Sunday, December 31st was a nail-biter day for Chicago Bears fans and it had nothing to do with the Bears taking on the Atlanta Falcons for their last home game of the season. In fact, it had everything to do with a former Iowa Hawkeye making his first NFL start since 2020.

Iowa fans remember C. J. Beathard's career as a Hawkeye, most specifically his 2015 campaign where he helped lead the team to a 12-2 record (including a perfect 8-0 record in the Big Ten). Beathard's NFL career has mostly been relegated to being a backup quarterback, most notably during his time with the San Francisco 49ers when he filled in for the injured Jimmy Garoppolo on multiple occasions.

With Jacksonville Jaguars incumbent starting quarterback Trevor Lawrence suffering multiple injuries over the last several weeks, Beathard was thrust into the role of starting QB for the first time since 2020. The Jaguars were taking on the lowly Carolina Panthers, the NFL's worst team, at home on Sunday.

Here's where the Bears come into play. The Bears own Carolina's first-round draft pick in the upcoming 2024 NFL Draft. If Jacksonville won, that pick would be the first overall pick in the draft, an invaluable asset in a draft that's supposedly rife with talent at the quarterback position.

Photo Credit: Hannah Foslien, Getty Images
Photo Credit: Hannah Foslien, Getty Images

Beathard was efficient and reliable for the Jaguars in what amounted to a 26-0 shutout of the Carolina Panthers, who dropped to a league-worst 2-15 record with the loss. Beathard wasn't spectacular, but he didn't need to be, with Jaguars running back Travis Etienne Jr. doing the heavy-lifting on the ground. Beathard went 17 for 24 and 178 yards, no touchdowns/no turnovers, to rout the Panthers.

The Jaguars' victory secured the Bears the right to pick first in the 2024 NFL Draft. Whether the Bears select a new signal caller with the #1 pick or stick with Justin Fields remains to be seen, but to have that asset (for the second consecutive year) is absolutely major. And as a Bears fan, I couldn't be happier.

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Read more about C. J. Beathard and the Jaguars' takedown of the Carolina Panthers on Sports Illustrated's website.

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