GRIFFITH | Long before Michael Vick, Colin Kaepernick and Robert Griffin III trespassed into secondaries with impunity, the Bears employed a quarterback with a howitzer left arm and the propensity to leave the pocket well behind him.
"It wasn't as common as it has become today," former Bears QB Bobby Douglass said. "I guess you can say I was ahead of my time.
"Back then, not too many teams wanted their quarterbacks running around. They were too worried about them getting hurt."
That's still a concern today. Injuries have sidelined both Vick and RG III, along with other running quarterbacks.
Douglass was on hand to sign autographs Nov. 4 at Bridges' Scoreboard Restaurant and Sports Bar during the Bears' Monday Night Football win over Green Bay.
After 11 seasons in the NFL, Douglass says that his body emerged relatively unscathed, though he is embroiled in a lawsuit with the NFL and helmet manufacturer Riddell due to concussions he suffered.
"I did hurt my knee once, but I did that to myself," said Douglass, 66, of Lake Forest. "I planted my foot to make a cut, and I twisted it."
Douglass has the distinction of owning an NFL record that stood for 34 years — most rushing yards by a quarterback (968). In 2006, Vick surpassed it with 1,039 yards. Vick set the record during a 16-game season; Douglass's mark was set in a 14-game season. Though Vick had 990 yards through 14 games, Douglass averaged more yards per game (69.1 to 64.9).
Douglass played with the Bears during a stretch that made the Dave Wannstedt era seem bearable.
"We were not a very good football team," said Douglass, who had a 13-31-1 record as the Bears starter. "There had been a merger between the NFL and the (American Football League), and that changed everything. Not only did the AFL bring in their high-powered offenses, but suddenly there was a lot more money in the league.
"There were more teams with richer owners willing to spend more for players. The Bears weren't one of these teams. I mean Mike Ditka didn't leave the Bears because they could pay him; he left because they couldn't pay him."
Douglass said he wasn't the only quarterback saddled with a losing situation. Douglass relieved Archie Manning for an entire season during a stint with Saints, while Manning recuperated from a shoulder injury.
"It often comes down to being surrounded by the right players. Look at Archie Manning," Douglass said. "We all know about his sons Peyton and Eli and the Super Bowls they won. Well, I played with their father and he was just as good as both of them, but he was never on the right team."
Quarterbacking in an aerial-unfriendly era, Douglass' passing stats will never be compared with Archie's, Peyton's or Eli's. He completed just 43 percent of his attempts and threw 36 TDs to 64 interceptions.
But you can't blame that on his arm.
"I had the strongest arm in the league," Douglass said when someone suggested he had one of the strongest. "I say in my prime, I could throw it 90 yards."
How far could he throw today?
"Probably about 75," Douglass said. "That just 15 yards off, but really that's a big difference."