It is fitting that in the Land of Lincoln, the Chicago Bears will add to their futile search for a star quarterback this weekend when Jimmy Clausen starts over the benched Jay Cutler. For years in my classroom I have used a comparison of the Bears QB merry go round to the Army of the Potomac’s search for a commander during the Civil War’s early years. Now I will admit it is with a tremendous amount of glee that I, a product of the 1980s when Mike Ditka’s Bears humiliated and embarrassed my Packers, can add Cutler to this incredible list of futility while the Packers’ list of starters stands at 5 for that same time period. And I also acknowledge this is an analogy with holes but it seems to get the attention of my students so bear with me.
I begin this brief lesson with photographs of the former Packers quarterback, Don “the Majik Man” Majkowski and the Confederacy’s Joseph E. Johnston. The Majik Man helped pivot the Packers out of the dismal 1980s and provided hope to Green Bay with his blond mullet and ability to win games in the final moments. Johnston was a well respected general when Jefferson Davis ordered him to defend Richmond from McClellan’s 1862 advance up the Peninsula. Both, however, would suffer injuries (Majik his ankle and Johnston, his shoulder) that provided opportunities for their “back ups,” Brett Favre and Robert E. Lee, to step in under center. Let me state clearly that I particularly do not like to equate the Confederacy to the Packers but for this analogy of leadership, I have discovered it hooks my students into a discussion of Civil War leadership. Besides that, Packers fans owe a tremendous amount of love to the South for Bart Starr, an Alabama native, and Mississippi’s Brett Favre. Although I suppose Favre’s nasty departure from the Pack and time as a Minnesota Viking could somehow be equated to secession, treason or rebellion but in Wisconsin that can be as contentious a topic as the Civil War is to some historians. So allow me to digress back to this post’s original analogy.
I then show photographs of Favre and Lee and explain that their brilliance blocked their predecessors from ever stepping back into those leadership positions. Don Majkowski played a few subpar seasons for the Indianapolis Colts and Detroit Lions and Johnston was sent to the war’s Western Theater where he earned the nickname, “The great Retreater,” for his efforts around Atlanta. A collage of all the Bears’ attempts at quarterback since 1992, which will total approximately 27 (according to this website) this Sunday, illustrates how stability at the Quarterback position dictates success. A similar arrangement of Lincoln’s failed commanders of the Army of Potomac continues this theme of leadership. One reason the South was able to lengthen and nearly win the Civil War was due to the stability Lee provided between 1861-1863.
Of course the analogy ends when Lincoln appointed Ullysses Grant as his general-in-chief. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia was worn down during the Overland Campaign and Grant’s relentless attacks forced Lee’s surrender at Appomattox.
The Bears, however, continue their crummy luck finding a consistent winner. So as I watch Chicago start yet another quarterback against the Lions Sunday I will gloat over their continued quarterback miseries and update my lecture notes to include Mr. Jimmy Clausen.