Bears quarterback timeline: Every starting QB for Chicago since 2000, from Cade McNown to Justin Fields

The Bears are one of the most historic franchises in the NFL, if only because of how deep their history goes. George Halas’ name is synonymous with the league itself, and the 1985 Bears rank as one of the best teams to ever take an NFL field. History only gets you so far in football, however. The 21st century has proven that for the Bears and their fans.

When it comes to present-day success, quarterback stability is much more important than any other factor. It’s something the Bears have rarely enjoyed since 2000, despite a few high draft picks devoted to the position. 

Is Chicago on the precipice of finding its solution at quarterback? Is that solution already on the roster? GM Ryan Poles has a decision to make at the position this offseason, one that could add another name to the long list of quarterbacks who have started a game for the Bears over the past two decades.

Here’s a look back at all 29 Bears starting quarterbacks since 2000, from Cade McNown to Justin Fields.

MORE: Tracking the latest Justin Fields trade rumors

Bears starting quarterbacks timeline

2000

  • Cade McNown (9 starts)
  • Shane Matthews (5 starts)
  • Jim Miller (2 starts)

Bears quarterbacks combined for 12 touchdowns and 16 interceptions through the air in 2000, and the season marked a quick end to the NFL career of Cade McNown. Taken 12th overall by the Bears in the 1999 draft, McNown struggled so much in his first two seasons that he never appeared in another game after 2000.

2001

  • Jim Miller (13 starts)
  • Shane Matthews (3 starts)

Jim Miller largely spent his first seven NFL seasons as a backup, but he went 11-2 as the Bears’ starter in 2001. While his raw passing numbers weren’t overly impressive, Miller took Chicago to the divisional round with the help of an excellent defense that ranked first in points allowed. 

The season ended in disappointment for Miller, as he struggled mightily in the Bears’ divisional-round loss and was benched before the end of the game.

2002

  • Jim Miller (8 starts)
  • Chris Chandler (7 starts)
  • Henry Burris (1 start)

Miller managed to throw 13 touchdowns in eight starts in 2002, but he lost his already tenuous grip on the Bears’ starting job early in the year. A defensive decline for Chicago resulted in a massive letdown of a season after the 2001 success, and the quarterback situation was no clearer.

2003

  • Kordell Stewart (7 starts)
  • Chris Chandler (6 starts)
  • Rex Grossman (3 starts)

The Bears brought in former Steelers starter Kordell Stewart as their starting quarterback in 2003, but Stewart was benched for Chris Chandler and later benched a second time for first-round rookie Rex Grossman before it was so common for rookie quarterbacks to start immediately.

Stewart and Chandler combined to throw 19 interceptions between their 13 starts, while Grossman went 2-1 and only tossed one interception in his three starts. Stewart was released after the season and never started another NFL game.

MORE: Ryan Poles says phone ‘won’t stop ringing’ ahead of Justin Fields decision

2004

  • Craig Krenzel (5 starts)
  • Chad Hutchinson (5 starts)
  • Jonathan Quinn (3 starts)
  • Rex Grossman (3 starts)

Four different quarterbacks made at least three starts for the Bears in 2004, and that went about as well as one would expect. Chicago finished 5-11, and the quarterbacks combined to toss a combined nine touchdowns all season.

Grossman had an opportunity to build off of his decent finish in 2003, but he struggled through three starts before suffering a torn ACL. That set in motion a carousel of ineffective quarterbacks in what would be another lost season.

2005

  • Kyle Orton (15 starts)
  • Rex Grossman (1 start)

Kyle Orton was only a fourth-round pick in 2005, but a preseason injury to Grossman opened the door for the Purdue product to take over as the Bears’ starter.

Chicago won the NFC North despite subpar play from Orton, who completed only 51.6 percent of passes for 1,869 yards, nine touchdowns, and 13 interceptions in 15 starts. The Bears relied heavily on Thomas Jones and the running game, which proved to be the right decision in Lovie Smith’s third season as coach.

2006

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  • Rex Grossman (16 starts)

The Bears turned back to Grossman in 2006, and he became their first 16-game starter since 1995. 

While questions lingered about the quarterback situation in Chicago thanks to Grossman’s high interception total, the Bears finished 13-3 and reached Super Bowl 41. 

While Grossman threw two interceptions in the Bears’ Super Bowl loss to the Colts, his up-and-down season ultimately served as a major step forward at the quarterback position for a Bears team coming off years of turmoil at the position. 

2007

  • Rex Grossman (7 starts)
  • Brian Griese (6 starts)
  • Kyle Orton (3 starts)

Grossman earned the Bears’ starting job in 2007, but he was quickly benched for veteran backup Brian Griese. Griese was more accurate than Grossman, but he also battled turnover issues and was knocked off the field by a shoulder injury after six starts.

Orton would return to the field and win two of his three starts for the Bears, building some momentum ahead of 2008.

MORE: SN’s Vinnie Iyer’s 2-round NFL mock draft

2008

  • Kyle Orton (15 starts)
  • Rex Grossman (1 start)

Orton was named the Bears’ starter over Grossman in 2008, starting all but one game as Chicago missed the playoffs by just a game.

Orton threw for 2,972 yards, 18 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions in 15 starts, posting a passer rating about 20 points higher than his rookie season.

2009

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  • Jay Cutler (16 starts)

The Bears found some stability at quarterback in 2009 after Broncos QB Jay Cutler requested a trade out of Denver. Cutler started all 16 games for Chicago in 2009, though he didn’t necessarily make life easier for Bears fans with a league-worst 26 interceptions.

While Cutler did throw for 3,666 yards and 27 touchdowns, turnovers doomed Chicago’s season.

2010

  • Jay Cutler (15 starts)
  • Todd Collins (1 start)

Cutler still entered 2010 locked in as the Bears’ starter and took Chicago all the way to the NFC championship game after cutting back on turnovers.

While the defense and running game did lead the way for the Bears, the season allowed Cutler to solidify himself as the franchise’s solution at quarterback in the immediate future.

Cutler suffered a knee injury in the NFC championship, and an injury to backup Todd Collins would force Caleb Hanie into what would be a season-ending loss to the Packers.

2011

  • Jay Cutler (10 starts)
  • Caleb Hanie (4 starts)
  • Josh McCown (2 starts)

The Bears started 7-3 in 2011, with Cutler limiting himself to seven interceptions, but his season ended with a thumb injury that required surgery the week before Thanksgiving. 

Hanie and Josh McCown went a combined 1-5 down the stretch as the Bears fell short of the playoffs.

2012

  • Jay Cutler (15 starts)
  • Jason Campbell (1 start)

Cutler largely stayed healthy in 2012, going 10-5 as a starter but seeing his interception rate rise again with just under one per game.

The Bears missed the playoffs despite finishing 10-6, and coach Lovie Smith was controversially fired at the end of the season. 

MORE: Updated 2024 NFL Draft big board

2013

  • Jay Cutler (11 starts)
  • Josh McCown (5 starts)

The Bears stood by Cutler in 2013, with hopes offensive-minded coach Marc Trestman would revitalize the passing game. Cutler did take fewer sacks and saw his touchdown rate rise, but injuries again derailed his season.

Cutler was able to return from a groin issue and led the Bears into a win-and-in game against the Packers on the final Sunday of the season, but Chicago allowed 33 points and missed the playoffs.

2014

  • Jay Cutler (15 starts)
  • Jimmy Clausen (1 start)

Cutler received a massive seven-year extension days after the 2013 season ended, which raised some eyebrows given his relatively shaky track record.

Questions didn’t go away when the Bears finished 5-11 in 2014, with Cutler throwing for 3,812 yards and 28 touchdowns but leading the league in interceptions with 18.

2015

  • Jay Cutler (15 starts)
  • Jimmy Clausen (1 start)

Cutler’s huge contract meant his return in 2015 was virtually assured despite a new regime of GM Ryan Pace and coach John Fox taking over in Chicago.

While the Bears again finished under .500 and easily missed the playoffs, Cutler posted the highest passer rating of his career under new offensive coordinator Adam Gase. All told, he posted 3,659 yards, 21 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions in 15 starts.

2016

  • Matt Barkley (6 starts)
  • Jay Cutler (5 starts)
  • Brian Hoyer (5 starts)

Cutler’s 2016 season was ravaged by thumb and shoulder injuries, forcing Matt Barkley and Brian Hoyer into action. Hoyer generally played well despite a 1-4 record, but he suffered a broken arm in October. Barkley was severely turnover-prone in his six starts, tossing 14 interceptions in a 3-13 season for the Bears.

2017

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  • Mitchell Trubisky (12 starts)
  • Mike Glennon (4 starts)

Pace and Fox were retained for 2017, but Cutler was not. The Bears released the veteran in March, and he would retire in May before making a comeback with the Dolphins after an injury to Ryan Tannehill.

The Bears revamped their quarterback room by signing Mike Glennon and drafting Mitchell Trubisky second overall. Glennon was hailed as the starter throughout the offseason, but he would last just four games before being benched for Trubisky.

Trubisky tossed just seven touchdowns in 12 starts as a rookie, though he largely limited turnovers.

2018

  • Mitchell Trubisky (14 starts)
  • Chase Daniel (2 starts)

Did the Bears find their franchise quarterback in 2018? They likely thought so, at least for a moment.

While an excellent defense was the biggest factor in Chicago’s surprise run to an easy NFC North title, Trubisky did take a major step forward, completing 66.6 percent of passes for 3,223 yards, 24 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions.

2019

  • Mitchell Trubisky (15 starts)
  • Chase Daniel (1 start)

The following season didn’t treat Trubisky as kindly. The Bears missed the playoffs at 8-8, and the third-year signal-caller saw his completion percentage, yardage, and touchdown total drop from 2018. 

2020

  • Mitchell Trubisky (9 starts)
  • Nick Foles (7 starts)

Trubisky beat out Nick Foles for the starting job in training camp, only for Foles to replace him after three weeks.

Trubisky later replaced Foles after an injury and did enough to hold onto the job through the end of the season, with the Bears sneaking into the playoffs as the NFC’s No. 7 seed.

While 16 touchdowns in just nine starts was a solid showing for Trubisky, it wasn’t enough to make the Bears consider bringing him back in 2021.

2021

Justin Fields

(Getty Images)

  • Justin Fields (10 starts)
  • Andy Dalton (6 starts)
  • Nick Foles (1 start)

A new era dawned upon the Bears in 2021, but like past years, it had to wait. Despite drafting Ohio State’s Justin Fields in the first round, Chicago insisted veteran Andy Dalton would be the team’s starter.

An injury forced Fields into the lineup in place of Dalton, which predictably led to Fields keeping the job in what was otherwise a lost season for the Bears. 

Fields showcased his mobility with 420 rushing yards in 10 starts, but he threw only seven touchdowns and went 2-8.

2022

  • Justin Fields (15 starts)
  • Trevor Siemian (1 start)
  • Nathan Peterman (1 start)

Fields entered 2022 as the Bears’ unquestioned starter, though a minor injury added two names to Chicago’s long list of quarterbacks: Trevor Siemian and Nathan Peterman.

Fields started slowly but caught fire late in the season even as losses piled up. He threw 17 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, running all over defenses with 1,143 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground.

2023

  • Justin Fields (13 starts)
  • Tyson Bagent (4 starts)

Playoff hopes quickly faded for Fields and the Bears in 2023. A mistake-filled season-opener for Fields set the stage for a disappointing season, which included an injury that forced undrafted rookie Tyson Bagent onto the field for four starts.

Fields made progress late in the year, finishing with 2,562 yards, 16 touchdowns, and nine interceptions in 13 starts, but he struggled to replicate his 2022 rushing success.

Because the Bears own the Panthers’ 2024 first-round pick, Chicago earned the right to select first overall in April. That could spell the end of the line for Fields in Chicago, potentially allowing former Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams to add his name to the Bears’ laundry list of 21st-century quarterbacks.

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