Hoge: Easy to appreciate Robert Quinn in a lost Bears season


It’s not easy to break a sack record when the opponent is scared to throw the football.

Robert Quinn did it anyway.

“People didn't let me forget about it all day so I was trying to just brush it off and play football,” Quinn said, referencing the limited opportunities he had to rush the passer in the Bears’ 29-3 win over the Giants Sunday at Soldier Field.

Giants quarterback — and former Bears frontman — Mike Glennon only dropped back 15 times in a game New York trailed in all day, which stalled Quinn’s chance to pass Richard Dent’s single-season Bears record for sacks (17.5 in 1984). But Quinn kept coming anyway, just barely missing a couple of opportunities. Finally, with 8:34 left in the fourth quarter, Quinn broke through and strip-sacked Glennon to earn his 18th sack on the season and 100th in his career.

“I had that one good jump and I knew I had the corner,” Quinn said. “So the quarterback was still there, the secondary had their man, the guys held up and I was able to make history. So thank you to everyone on defense that was out there with me to allow that to happen.”

Since Quinn isn’t one to take any credit, Bears head coach Matt Nagy stepped in to make the moment even better. With the Bears leading 29-3 and the clock bleeding, Nagy called timeout to allow the Soldier Field crowd to give Quinn the recognition he deserves.

“It just was natural for me to do that,” Nagy said. "Obviously, to be in a position where you can do that, using a timeout in that position doesn’t hurt your team. So, it just pays respect from all of us as coaches and players to him, how much we appreciate … He’d be the last person to tell you that he wants any attention but he deserves it.”

Naturally, the pass rusher was busy getting ready for the next snap and was caught off guard by the timeout.

“I was trying to figure out, was going on, why did we stop? For them to do that, I don't know, I guess it just shows a little respect,” Quinn said. “It's an honor for them to even do that.”

It was a nice moment in an otherwise forgettable season for the Bears. What Quinn has managed to do in 2021 has caught everyone off guard, considering he only had two sacks in 2020 in the first year of a 5-year, $70 million contract.

As recently as last summer, Quinn’s contract was in competition with Glennon’s as the worst of the Ryan Pace era, so it’s fitting — or, at least something — that the record-clinching sack came on the Giants’ quarterback.

Of course, if anyone was going to fight back from a forgettable 2020 and dominate 2021, it was Quinn, who has been fighting back since he collapsed and was told he had a brain tumor when he was 17 years old.

“Doing that in football is easy. And I say that because I have some life stories that are a little tougher to come through,” Quinn said. “Of course you all know that overcoming a terrible season is pretty easy compared to being 17, laying in a hospital bed and thinking you might not make it. So, football’s football and life’s a little more important to me.”

Now 31, Quinn might be having the best season of a potential Hall-of-Fame career. And he might not be done terrorizing quarterbacks in a Bears uniform, which seemed hard to believe a year ago when he was struggling. But some players were impacted by the 2020 COVID year more than others. With all the restrictions in place, Quinn was away from his family for most of the season. He was also in a new city and dealing with multiple injuries. It was obvious early in training camp this summer that he was refreshed and ready to bounce back with a positive attitude. But his play on the field — particularly the way he was bending around the edge early in the season — proved it could actually happen.

Saturday, Quinn had an opportunity to speak with Dent ahead of breaking his 37-year-old record.

“I think it was quite funny — he said he had 17.5 (sacks) and only started 10 games, so he let me know the company I was in,” Quinn said. “He threw that comment out there and that one kinda stuck with me. But, you look up his career and no matter if he started 16 or 10 games, his career holds up on its own. That’s why he’s in the Hall of Fame, of course.”

Asked if Dent indicated whether or not he wanted Quinn to break his record, the pass rusher laughed and said: “Does anybody want their records broken? I think he was excited, but not really, you know?”

For the record, Dent still played in 16 games in 1984. Still, it means something that Quinn was able to break the record without needing the new 17th game on the schedule.

Regardless, for one day in a lost season, Quinn’s 18th sack gave the Bears and their fans something special to be excited about.

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