GRAND PRE HOPES DASHED
Sorry, fans, but without exhibition games, it’s unlikely that Foles will unseat Trubisky
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.
Incumbent QB Mitch Trubisky would seem to be the beneficiary of the cancellation of preseason games.
Bears fans are hoping that Nick Foles can recapture his Super Bowl MVP form.
Matt Nagy CRAIG LASSIG/AP