Orton keeps turning up on Bears radar

At one point or another, the Bears decided they preferred Rex Grossman, Chad Hutchinson, Brian Griese, Jay Cutler and Jason Campbell over Kyle Orton.

Since drafting Orton in the fourth round in 2005, the Bears have had a history of trying to get a better quarterback.

They were forced to start him in his rookie year after Grossman was injured and Hutchinson struggled. He won 10 games, but the next season he was demoted to third string as Grossman was healthy again and the Bears signed Griese.

In 2007 Grossman was benched, and Griese replaced him. After the Bears were out of playoff contention, Orton finally was given the last three starts of the season. He won two.

The Bears finally decided Orton was their guy in 2008. He went 9-6 in 15 starts but didn't exactly light up the scoreboards.

In the offseason, he was sent to the Broncos in the widely heralded trade for Cutler.

The Bears tried to get Orton back last season after Cutler was injured, putting a waiver claim on him. But the Chiefs had priority in the claiming order, so he was awarded to them while current Bears general manager Phil Emery was working as the team's college scouting director.

Then in the offseason the Bears had another chance to acquire Orton. Instead, they moved quickly on the more mobile Campbell. Orton hooked up with the Cowboys, and his path will intersect with the Bears again Monday night as he is Tony Romo's backup.

Have the Bears been guilty of continually underestimating Orton? With his big arm and defense-friendly, low-risk style, he might have been perfect for this team and this city.

There is no question the Bears have more potential with Cutler than they would with Orton.

Cutler has done everything better with the Bears than Orton did — except win. Cutler has had a better passer rating (80.5 to 71.1) and completion percentage (59.4 to 55.3).

It's difficult to say what Orton would have done if he had stayed with Bears. Orton's Broncos numbers actually were better than Cutler's Bears statistics have been. Orton had a better passer rating (85.7) and completion percentage (60.3).

When the Bears see him standing on the Cowboys sideline, perhaps they will think about what might have been.

Numbers gamesWinning QBs

A quarterback's won-lost record isn't necessarily the best indicator of his impact. But the statistic certainly has some merit.

Here are the 10 best Bears since 1961 based on winning percentage for at least 15 starts.

1. Jim McMahon — .754. The punky QB was nothing if not a winner. Played on a team that wasn't half bad.

2. Mike Phipps — .700. Surprised by this one? Phipps started only 20 games, but he went 9-1 during the magical 1979 season.

3. Mike Tomczak — .677. Jimmy Mac's caddie kept it going pretty well during the regular season, but he was the starter for two playoff losses.

4. Kyle Orton — .636. His 21-12 record with the Bears was reversed (12-21) with the Broncos.

5. Rex Grossman — .612. He had one great winning year, going 13-3 in the 2006 Super Bowl season.

6. Jay Cutler — .590. He was supposed to take the Bears to the next level. We're waiting.

7. Jim Miller — .576. He won 15 games in 26 starts for the Bears, going 11-2 in 2001, but he started only one other game for seven other teams in a 12-year career.

8. Rudy Bukich — .566. In 1965, Bukich was the third-leading passer in the NFL with a 93.7 rating, and he led the Bears to a 9-3 record as a starter (with a little help from two rookies named Sayers and Butkus).

9. Billy Wade — .551. He went 27-20-2 as a starter from 1961-66 after seven seasons with the Rams, and all he did was break up the Packers' NFL championship string with an 11-1-2 mark in 1963. He also led the league with a 93.7 rating in 1961. Oh, one other thing: He came out of Vanderbilt.

10. Jim Harbaugh — .538. His record as the Bears' starter was decent, but his record as the 49ers' coach is outstanding (.789).

Front office chess

Pursuing Grant

You may have heard the Bears brought in former Packers running back Ryan Grant for a workout last week. But they did more than work him out. They also offered him a contract, according to league sources.

Their timing was bad, though. The Redskins also wanted Grant, and they offered him a deal before Grant's workout with the Bears in hope he would leave Chicago immediately. Grant went through the workout and was leaning toward the Bears' offer.

But as he was on his way to take a physical exam for the Bears, he decided to take the Redskins' deal.

Why? Whereas the Bears would give him only the veteran minimum of $925,000, the Redskins offered slightly more, plus playing-time incentives. And Grant figured he had a better chance of playing for them with Roy Helu on injured reserve and their other backs not as skilled as Matt Forte.

Why did the Bears want Grant? He could have been an upgrade over Armando Allen and Kahlil Bell. With the Bears, he likely would have been the third back.

dpompei@tribune.com

Twitter @danpompei

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