The Bears know it, the 31 other NFL teams know it, Chicago’s fans know it.
The Bears are looking for a quarterback. It has been the same recurring issue that has plagued the historic franchise for decades.
What Bears general manager Ryan Pace will do to potentially solve this issue is up in the air. And quite frankly, as it stands in this final week of February, there is a good chance he doesn’t know how he will do that.
Assuming Deshaun Watson and Dak Prescott are unavailable, the Bears should instead look to draft a quarterback. Let’s say Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, BYU’s Zach Wilson, Ohio State’s Justin Fields and North Dakota State’s Trey Lance are all gone before the Bears select at No. 20.
If this is the scenario and Alabama’s Mac Jones is on the board when the Bears are on the clock, then Chicago should select him to be the next franchise quarterback.
There have been a few experts who have paired Jones to the Bears in their mock drafts. In ESPN’s post Super Bowl mock draft from Todd McShay on Feb. 9, he has Chicago trading up to select Jones at No. 12.
Another expert who talked about taking a chance on Jones was ESPN’s Louis Riddick. On Feb. 18, Riddick joined the “Waddle & Silvy” show on ESPN 1000 and gave his thoughts on how the Bears could address their quarterback situation.
Here is a transcript of Riddick’s response to Tom Waddle’s question. (You can also listen to Riddick’s response, which begins at the 12:30 mark.)
Using the attributes that Riddick mentioned, “absolute computer in the pocket, great decisions, great deep ball accuracy, great touch, great leadership abilities,” let’s take a closer look at each of these strengths.
Absolute Computer in the Pocket
Jones isn’t the most physically gifted quarterback. He isn’t going to make someone miss in the open field or outrun anybody. Instead, Jones relies on his excellent pocket presence to avoid oncoming defenders, which gives him the opportunity to complete passes when things break down.
In the 2019 Citrus Bowl against Michigan, Jones displayed his maneuverability in the pocket on a second-and-13 play with 14:30 remaining in the third quarter.
Alabama right guard Deonte Brown pulls from the right to the left, and center Landon Dickerson is tasked with picking up the end player. Dickerson is a step slow, giving the Michigan defender a clear shot at the quarterback. Jones immediately sees the pressure and only puts his right foot back so he can slightly step up in the collapsing pocket. The move gives Jones enough time to complete the pass to wide receiver Henry Ruggs.
Here is another example of Jones’ ability to avoid pressure. On this play from Alabama’s 63-3 victory over Kentucky last season, Jones has a defender come free right up the middle. He dips his left shoulder, moves to his left and completes the pass to running back Nanje Harris.
Jones may not be the most athletic quarterback, but he has demonstrated that he is capable of extending plays with his subtle moves in the pocket.
Last season at Alabama, Jones threw for 4,500 yards, 41 touchdowns and just four interceptions. He rarely put the ball in harm’s way. Jones’ decision-making played a big part in why he was so successful.
Against Georgia in Week 4 last season, Jones does a good job of identifying that the defense is playing man. The running back, Harris, runs a vertical route out of the backfield. The linebacker is late to recognize it and is trailing behind Harris, but there is also a safety over the top. Jones holds up his running back with the pass, preventing the safety from delivering a big hit.
On this touchdown throw against Kentucky, Jones displays several attributes that NFL teams will like. Accuracy, poise and arm strength stand out. But Jones’ situational awareness is evident as well. Even though Jones has several seconds to locate a receiver, he doesn’t force anything in the red zone, especially with it being just second down. Eventually, Jones rifles a pass to Devonte Smith, who separates enough from his man in one-on-one coverage.
At Alabama, Jones had the luxury of learning from some of the best coaches in the country. He also saw what elite-level quarterback play looked like being behind Tua Tagovailoa. When it comes to making the right decisions, this was instilled in Jones since he got to Tuscaloosa and it clearly translated in his one full season as a starter.
Great Deep Ball Accuracy/Great Touch
There is no doubt that Jones had plenty of weapons at Alabama last season. Many of which will be first rounders in this upcoming draft. But it was still Jones’ job to deliver accurate passes to his teammates, and he was one of the best in college football at doing so.
On Alabama’s first offensive play against Michigan in 2019, Jones hits wide receiver Jerry Jeudy on an 85-yard touchdown pass. The ball is perfectly placed and Jeudy catches the ball in stride.
Later in the third quarter of the same game, Jones throws another pass with pinpoint accuracy. On this third-and-7 play, Ruggs does a good job separating from the cornerback, giving Jones an opening to throw into. Jones takes a big hit immediately after throwing the pass. The ball hits Ruggs’ hands, but he is unable to secure the catch.
Jones gets knocked because he was surrounded with elite talent, but he was able to maximize his playmakers with big plays downfield that displayed touch and precision.
Great Leadership Abilities
Jones’ leadership abilities can’t be displayed in GIFs, but there are several anecdotes from teammates and former coach Nick Saban that illustrate he embodies this much-needed trait.
In an article from Touchdown Alabama Magazine that was published about a month before Alabama’s first game against Missouri, left tackle Alex Leatherwood talked about the growth he has seen from Jones over the years.
“Mac has always been a workhorse,” Leatherwood said. “Ever since he came on campus, he has been one of the hardest workers. I feel like it has been consistent with him coming into this fall camp. He works his ass off and he’s a great team player and leader for our team.”
After the first five games of the season, Alabama was undefeated and averaged 48.4 points per game. In Joey Blackwell’s article from Bama Central, Saban highlighted Jones’ maturity being on full display throughout this portion of the season.
“Mac’s shown a lot of maturity in the way that he’s played so far this year,” Saban said. “I think the more experience he gets, the more confidence that he has. We left some plays on the field, I think, on third down in the game that we certainly need to improve on and work on because that’s been something that’s been a really positive thing for us. But Mac’s been able to stay steady. He stays in a good place, keeps his eyes in the right place, keeps making good choices and decisions.
“I think that’s when he’s most productive, and he’s done that on a very consistent basis all year long.”
Also mentioned in Blackwell’s article is Jones’ leadership that he demonstrated when helping wide receiver Slade Bolden. Jones and Bolden would frequently have late-night throwing sessions to establish chemistry amongst each other.
Most recently, when Jones participated in the practices at the 2021 Reese’s Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., Carolina Panthers coach Matt Rhule had nothing but positive things to say about the national champion quarterback.
“I’ve been really impressed with who he is,” said Rhule. “I’ve been impressed with his character, his moxie, his swag. I mean, he’s got it all. You can see why his teammates follow him. He’s got a great way with other people. He’s been a really productive quarterback, and he’s shown a lot of things he can do this week. He’s really smart. He’s accurate. He can move his feet and slide in the pocket. For me, getting to know him, I can see why everyone raves about him and why he’s had the success he had.”
Jones checks multiple boxes that teams are looking for at the quarterback position.
The Bears, as everyone knows, are looking for their next signal caller. Maybe Jones will be their guy.