses the Bears quarterback situation:

Brian Hoyer’s contract is up. He signed a one-year deal last spring. There will be many worse options to bringing him back as the No. 2 guy. Hoyer was criticized for not getting the ball in the end zone and not playing winning football, but he fills the requirements of a backup pretty well.

“Anytime you get the No. 2 in, you want the guy to not to lose the game,” an NFC North pro scout said. “He did that. He’s a better than average backup.”

There might not be another backup in the league who would give the Bears’ better return on salary.”

“Unlike Hoyer, [Connor] Shaw is an electric performer who stresses defenses by extending plays, playing with instinct and getting creative. Shaw deserves to be in the pole position for the developmental quarterback slot on the roster. That isn’t to say he shouldn’t have competition, either from a young player or from a draft pick, but he should be given a chance to stick.”

I like both Hoyer and Shaw.  But I really wonder if signing them is the right thing to do.

NFL personnel men talk about adding to the roster from the top down.  In other words, when you add a player, you add someone with the potential to start.  He and the other men at the position compete and the losers become backups.  But they become very good backups because the whole reason you signed them in the first place was because you thought they could start.  That’s how you build quality depth.

That’s particularly true of the Bears quarterback situation where they have essentially no one right now (assuming Jay Cutler is released or traded).  And the position is a particularly difficult one because, more than any other spot on the field, you are often taking a stab in the dark and hoping you get lucky.

That’s why the Bears can’t waste time signing “a better than average backup” or a guy who has been in the NFL for three years and is still considered to be “developmental”. You have to at least four guys that you think can be quality starters and let the second and third best be your back ups.

Having one of those be a solid veteran with a high floor and a ceiling high enough to make a very good starter in the right situation wouldn’t be a bad idea.  That way you have a worst case scenario if all of the younger players don’t pan out.  But if the Bears are debating whether to resign Hoyer, it should be whether he fits that profile, not if he is a guy who, at his best, is a good back up.  The same goes for Shaw.  Either he can compete to start or he can’t.

The Bears  need to be looking for players with the potential to play at the highest level.  Anything else is a waste of a roster spot at this point.

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