The Chicago Bears 2022 offseason was a fun ride for several reasons. First, there’s a new coaching staff in town. And with it comes a different approach to team building, on-field strategy, and pecking order on the depth chart. Second, quarterback Justin Fields is officially ‘the man’ in Chicago. Unlike last year this time, when he had no realistic chance to become the opening-day starter, Fields is now the team’s unquestioned franchise player. Finally, the Bears added new faces to the roster who offer upside on offense and defense.
But not all was rosy in and around Halas Hall over the last few months. Not every player is positioned for a career year, and not every veteran bought into coach Matt Eberflus’ approach. At least, not yet.
Any conversation about the Bears’ offseason disappointments begins with Robert Quinn. The 11-year veteran set Chicago’s single-season sack record in 2021 but followed it up by not showing up to any of Eberflus’ offseason program. He missed all the voluntary and mandatory workouts, ranging from OTAs to minicamps. He should report to training camp on time later next month, but his absence has been a stain on an otherwise encouraging spring and early summer.
There has been speculation that Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Poles was planning on trading Quinn, but that’s been dismissed as nothing more than offseason fodder. Quinn said in April that he hoped to remain a Bear even if a rebuild wasn’t something that he wanted to describe the 2022 season as.
“I don’t think that’s the right way we should phrase it, because people in — the guys in the building are professionals, and I think everyone carries themselves to high expectations,” Quinn said. “I believe, me personally, no player is better than me, and I believe everyone else should carry themselves the same way. So to say, ‘a rebuild’ is, I guess, a funny word. I think it’s just getting guys to believe who they truly are and perform at their high level of expectations because everyone’s talented enough, because they’re here. Now you’ve just got to go prove it.”
Quinn certainly sounded like the kind of leader who’d be an asset to a young team and new coaching staff. But he disappeared into the shadows of his workout program after his comments, leaving Eberflus and the rest of the Bears coaches frustrated.
“I don’t have emotion with that either way,” Eberflus said of Quinn’s absence last week. “When Robert is here, I’ll talk to him. He and I will sit down and visit man-to-man, and we’ll go from there.”
Much is riding on Robert Quinn having another productive season in 2022. All-Pro Khalil Mack was traded to the Los Angeles Chargers this offseason, leaving Quinn the headliner of the Chicago Bears pass-rushers. If he isn’t motivated to play at his record-setting level, the negative impact will affect the rest of the defense. His teammates, like Eddie Jackson, however, aren’t concerned.
“It’s Rob,” safety Jackson said. “He’s been in the league for a while, and I’m pretty sure he has his reasons, and we’re just waiting on him to come back. We know he’s going to come back in tip-top (shape).”
Quinn’s decision to train on his own isn’t a new phenomenon. Veterans with his experience have done this before. But what makes Quinn’s absence noteworthy is that he isn’t embracing a leadership role. And that’s a problem, no matter what Jackson or the rest of his teammates say right now.
Hopefully, Robert Quinn will enjoy another double-digit sack season in 2022. But if he gets off to a slow start, his offseason disappearing act will be highlighted as a big reason why. And it’ll be his fault.
Some will point to Chicago’s failure to add a big-ticket wide receiver as the offseason’s biggest disappointment. Others will say the Mack trade was a buzzkill. But it’s Quinn’s absence that’s been the most frustrating. And because of that, he’s the biggest bummer.
Bryan is the founder and managing editor of Bears Talk. His previous stops include Bears coverage for NBC Sports Chicago and USA Today. His NFL Draft and Bears coverage has also been featured on The Draft Network.