Doomed to medi­ocrity?

Opt­ing to stick with Tru­bisky at quar­ter­back could be dis­ser­vice to great de­fense

Chicago Sun-Times - - BEARS BEAT - Jlieser@sun­times.com @ja­sonLieser

This has to be a joke. Maybe it’s one of those pranks that sounds funny un­til you ac­tu­ally do it. But the only ones the Bears are fool­ing are them­selves.

Af­ter ev­ery­thing Chicago has seen from Mitch Tru­bisky and ev­ery­thing the team gave up to get Nick Foles, their de­ci­sion to keep Tru­bisky as the start­ing quar­ter­back is one more rea­son to ques­tion the judg­ment of gen­eral man­ager Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy.

Nei­ther quar­ter­back is great, which is why no one sep­a­rated him­self as the clear choice the last three weeks. Nagy ad­mit­ted Thurs­day he saw neg­li­gi­ble dif­fer­ence be­tween the two.

Foles was sharper in the fi­nal two prac­tices open to the me­dia, and his over­all ré­sumé, though flawed, of­fers more cause for con­fi­dence than Tru­bisky’s.

The last thing this team needs is more Tru­bisky. How ex­actly does Nagy break this news to his de­fense af­ter Tru­bisky sank a ship that could’ve sailed to the Su­per Bowl?

Re­mem­ber the opener when the Bears smoth­ered Aaron Rodgers and held the Pack­ers to 10 points? That was a loss.

So was the Charg­ers game, when Tru­bisky blew it with an in­ter­cep­tion and a non-con­tact fum­ble in the fourth quar­ter to fall 17-16. So was the next week in Philadel­phia, when Tru­bisky led the of­fense to nine to­tal yards in the first half.

The Bears lost five times when hold­ing the op­po­nent to 22 points or fewer. NFL teams at large won 77% of the time when their de­fense played that well.

The Bears wasted a de­fense that al­lowed the fourth-fewest points and fin­ished 8-8 thanks largely to a start­ing quar­ter­back who fin­ished 28th in passer rat­ing (83) and dead last in yards per at­tempt (6.1).

For Tru­bisky, that sea­son was marked by to­tal col­lapses and re­peat­edly miss­ing plays that coaches called “lay-ups” be­cause of in­ac­cu­rate throws or bad reads. It ended with Nagy lament­ing that he didn’t have a firmer grasp of the play­book and bet­ter abil­ity to de­ci­pher cov­er­ages.

Some­how those con­cerns evap­o­rated and the Bears have con­vinced them­selves again that Tru­bisky is their best shot.

Con­cur­rently, they went from be­liev­ing so strongly that Foles would be an up­grade that they traded a fourth-round pick for him and com­mit­ted to three years, $24 mil­lion to as­sess­ing that he’s ac­tu­ally a down­grade.

It makes you won­der how much of a voice Pace had in the de­ci­sion — Nagy said they’d work to­gether on it — and whether he’s ca­pa­ble of be­ing ob­jec­tive about a player he traded up to take No. 2 over­all in 2017. He ex­plains the chasm be­tween Tru­bisky and the quar­ter­backs he missed — MVP and cham­pion Pa­trick Ma­homes, elec­tric two-time Pro Bowler De­shaun Wat­son — by say­ing dif­fer­ent play­ers de­velop at dif­fer­ent speeds.

And he’s des­per­ate for Nagy to squeeze an ad­e­quate sea­son out of him. The prob­lem, now and po­ten­tially in fu­ture sea­sons, is that ad­e­quate is the ab­so­lute ceil­ing for Tru­bisky. He was barely that in 2018, his al­leged break­out sea­son, when he erupted for six touch­downs against the Bucs and posted an 89 passer rat­ing over his other 14 games (play­offs in­cluded).

The worst thing for the Bears is for Tru­bisky to get this job and play just well enough for them to win nine games. That’s not a great sea­son re­gard­less of whether it gets them in the play­offs. And if the Bears re­ward that with a con­tract ex­ten­sion, they’ll be agree­ing to medi­ocrity at quar­ter­back for years to come.

That’s in­cred­i­bly sad and only de­lays the nec­es­sary step of fish­ing for the next as­pir­ing fran­chise quar­ter­back in the up­com­ing draft.

Foles, mean­while, has had short­falls but has a stack of big per­for­mances in big games, too. He’s also the ideal bridge to a first-round quar­ter­back in the 2021 draft.

But as it’s been for most of the Bears’ cen­tury of ex­is­tence, their quar­ter­back sit­u­a­tion is far from ideal. At least we’re used to it. ✶

CHARLES REX ARBOGAST/AP

Mitch Tru­bisky fin­ished 28th in passer rat­ing in 2019 and was last in yards per at­tempt. But he was named the start­ing quar­ter­back over Nick Foles.

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