It’s the same thing every time the Bears are on TV. You always know it’s coming, especially if it’s a national broadcast.
There are various ways to frame it, but they’ll invariably show some version of the epic list that haunts the Bears by showing that Justin Fields is their 32nd starting quarterback in 28 seasons.
But that’s superficial embarrassment.
True shame would’ve been bringing in Deshaun Watson to solve that problem.
One makes your eyes roll. The other stings your soul.
The Browns have been just as laughable at quarterback — Watson will be at least their 37th starter in the same span — and tried to stop the ridicule by trading for someone who has had 24 women file lawsuits against him alleging sexual assault during massage therapy sessions.
Watson maintains his innocence even after a ham-handed apology for “decisions that I’ve made” that he later clarified wasn’t an apology at all, but rather a way to appease “people that have been triggered.”
He won’t play against the Bears in their preseason finale Saturday in Cleveland after agreeing to an 11-game suspension and $5 million fine as the penalty for something he adamantly claims he didn’t do.
If that sounds like a contradiction to you, let me affirm that it is. You’re not just being “triggered.” An independent arbiter deemed his actions “egregious” and “predatory.”
Browns owner Jimmy Haslam, general manager Andrew Berry and coach Kevin Stefanski — all of whom have a wife and at least one daughter — have prioritized talent over integrity and defended the acquisition. They’ve ducked and swerved through press conferences. The questions will get tougher, though, when some of their children and grandchildren are old enough to use Google.
This is your hero, Cleveland.
The Bears have been indisputably bad at quarterback for decades and ventured into numerous boondoggles just in the last few years, most notably trading up to draft Mitch Trubisky at No. 2 overall in 2017. Predictably, they’ve been a bad team, too, for most of that time. They are 287-289 since winning their lone Super Bowl and haven’t won a playoff game in a decade.
But if this is the way out? No, thank you.
Running a pro sports team or having allegiance to one requires people to suspend some of their own moralcode. Many athletes are some of the most upright, amazing people of our society. Some even go a step further and make a transcendent impact. Some aren’t, and a certain amount of misbehavior is tolerated.
There is a line for everyone, however, and 24 sexual assault allegations that sound strikingly similar to each other crosses it by a mile for most of us. Watson isn’t facing criminal charges and has the right to work. But every team has the right to say it won’t be for them.
And every fan has the right to say this just isn’t for them. Loyalty is a good quality, but blind loyalty is foolish. How will it feel to cheer for a Watson touchdown pass? How will it feel when your kid asks you to buy his jersey, or when you see him or her reaching desperately to get his autograph?
Seems like a good time to pick a new team for the next few years. A lot of Browns fans probably will. Because even if Watson wins them a Super Bowl, it won’t feel good.
Incidentally, the Bears were spared from this mess seeping into Halas Hall only by their incompetence. It’s nice to know that can be useful every now and then.
While MVP and Super Bowl winner Patrick Mahomes is at the center of conversations about the Bears’ misadventure with Trubisky, Watson was considered the surest of the three top quarterbacks. There was a lot of projecting with the other two, but Watson had already shown how good he was.
He was Captain America. He was an unparalleled winner at Clemson, replete with exceptional ability and a pristine image. His coach likened him to Michael Jordan and argued that he should be the No. 1 pick.
The Bears bypassed him not because they saw trouble coming, but because — thankfully, in this case — they’re very bad at this. The Texans were considered fortunate to land him at No. 12, two picks after the Chiefs took Mahomes.
And Watson delivered in the pros. He vaulted into the top tier of quarterbacks by his second season and made three consecutive Pro Bowls before requesting a trade from the Texans and sitting out last season. Shortly after he demanded to leave, the allegations mounted.
Between Watson’s discontent and the ugliness around him, the Texans were relieved to deal him to the Browns and dive into another full rebuild. They’re one of the few teams in the NFL widely expected to be worse than the Bears this season.
And had the Bears made the soundest move in that 2017 draft, all of that would’ve been their problem.
Imagine this cloud hovering persistently over Chicago. Imagine reading about this every day in this newspaper and having it beamed into your living room for three and a half hours on Sundays. Imagine your daughter’s questions.
Imagine having to say this truly is the last straw rather than habitually muttering it under your breath.
The Bears have been awful, but it’s just sports awfulness. What the Browns are doing makes that seem small.
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