When is it right to mull QB change?

Chicago Tribune (Sunday) - - BEARS - By Dan Wiederer

The de­ci­sion on whether Mitch Tru­bisky will start Sun­day against the Giants at Sol­dier Field will be based pri­mar­ily on how his right hip feels. Will the hip pointer he suf­fered last week against the Rams heal fast enough for him to make his throws with the proper me­chan­ics and his de­ci­sions with the proper speed and savvy?

By all ac­counts, Tru­bisky threw the ball well in prac­tice all week and is ex­pected to play. Coach Matt Nagy on Fri­day ex­pressed hope that Tru­bisky was on the right track.

“When he’s in that much pain at the end of the game there last week, you never re­ally know ex­actly what’s go­ing to hap­pen in the next cou­ple days,” Nagy said. “But it doesn’t sur­prise me that he’s go­ing to re­hab and work hard and do ev­ery­thing he can to try (to) get that pain level down so that he can play. And that’s what we feel good about right now.”

Still, Nagy’s de­ci­sion to re­move Tru­bisky from last week’s loss in Los An­ge­les and some of the ini­tial con­fu­sion that en­sued only stoked the flames of one of Chicago’s hottest sports de­bates. If Tru­bisky’s sta­tus as the Bears starter were based en­tirely on per­for­mance, would there be any­thing in it for the team to bench him now?

The most pop­u­lar line of think­ing ar­gues that the Bears have lit­tle to gain by mak­ing a quar­ter­back change at this point, par­tic­u­larly when the al­ter­na­tive for the fi­nal six games is 33-year-old jour­ney­man Chase Daniel, who isn’t a long-term an­swer.

If that’s the case and there’s ob­vi­ous in­cen­tive for the Bears to use ev­ery op­por­tu­nity to spark a de­vel­op­men­tal break­through in Tru­bisky, isn’t the de­ci­sion to stay the course the most pru­dent? Won’t Nagy and gen­eral man­ager Ryan Pace ben­e­fit from hav­ing the largest pos­si­ble sam­ple size of Tru­bisky’s work to help in­form their de­ci­sions for 2020 and be­yond? Maybe. Yeah. Sure. All of that.

But what if, for the sake of ar­gu­ment, the sam­ple size is al­ready big enough to show who Tru­bisky is and prob­a­bly will be, which is an in­con­sis­tent, shaky quar­ter­back who misses far more big plays than he makes?

The idea that it would be im­pru­dent to sit Tru­bisky at this stage of his de­vel­op­ment might seem log­i­cal on the sur­face. But it’s also not out­landish to sug­gest that the 25-year-old al­ready has got­ten a fair shake.

Af­ter all, in­clud­ing the play­offs, Tru­bisky has made 36 starts as a Bear. He has thrown mul­ti­ple touch­down passes in only 10 of those games. He has thrown for at least 300 yards only five times. His 7,299 pass­ing yards and 86.3 rat­ing reg­is­ter as medi­ocre.

Plus, it’s not as if other highly drafted quar­ter­backs haven’t been benched early in their ca­reers. Even at Halas Hall, the last two quar­ter­backs drafted in the first round weren’t given an overly long leash.

Rex Grossman? In­clud­ing the post­sea­son, he made 30 starts be­fore Lovie Smith aban­doned the “Rex is our quar­ter­back” mantra and turned to Brian Griese. That was in Septem­ber 2007, with the Bears off to a 1-2 start less than eight months af­ter play­ing in the Su­per Bowl. Still, Grossman’s ca­reer turnover to­tal at that point — 42 — had eroded the coach­ing staff ’s trust in his abil­ity to get over the hump.

Cade McNown? The Bears pulled that plug af­ter 15 starts over two sea­sons, an early ver­dict that McNown didn’t have the pocket poise or tem­per­a­ment to last on the big stage.

Of the 17 quar­ter­backs drafted in the top 15 in the decade be­fore the Bears se­lected Tru­bisky at No. 2 in 2017, the only ones who haven’t ex­pe­ri­enced a per­for­mance-re­lated bench­ing or a trade from the team that drafted them are Matt Ryan, Matthew Stafford, Cam New­ton, An­drew Luck, Jared Goff and Car­son Wentz.

The rest of the list:

■ JaMar­cus Rus­sell (drafted No. 1 by the Raiders in 2007) — Benched in his third sea­son af­ter 25 starts, re­placed by Bruce Grad­kowski.

■ Mark Sanchez (No. 5 by the Jets in 2009) — Benched in his fourth sea­son af­ter 61 starts, re­placed by Greg McElroy.

■ Sam Brad­ford (No. 1 by the Rams in 2010) — Traded be­fore his sixth sea­son af­ter 49 starts, re­placed by Nick Foles.

■ Jake Locker (No. 8 by the Ti­tans in 2011) — Benched in his fourth sea­son af­ter 22 starts, re­placed by Zach Met­ten­berger.

■ Blaine Gab­bert (No. 10 by the Jaguars in 2011) — Benched in his third sea­son af­ter 27 starts, re­placed by Chad Henne.

■ Chris­tian Pon­der (drafted No. 12 by the Vik­ings in 2011) — Benched in his third sea­son af­ter 29 starts, re­placed by Matt Cas­sel. ■ Robert Grif­fin III (No. 2 by the Red­skins in 2012) — Benched in his se­cond sea­son af­ter 28 starts, re­placed by Kirk Cousins.

■ Ryan Tan­nehill (No. 8 by the Dol­phins in 2012) — Traded be­fore his eighth sea­son af­ter 88 starts, re­placed by Ryan Fitz­patrick. ■ Blake Bor­tles (No. 3 by the Jaguars in 2014) — Benched in his fifth sea­son af­ter 72 starts, re­placed by Cody Kessler.

■ Jameis Win­ston (No. 1 by the Buc­ca­neers in 2015) — Benched in his fourth sea­son af­ter 47 starts, re­placed by Ryan Fitz­patrick. ■ Mar­cus Mar­i­ota (No. 2 by the Ti­tans in 2015) — Benched in his fifth sea­son af­ter 61 starts, re­placed by Ryan Tan­nehill.

The point is there are many time­lines and a lot of break­ing points for teams when it comes to los­ing faith in a fran­chise quar­ter­back.

The Bears, clearly, aren’t ready to make a con­ces­sion on Tru­bisky and have pub­licly ex­pressed their desire for him to fin­ish the fi­nal six games as the starter.

But it’s also up to Tru­bisky to re­ward the pa­tience of those above him, to show more signs of growth and to prove that all the time and ef­fort in­vested in his de­vel­op­ment mean at least a lit­tle some­thing.

At some point, Tru­bisky has to show he has the abil­ity to lift this Bears of­fense with­out ev­ery­thing around him need­ing to be per­fect.

If he can’t?

Just re­fresh that list of highly drafted quar­ter­backs from above and un­der­stand where these roads of­ten fin­ish.


The Bears may have to con­sider go­ing to Chase Daniel (4) to re­place Mitch Tru­bisky (10) if the of­fense con­tin­ues to strug­gle.

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