The Chicago Bears secured the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft on Sunday after their loss to the Minnesota Vikings and Houston’s last-minute victory over the Indianapolis Colts.
The Texans held the first pick coming into Sunday, but their win against the Colts moved them to the second pick. Houston trailed, 31-24, with 50 seconds remaining, but quarterback Davis Mills completed an improbable touchdown pass on 4th-and-20, and the Texans converted a two-point conversion to take a 32-31 lead and an eventual victory.
Texans coach Lovie Smith did not apologize for his decision — far from it.
“Each week, our game plan has been to win the game. Simple as that. And that’s what we followed through on today,” Smith told reporters following the win, soundly rejecting the idea that the team should have played to lose.
“So you’re saying, ‘Hey guys, all this you’ve been working for all your lives. You play to win. Forget that. Lose the game on purpose.’ I think that would be a hard one to get by,” Smith said, “they wouldn’t expect me to say that. I didn’t.”
There was no gray area in the matter as far as former NFL head coach Chuck Pagano, an analyst of The 33rd Team, is concerned.
“Lovie and that coaching staff and all those players that stepped on that field, they have one goal, and one goal only – to win that game,” Pagano said. “Having the first pick overall and losing that opportunity to have the No. 1 overall, no way, no way.
“If it meant you’re going to lose your job over winning this game then Lovie can wake up and look at himself in the mirror, along with the entire coaching staff and all those players and say, ‘We did it the right way.’ ”
Not everyone in the NFL community would agree that winning was in the Texans’ best interest.
“The truth is, the Texans would have been better off if they had lost this game,” analyst Joe Banner of The 33rd Team said. “It’s hard to tell that to the players, especially having a coach (Lovie Smith) trying to save his job.”
In The 33rd Team’s latest mock draft, the Bears selected Alabama edge rusher Will Anderson, and the Texans took Alabama quarterback Bryce Young. The order has flipped with Sunday’s results, and two analysts for The 33rd Team believe the Bears, despite having Justin Fields, should take a quarterback with the top overall pick.
“In my opinion, Houston and Chicago both need quarterbacks,” said Mike Tannenbaum, former GM of the Jets and Dolphins. “Houston winning might cost them Bryce Young. If I were the Bears, I would take Young and build around him over Justin Fields.”
Banner, a former front-office executive for the Philadelphia Eagles and Cleveland Browns, agreed.
“I don’t believe the Bears have the quarterback who can take them to a place where they are competing with the best teams in the league on a regular basis,” Banner said. “They should use this pick on a quarterback and reject the temptation to trade it for a bundle of picks. I would then turn around and see if Fields has trade value.”
“If there is a team that needs a quarterback and loved (Fields) in the draft, (the Bears) may be able to get some value. It won’t be close to what they could get for the pick, but they should go all in on the new quarterback, especially now that Fields has value.”
Former Bears head coach and analyst for The 33rd Team Dave Wannstedt, on the other hand, is firmly behind Justin Fields.
“[Fields] is the quarterback for the future,” Wannstedt said, “he proved this year that with a limited offense line — an inexperienced offensive line — and limited receivers that this kid was able to move the pocket, throw the football accurately, and run the offense… Overall, Justin Fields is going to be fine.”
The Bears will have no shortage of options with their top pick. T.J. McCreight, former director of scouting for the Indianapolis Colts and a personnel executive with the Eagles, also thinks the Bears already have their franchise quarterback and could look to sell the top pick for a high price tag.
“Now that the Bears have the No. 1 pick look for them to auction the pick off to the highest bidder. Chicago can move that pick for several additional selections and perhaps a future first-round pick as well to a team in need of their future franchise quarterback.”
“There is still a chance that the Bears will get the player they want if they are picking in the top 10 (after a trade down).”
This is the first time the Bears have held the first overall pick in the draft since 1947.