Former Gamecock QB Connor Shaw has last preseason audition Thursday night
The NFL is a business, and Connor Shaw knows the odds facing him are much less than ideal.
Chicago shelled out over $18 million in guaranteed dollars to sign quarterback Mike Glennon in the offseason, then drafted Mitchell Trubisky with the second overall pick. Regardless of how that made Glennon feel, the Bears have two QBs on the roster that they’ve invested a lot of money in.
The other two quarterbacks on the preseason roster, Shaw and Mark Sanchez, are on equal ground far behind Glennon and Trubisky. Bears coach John Fox said that he wants Sanchez to be a backup quarterback, yet he didn’t play in Chicago’s 19-7 win over Tennessee Sunday and he won’t play in Thursday’s preseason finale against Cleveland.
Shaw and Trubisky get the nod against the Browns. Trubisky may not even have to show up to clinch his spot on the 53-man roster, which will be finalized Sunday.
For Shaw, who got his first action in a year against the Titans after a gruesome broken leg during last year’s preseason, it’s one last chance to impress the Bears’ brass and prove he can be the No. 3 QB – or higher, if they need him to be.
“Playing on Sunday was a big deal for me. It’s been a year exactly since I got any action,” Shaw said Tuesday after practice. “I’m confident, but it is kind of uncertain what’s going to happen here. But a lot of guys in the NFL are facing that right now.”
Shaw’s been through it before. Nobody won more games than he did during a magnificent career at South Carolina, the Gamecocks rallying behind his never-say-die fierceness and his ability to transform the most awful of circumstances into a USC victory. It’s a testament to that toughness that he’s stuck in the NFL as long as he has.
Yet it always comes back to the same story – the NFL doesn’t look at the film, it looks at the measurables. Executives and coaches don’t see the man who won 27 games, threw for over 6,000 yards and was responsible for 74 touchdowns in four years at USC.
They see a 6-foot runt who was really good in college, just like a lot of other bigger, stronger, faster quarterbacks that did well in the shuttle drill on Pro Day. Shaw’s passes do stay in the air an awfully long time for an NFL quarterback, but the way he devours film, inspires teammates and knows how to win the game has given him a spot in the league.
He started his only professional game for the Browns in 2014, then sat out the 2015 season with torn ligaments in his thumb. He played a bit in the preseason last year, but the leg injury put him on injured reserve for the season.
Shaw was given a second chance during spring workouts, being waived and un-waived the same day. Told he was released and having packed up the car to come home to South Carolina, Shaw got a call halfway through the drive to come back. Sanchez had hurt his knee and the Bears needed another QB, one who knew the offense even though his leg was still recovering.
He stuck through training camp and this preseason, his family able to visit occasionally (Shaw and wife Molly have two children) as he returned to full health. He got a few minutes against the Titans, completing 2 of 3 passes for 22 yards, and should play a lot Thursday night.
Sticking on the roster is dicey at best, but it’s not something he’s thinking about. While admitting he hasn’t made a backup plan in case football does disappear, he knows everything will work out.
“I don’t think you can do that. It’s a disservice to yourself to think about anything other than what I have to do on Thursday and adapt to whatever happens next,” Shaw said. “I have full confidence that if I don’t ever pick up a football again, there’s a bigger plan in place that I may not know about.”