The Bears are looking for a savior. Jordanless Chicago is
looking for a champion. Is feisty rookie quarterback Cade McNown
the man to lead the Bears and fans in the Windy City out of the
fog? Early indications are that the kid has the charisma and the
work ethic to get the job done.
After a nine-day holdout, McNown arrived at the Bears' training
camp in Platteville, Wis., and, not being sure where to park his
car, pulled into a handicapped spot. Coming in the wake of
reports of his involvement in an embarrassing episode at
UCLA--11 Bruins have been suspended for the first two games this
season for submitting false applications for handicapped-parking
permits from 1996 to '98--McNown's move wasn't the wisest. The
Bears, however, have found little else amiss with McNown, whom
they took with the 12th pick in the draft.
"He hasn't had trouble picking anything up," says first-year
coach Dick Jauron, a former NFL defensive back who joined the
coaching ranks in 1985. "He's one of the brightest quarterbacks
I've seen come out of college football." McNown, who for all
intents and purposes was handed the starting job when the Bears
waived Erik Kramer on July 20, is working overtime; he often
stays after practice with running back Curtis Enis or wideout
Curtis Conway to accelerate his learning curve. And he has
stepped right into a leadership role. "He can lead this team,"
says Enis. "As soon as he got here, I told him, 'Hey, man, it's
your squad now. Lead us. Swing the lumber.'"
The lefthanded McNown rarely combs his short auburn hair. He
likes to wear his T-shirts inside-out. He's an avid reader; one
of the books on his night table at training camp was Bednarik:
Last of the 60-Minute Men. (Former Eagles linebacker Chuck
Bednarik, an admirer of McNown's competitiveness, sent it to him
after the two met at a banquet.) And though he never collected
autographs as a kid, McNown knows that signing is part of being
a franchise savior. Following his first practice as a Bear, he
waded into a crowd of about 750 and signed autographs for an
hour. When the last scrap of paper had been inscribed, he looked
around and said, "Anybody else?" Finding no one, McNown said,
"O.K., thanks for coming, everybody."
Of course, McNown and the Bears know that what really matters is
how he performs on the field. On that count there is a lot of
skepticism because of McNown's modest height (6'1") and dubious
arm strength. But he is only an inch shorter than 49ers
quarterback Steve Young, and shouldn't this height thing have
died after the way Doug Flutie performed for the Bills last
McNown's competitiveness is unquestioned. When playing on grass
at UCLA, he usually looked like Pigpen by halftime, the result
of extensive sliding and diving. He has shown he can throw from
the pocket and on the run with equal efficiency. In his last two
seasons at UCLA, he had 49 touchdown passes and only 17
interceptions, connected on 59% of his attempts and averaged
9.84 yards per attempt and 16.63 yards per completion. Unlike
the first pick in the draft, Browns quarterback Tim Couch, who
said early in camp that he hoped the game would slow down,
McNown says things felt the same as they had on the UCLA
practice field. "I think I'm one of those guys who sees the
whole field and what's going on every time he steps back to
pass," he says.
On one play during camp, offensive coordinator Gary Crowton
called for McNown to roll left and throw to wideout Bobby Engram
streaking down the left sideline. But when the defense came with
three blitzers, Engram cut his route short, and McNown, just
before getting buried by the rushers, jump-passed an eight-yard
strike to Engram, who turned upfield for a big gain. "Make 'em
pay!" Crowton yelled, smiling. Enis hollered, "There it is! Way
to go, 'Slinger!" As in Gunslinger, Enis would explain later.
McNown was blase about the completion, but everything about the
play--the cool rollout, seeing the whole field, making a
split-second decision to abandon his target downfield and
athletically making the throw--was big time. "Maybe they just
haven't seen that play work around here in a while," he says.
In recent years the hometown quarterback hasn't made many big
plays at Soldier Field. A team and a city have their fingers
crossed that McNown is up to the task. --P.K.
COLOR PHOTO: JONATHAN DANIEL QUICK STUDY McNown has had no trouble picking up whatever the Bears have thrown at him.
COLOR PHOTO: DAVID WALBERG
Sept. 12 KANSAS CITY
26 at Oakland
Oct. 3 NEW ORLEANS
10 at Minnesota
24 at Tampa Bay
31 at Washington
Nov. 7 at Green Bay
21 at San Diego
25 at Detroit (Thurs.)
Dec. 5 GREEN BAY
12 at St. Louis
19 Open date
26 at St. Louis
Jan. 2 TAMPA BAY
1998 Record 4-12 (5th in NFC Central)
NFL rank (rush/pass/total): offense 17/23/21; defense 19/15/14
1999 Schedule strength NFL rank: 23 Opponents' 1998 winning
percentage: .488 Games against playoff teams: 4
Of the five quarterbacks selected in the first round of the 1999
draft, Cade McNown is widely regarded as the best prepared to
play in the NFL right away. If Dick Jauron does make McNown his
starter for the Sept. 12 game against the Chiefs, it will mark
only the fourth time since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger that a rookie
coach has employed a rookie as his opening-day starting
quarterback. It would also be a bad omen for McNown and the
Bears: The other three combined for a 1-23-1 record as rookie
Rookie Rookie Rookie 's
Team coach quarterback Team W-L performance
1989 Cowboys Jimmy Johnson Troy Aikman 1-15 0-11 as
1982 Colts Frank Kush Mike Pagel 0-8-1 Started all
1973 Colts Howard 1-4 as
Schnellenberger Bert Jones 4-10 a starter
PLAYER TO WATCH
While growing up in suburban Los Angeles, Tony Parrish didn't
play football until eighth grade because his parents thought the
game was too dangerous. Still, little Tony couldn't help himself.
"When I was five, I found an old helmet my dad had," says
Parrish, "and I used to put it on and run into the wall on the
side of our apartment building, headfirst." Talk about a sign of
things to come. As a Bears rookie in 1998, Parrish started the
opener against the Jaguars at free safety, forced three fumbles
and finished with a team-high 14 tackles. First-year Chicago
coach Dick Jauron, who was Jacksonville's defensive coordinator
last season, liked Parrish's physical play so much that he has
switched him to strong safety, where Parrish will be more of a
run stopper and blitzer. "I see myself doing a lot of different
things," Parrish says. The Bears would settle for an enforcer
type, which Parrish gives every sign of being.
PROJECTED LINEUP WITH 1998 STATISTICS
Coach: Dick Jauron
First season with Bears (0-0 in NFL)
Offensive Backs PVR*
QB Cade McNown (R) 110
357 att. 207 comp. 58.0 % 3,470 yds. 25 TDs 11 int. 156.6 rtg.
RB Curtis Enis 67
133 att. 497 yds. 3.7 avg. 6 rec. 20 yds. 3.3 avg. 0 TDs
RB Edgar Bennett 192
173 att. 611 yds. 3.5 avg. 28 rec. 209 yds. 7.5 avg. 2 TDs
FB Robert Chancey 307
29 att. 122 yds. 4.2 avg. 11 rec. 102 yds. 9.3 avg. 2 TDs
Receivers, Specialists, Offensive Linemen
WR Curtis Conway 64 54 rec. 733 yds. 3 TDs
WR Bobby Engram 100 64 rec. 987 yds. 5 TDs
WR Chris Penn 176 31 rec. 448 yds. 3 TDs
TE Alonzo Mayes 251 21 rec. 217 yds. 0 TDs
K Jeff Jaeger 217 27/28 XPs 21/26 FGs 90 pts.
PR Glyn Milburn 194 25 ret. 11.6 avg. 1 TD
KR Glyn Milburn 194 62 ret. 25.0 avg. 2 TDs
LT Blake Brockermeyer 6'4" 305 lbs. 14 games 14 starts
LG Todd Perry 6'5" 312 lbs. 16 games 16 starts
C Olin Kreutz 6'4" 290 lbs. 9 games 0 starts
RG Chris Villarial 6'4" 305 lbs. 16 games 16 starts
RT James Williams 6'7" 340 lbs. 16 games 16 starts
LE Bryan Robinson 18 tackles 1/2 sack
LT Jim Flanigan 46 tackles 8 1/2 sacks
RT Mike Wells 61 tackles 3 sacks
RE Clyde Simmons 30 tackles 5 sacks
OLB Barry Minter 104 tackles 1 sack
MLB Sean Harris 87 tackles 1 int.
OLB Rico McDonald 41 tackles 1 sack
CB Walt Harris 69 tackles 4 int.
SS Tony Parrish 78 tackles 1 int.
FS Chris Hudson 47 tackles 3 int.
CB Tom Carter 9 tackles 2 int.
P Todd Sauerbrun 15 punts 49.4 avg.
 New acquisition (R) Rookie (statistics for final college
year) *PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 122)