BEARS DECIDE TO STICK WITH TRUBISKY AS STARTING QB AFTER COMPETITION WITH FOLES THAT SETTLED VERY LITTLE
Meet the new Bears quarterback — same as the old one.
Mitch Trubisky, who watched the Bears decline his fifthyear option a few weeks after they traded for challenger Nick Foles this offseason, was named the starter Friday, sources confirmed to the Sun-Times.
When Trubisky takes the field in the season opener Sept. 13 in Detroit, he’ll have likely his last chance to impact the team that traded up to draft him second overall in 2017 — infamously ahead of both the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes, who became both an NFL MVP and Super Bowl MVP, and Texans star Deshaun Watson.
After declaring unwavering support for Trubisky during his first three seasons, Bears general manager Ryan Pace — the man behind the draft-day swap — made his first public admission in March that Trubisky wasn’t the long-term answer. Later that month, he agreed to send the Jaguars a fourth-round pick for Foles, who restructured his contract into a threeyear, $24 million deal. Pace didn’t pick up Trubisky’s 2021 option, worth $24.8 million, in May, sending him toward free agency at the end of this season.
Many thought Pace didn’t go far enough in adding competition for Trubisky, who was one of the NFL’s worst quarterbacks in 2019. Among QBs with more than 100 pass attempts, he ranked 32nd with an 83.0 passer rating. The Bears were bewildered at times by his decision-making.
Trubisky’s performance was a disappointment for a team that expected him to make a significant leap in his second season under coach Matt Nagy. The year before, Trubisky had a 95.4 passer rating — 17th in the league. He went 11-3 and marched the Bears downfield in the final seconds of their wild-card playoff game against Foles’ Eagles at Soldier Field, only for kicker Cody Parkey to double-doink what would have been the game-winning field goal. Trubisky made the Pro Bowl, albeit as a replacement for Super Bowlbound Jared Goff of the Rams.
He spent this offseason working on his footwork and throwing motion and getting his left shoulder surgically fixed after it limited his ability and appetite to run last year. He threw on empty high school fields while Foles and his pregnant wife were in Southern California.
In a tactical change from recent years, Nagy planned to play his quarterbacks in preseason games this year, believing it was the fairest way to pick a starter. However, coronavirus concerns scuttled all
preseason games and shrank training camp into 2½ weeks of padded practice.
To say Trubisky “beat out” Foles during camp would be a misnomer. Neither was sharp. The Bears had hoped one would pull away from the other, but it never happened. “It’s not clear-cut,” Nagy said Wednesday. The Bears’ self-described “open competition” was just that. Trubisky and Foles spent the preseason splitting reps precisely in half, ensuring each quarterback got the same number of throws on the same types of plays.
After camp ended Thursday, Nagy began a quarterback conclave at Halas Hall. Alongside offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo, passing game coordinator Dave Ragone and other assistants, he examined every throw the quarterbacks made in practice. Coaches picked apart not only their accuracy but the reasoning behind every decision.
Foles likely received the benefit of the doubt in the room — Nagy, Lazor and DeFilippo had all coached him at previous stops. But Nagy hinted that history might not have much sway when he offered Thursday that he’d never been a play-caller with Foles as a starter.
Both Pace and Nagy said when they traded for Foles that the competition would make both quarterbacks better. But there was no evidence it did. And the Bears might actually have doomed themselves to the worst of both worlds; not only did each QB fail to distinguish himself in camp, but Trubisky probably took fewer snaps than any other No. 1 quarterback during the shortest, most abrupt preseason in modern NFL history.
That feels like a recipe for failure — although Nagy said Wednesday that the influence one quarterback has on another isn’t necessarily seen on the practice field.
“What I think is that both quarterbacks in the meeting rooms, off the field, relationship-wise, they’re making each other better, which is what was expected just because they’re good people,” Nagy said
“On the field, they’re both so laser-focused at trying to be the best quarterback that they can that whenever a play goes on, if one sees something, usually the other one is in the next play. So he can’t tell that player in practice because one’s in and the other is out. They have to talk on the sideline. So a lot of those discussions go on in the meeting room.”
The conversations can now take place on the field. Trubisky will take all starting snaps beginning with Sunday’s practice. Foles will inherit the role for which he was so famous with the Eagles: mentor and bullpen arm.
He took over for an injured Carson Wentz and started the Eagles’ final three games of the 2017 season, then rattled off two playoff wins to reach the Super Bowl. He went 28for-43 for 373 yards, three touchdown passes and one interception — and one infamous scoring catch — to help beat the Patriots and win Super Bowl MVP.
The following season, he replaced Wentz, who was injured again, as the Eagles eked out a playoff berth.
Seeking a starting job, Foles signed the largest contract of the 2019 offseason — $88 million over four years — to join the Jaguars. He broke his clavicle in the season opener, finished the season 0-4 and lost his starting job to rookie Gardner Minshew.
Foles took a pay cut to join the Bears, believing he had a better opportunity to start. He might still be correct — Nagy has said the quarterback competition won’t end after kickoff in Week 1.
Trubisky, though, will be given the first chance to succeed — or fail. ✶
Mitch Trubisky will have a chance to erase memories of an ugly 2019 season in which the Bears missed the playoffs and he finished 32nd in passer rating among QBs with more than 100 pass attempts.
Nick Foles, the 2018 Super Bowl MVP brought in via trade in March to challenge Trubisky for the starting spot, failed to distinguish himself — as did Trubisky — and will be on standby in a backup role.