NICK AND MITCH TALK QB DERBY
With Foles waiting in the wings, Trubisky has far less wiggle room than he enjoyed in the last two seasons
The vibes coming from Bears quarterbacks Mitch Trubisky and Nick Foles as they head into a pivotal competition couldn’t be more different.
Foles popped onto a Zoom call Friday afternoon exuding calmness and seemed almost carefree as he talked about gunning for the job but being content with however it turned out. At this stage of his career, he’s confident in who he is and what he can do.
Trubisky arrived at training camp feeling far more pressure. He has yet to find a groove as he enters his fourth season, and he’s still searching for consistency that seems to have eluded him since college, when he held North Carolina’s starting job for one season and went 8-5.
Now, after the Bears blitzed him with the trade for Foles (“I was kind of pissed off in a good way,” Trubisky said in June) and rejected his fifth-year option while he recovered from surgery on his non-throwing shoulder, he’s scrambling to stick around.
Foles’ contract is guaranteed through 2022, making him the ideal bridge to a new quarterback. Trubisky is headed toward an uncertain free-agent market in a matter of months.
He spent the offseason with a new trainer at SPEAR in Vernon Hills and reworked his mechanics and footwork under quarterback guru Jeff Christiansen. He also got an eyeful of his 2019 film, leaving no ambiguity about how much work he needs to do.
“I watched a lot of ball over this past year and over the summer, and you see the mistakes,” Trubisky said. “You see really good plays. You see some really bad plays. And you see some dumb things that just shouldn’t happen.”
Those “dumb things” were very likely what coach Matt Nagy had in mind over the last eight months when he volunteered that Trubisky needs improvement on mastering the offense and reading coverage.
Those flaws were central to Trubisky’s nosedive, which was central to the Bears’ flop in a season that began with Super Bowl dreams. The upside, he believes, is that it’s clear what he must fix.
“Just seeing the mistakes I made last year and just knowing that all of them are easily correctable, that gives me confidence going into the future,” Trubisky said.
But if they’re so easily correctable, why weren’t they corrected?
His passer rating plunged from 95.4 the season before to 83.0, he threw just 17 touchdown passes (three coming against playoff teams) in 15 games and his completion percentage dipped by a few points. No starting quarterback in the NFL produced less than his 6.1 yards per attempt.
That’s not the whole story, but it’s a reasonable quantification of how little Trubisky helped his team last season.
Sure, the Bears had problems on the offensive line, at tight end and in the running game, but Trubisky didn’t do much to help them overcome those deficiencies. Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers make it work regardless of their surroundings, and any team that has given up on measuring its quarterback against players of that caliber might as well move on from him.
Meanwhile, as part of Nagy’s vision to mold him into a pure pocket passer, Trubisky was no longer any threat as a runner. In 2018, his best season, he averaged 30.1 yards rushing per game and finished fifth among quarterbacks with 421 total. He was at 7.3 yards through 11 games last season before cutting loose for 63 against the Cowboys.
As if he didn’t have enough buzzing in his head already, Trubisky no longer has the unwavering support of a coaching staff that safeguarded him the last two seasons. It’s not that the coaches don’t support him, but the coddling is undoubtedly done.
New offensive coordinator Bill Lazor and quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo would balk at being labeled “Foles guys,” but they’ve coached him before and are new to Trubisky. Lazor was the Eagles’ quarterbacks coach when Foles had a career year in 2013. Nagy coached Foles, too, in 2012 with the Eagles and ’16 with the Chiefs. The other voice in the room is passing game coordinator Dave Ragone, who has been with Trubisky since the day the Bears drafted him.
“Between Flip and Bill and Rags and myself, we just have really good open communications,” Nagy said. “One thing that you see constant with [Foles and Trubisky] is that they’re very committed to being the best quarterback that they can be.
“We’re all kind of refocusing. We all have our own stories from last year, and that thing’s in the past.”
Except that it’s not. The past is never truly buried, and clean slates don’t actually exist in sports. There’s already a book on Trubisky, and the narrative will continue if he repeats the same errors that brought him to a point where he’s fighting for his job. It’ll be easy to connect old failures to new ones.
It’s a mountainous challenge looming when the Bears start practicing in two weeks. To prove everyone wrong, including the franchise that declined his option, Trubisky needs to transform almost everything about his game and establish himself. It’s his last chance to get it right. ✶
“We’re all kind of refocusing. We all have our own stories from last year, and that thing’s in the past.” matt nagy
The Bears chose not to pick up quarterback Mitch Trubisky’s fifth-year option. In studying film of his inconsistent 2019 season, Trubisky admitted he saw “some dumb things that just shouldn’t happen.”
Veteran quarterback Nick Foles came to the Bears in a trade with the Jaguars. His presence gives the team a viable option if Mitch Trubisky falters.