GRAND PRE HOPES DASHED

Sorry, fans, but with­out ex­hi­bi­tion games, it’s un­likely that Foles will un­seat Tru­bisky

Chicago Sun-Times - - SPORTS - RICK MOR­RIS­SEY rmor­ris­sey@sun­times.com | @Mor­ris­seyCST

Nor­mally, the deep-six­ing of the NFL pre­sea­son sched­ule would be cause for cel­e­bra­tion. Noth­ing makes a man con­tem­plate the state of his pa­thetic life quite like the fourth quar­ter of the fourth pre­sea­son game. Watch­ing coaches scream at play­ers you’ve never heard of and will never hear of again is a cry for help.

But this year, we in Chicago looked for­ward to pre­sea­son games more than would be con­sid­ered healthy by men­tal health pro­fes­sion­als. That’s be­cause a very pub­lic quar­ter­back com­pe­ti­tion was sup­posed to take place be­tween Mitch Tru­bisky and Nick Foles. Bears coach Matt Nagy, end­ing his too-cool-forschool ap­proach to pre­sea­son games, fi­nally ad­mit­ted after the 2019 sea­son that per­haps Tru­bisky wasn’t as good as the pile of su­perla­tives he had been pil­ing on his quar­ter­back might have sug­gested. Maybe Mitch needed pre­sea­son-game snaps, Nagy said. Imag­ine that, we said.

When the Bears traded for Foles in March and paid him a ton of money, those un­watch­able ex­hi­bi­tion games sud­denly be­came must-see TV. Tru­bisky vs. Foles and may the bet­ter man named Foles win.

But, then, Tues­day. On that day, the play­ers’ union in­formed mem­ber­ship that the NFL had agreed to can­cel pre­sea­son games this sum­mer be­cause of COVID-19. Bum­mer.

It looks like no in-game bat­tles be­tween two mid­dling Bears quar­ter­backs.

No show­down at the Just OK Corral.

What this means, I be­lieve, is that Mitch Is Your Quar­ter­back.

It leaves me torn. One part of me, the part that just wrote seven para­graphs be­moan­ing the elim­i­na­tion of four Bears pre­sea­son games, is both­ered that Foles won’t have “real’’ ac­tion to prove he’s the bet­ter quar­ter­back. The other part of me, the one that has to churn out col­umns, knows that the po­lar­iz­ing Tru­bisky is col­umn gold. And he’s only col­umn gold if he’s the starter.

It’s pos­si­ble the Bears are still so emo­tion­ally in­vested in Tru­bisky that he would have won the QB com­pe­ti­tion even if there were pre­sea­son games. But it would have been nice to know for sure.

Now we’re left with a com­pe­ti­tion that will be in the eye of the be­holder and won’t be found in the black and white of a pre­sea­son-game stat sheet. And be­cause of the pan­demic, there won’t be many eyes do­ing the be­hold­ing. Me­dia mem­bers will be able to watch prac­tices, but fans won’t. The first two or three weeks of camp could be ded­i­cated solely

to con­di­tion­ing be­cause the virus has dis­rupted play­ers’ off­sea­son work­out rou­tines. Those are weeks Foles won’t get back in terms of com­pe­ti­tion.

Foles, who has played for Nagy, of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Bill La­zor and quar­ter­backs coach John DeFilippo dur­ing his eight-year ca­reer, will know the of­fense thor­oughly when he re­ports to camp next week. But he won’t have his ri­val’s fa­mil­iar­ity with Bears play­ers.

Tru­bisky is the king of the off­sea­son throw­ing pro­gram. Team­mates walk away from these in­for­mal ses­sions de­scrib­ing him in terms usu­ally re­served for Tom Brady. Amaz­ing ac­cu­racy. Can­non for an arm. Pos­si­bly plugged into a higher power.

Then train­ing camp starts. Those of you hop­ing for a change at quar­ter­back can hold on to Tru­bisky’s poor per­for­mance in last year’s camp. Ev­ery day seemed to come with an in­ter­cep­tion. By the time the reg­u­lar sea­son ar­rived, even Nagy’s sug­ary ad­jec­tives were rolling their eyes. Hav­ing a bad camp with Chase Daniel as your com­pe­ti­tion isn’t a rea­son for job in­se­cu­rity. Hav­ing it with Foles around should be.

Will it? I don’t think so, not with train­ing camp so al­tered. It’s time for a change at quar­ter­back, but there might not be enough time for Foles to sell him­self. There cer­tainly won’t be enough games.

And there’s still a strong strain of Mitch love at Halas Hall. In Tru­bisky’s first three sea­sons, the Bears went out of their way not to crit­i­cize him. Hard to be­lieve in the space of what will be a four- or five-week com­pe­ti­tion with­out pre­sea­son games that they’ll take away his start­ing job. It wouldn’t seem con­sis­tent with the del­i­cate way they’ve treated him to date.

Foles won the Su­per Bowl MVP award when he led the Ea­gles to the ti­tle three years ago. That was, by far, his best sea­son. It’s the sea­son Bears fans dream about when they think of him as their starter.

Some just dream about Any­body But Mitch.

Some days I have that same dream. Other days, I dream of Tru­bisky con­tin­u­ing to pro­vide steady col­umn fod­der.

If the com­pe­ti­tion is real, if it’s what the Bears said it was go­ing to be, then the ab­sence of pre­sea­son games this year points to Tru­bisky run­ning onto the field with the starters when their sea­son starts Sept. 13 in Detroit. Strange but prob­a­bly true. And good for busi­ness — mine.

DY­LAN BUELL/GETTY IM­AGES

In­cum­bent QB Mitch Tru­bisky would seem to be the ben­e­fi­ciary of the can­cel­la­tion of pre­sea­son games.

JULIO AGUILAR/GETTY IM­AGES

Bears fans are hop­ing that Nick Foles can re­cap­ture his Su­per Bowl MVP form.

Matt Nagy CRAIG LASSIG/AP

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