Sep 23, 2021

Which Bears rookie QB had the best debut?

Which Bears rookie QB had the best debut?
(USA Today Sports)

Good morning, frents!

As much as I didn't like the Conor McGregor stunt the other night, I have to give him props for being a quick learner.

"For me it just feels like an Irish pub with a nice, clean, well-kept field in the middle," McGregor said of Wrigley Field.

That quote should live as long as his first pitch and singing performance.

Wednesday's results
Twins 5, Cubs 4
Revolution 3, Fire 2
Sox, Tigers PPD

Today's schedule
Sox at Indians (12:10, 5:10, NBCSCH)
Wings at Sky* (7, ESPN2)
Cubs off
*Playoff game

By Brendan Sugrue

Justin Fields will get the first start of his NFL career when the Bears roll into Cleveland on Sunday afternoon.

That was the announcement that Matt Nagy made on Wednesday and it was one that Bears fans have been waiting for since draft day. Though Nagy still insists that the job belongs to a healthy Andy Dalton, it's now up to Fields to prove that the Bears won't ever need to look back.

Fields is the sixth Bears quarterback since 1999 to start a game as a rookie. I went back and looked at the debuts from the previous five quarterbacks to see the history Fields will be up against when he faces the Browns. As you might imagine, he doesn't have a high bar to clear.

Here's how all five did, listed from worst to "first":

5. Kyle Orton

First start: Week 1, 2005 at Washington
Stats: 15-for-28, 141 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT, 52.8 QBR
Result: Washington 9, Bears 7
Snapshot: Orton started the season after starter Rex Grossman suffered a broken ankle in the preseason. He was unspectacular, but not bad. The fourth-round pick out of Purdue was the true definition of a game manager for the 2005 Bears, keeping the offense on the road while the defense stifled opponents. Orton started 15 games that year, compiling a record of 10-5 during his rookie year and helping the Bears clinch the NFC North.

4. Cade McNown

First start: Week 6, 1999 vs. Philadelphia
Stats: 17-for-33, 255 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT, 62.1 QBR
Result: Eagles 20, Bears 16
Snapshot: McNown, like Fields, had received playing time in previous games. The UCLA product had the most passing yards of any rookie debut listed here and showed off his arm strength to wide receiver Marcus Robinson a couple of times. But he made a couple of boneheaded mistakes on his interceptions and fumbled the ball as well. A high draft pick in 1999, McNown failed to live up to expectations and didn't last long in Chicago.

3. Mitchell Trubisky

First start: Week 5, 2017 vs. Minnesota
Stats: 12-for-25, 128 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 60.1 QBR
Result: Vikings 20, Bears 17
Snapshot: The second pick in the 2017 draft finally saw the field for the first time in Week 5 and showed a Monday Night Football audience the potential that made him the top QB on many draft boards. Trubisky used his mobility to create plays and showed off his arm strength on a couple of deep plays, finding Zach Miller for an improvised touchdown. But he threw a costly pick late in the game, setting up the game-winning field goal for the Vikings. Trubisky had an up and down rookie season in his lone year with John Fox. And we all know what happened the next few years under Nagy.

2. Rex Grossman

First start: Week 15, 2003 vs. Minnesota Vikings
Stats: 13-for-30, 157 yards, 0 TDs, 0 INT, 60.2 QBR
Result: Bears 13, Vikings 10
Snapshot: The numbers for Grossman, Trubisky, and Orton all look very similar. The difference is that Grossman won in his debut. The late first-round pick from Florida showed off his deep ball skills early, hitting Marty Booker on a 39-yard pass up the sideline for his best throw of the day. Grossman didn't turn the ball over and kept his team in the game for the win. Injuries derailed his next two seasons before leading the Bears to the Super Bowl in 2006.

1. Craig Krenzel

First start: Week 8, 2004 vs. San Francisco 49ers
Stats: 13-for-25, 168 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 70.1 QBR
Result: Bears 23, 49ers 13
Snapshot: This is a surprise, isn't it? The fifth-round pick out of Ohio State was pressed into duty after an injury to Grossman and poor play from Jonathan Quinn. Krenzel started his first game in primetime and was effective against the 49ers. He started hot, throwing a 49-yard touchdown to fellow rookie Bernard Berrian on the second play of the game. He had some other big plays, but struggled at times too, throwing an interception and losing a fumble. Considering the circumstances, however, Krenzel had himself a day by getting the Bears out to the early lead and keeping it. That rating isn't high, but he's the Bears rookie for Fields to beat on Sunday.

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Win or go home for Sky

The Sky can't afford to have an off-night at Wintrust. Tonight's playoff game against the Dallas Wings is single-elimination, the first of two the Sky will have to win if they want to reach the WNBA semifinals.

The sixth-seeded Sky are in this position because of an up-and-down season that didn't quite go according to plan. But they do have a healthy Candace Parker at their disposal. The team was 15-8 with her in the lineup and 1-8 without.  Fellow vets Allie Quigley and Courtney Vandersloot also won't want to go quickly, so hopefully the Sky's experience will help them prevail. The team went 1-2 against Dallas this year. The Wings are led by former Notre Dame star Arike Ogunbowale.

News and results

Sox can clinch in Cleveland today
The Sox magic number didn't budge on Wednesday as rain wiped out the games in Detroit and Cleveland. A win over the Indians in either game of today's doubleheader will clinch the team's first division title since 2008.
• Next: Gm 1. Reynaldo Lopez (3-3, 3.00) vs. Aaron Civale (11-4, 3.40)  Gm. 2. TBD vs. Zach Plesac (10-6, 4.59)
• ICYMI: Ranking the Sox's 10 playoff clinchers

Twins complete two-game sweep over Cubs
The Cubs won both games in Minnesota a few weeks ago and the Twins returned the favor this week, sealing the short sweep with a 5-4 win. In more interesting news: Brennen Davis hit his fourth homer in seven games since being promoted to Triple-A Iowa.
Next: The Cubs are off today before St. Louis comes in for a four-game set to finish off the home schedule. The Cards have won 11 straight.

Northwestern's Ryan Field will get big facelift
Pat and Shirley Ryan are donating a whopping $480 million to the school— basically a Powerball jackpot — and part of it will go toward renovating the football stadium. While an afternoon at Ryan Field is an underrated pleasure for the area sports fan, I think we can agree it needs a lot of TLC.

  1. The Bears and Chicago Park District are going at each other over Soldier Field improvements through email. WBEZ
  2. The Blackhawks open up camp today. Here are five storylines to track, compliments of Charlie Roumeliotis. NBC Sports Chicago
  3. WNBA players tell ESPN they don't like the single-elimination playoff format for the first two rounds. I agree 100 percent.  ESPN
  4. Candace Parker made the top 10 on the list of the greatest WNBA players of all time. ESPN
  5. Guinness is bringing a brewery and taproom to Chicago, though my favorite place to drink a Guinness will remain Christina's. ABC 7 Chicago

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