Mitchell Trubisky has had three seasons to prove he can be the guy in Chicago, and so far, the Bears aren’t convinced.
Look no further than Chicago’s trade for Nick Foles, a prized free agent a year ago who could end up being the answer to the Bears’ quarterback question. Bears general manager Ryan Pace confirmed such thinking Friday during a conference call with reporters in which he made clear the team will be holding an open competition at the position.
"With the addition of Nick Foles it’s exactly what we talked about from the start — we want to create competition," Pace said. "We’ve talked to both players and it’s an open competition."
The move to bring in legitimate competition — not just a veteran backup to symbolically push Trubisky — is simply out of need. The Bears were clearly limited by Trubisky in 2019, turning once-optimistic views of the quarterback in the opposite direction in a season filled with high expectations which ultimately went unfulfilled.
There’s no more room for buffer, no more time to let the youngster work out the kinks. The Bears have a defense that’s anchored by big money-making Khalil Mack and ready to win now. They need a quarterback to do the same.
"What we’re trying to do is what’s best for the Chicago Bears," Bears coach Matt Nagy said. "Plain and simple."
Pace’s reputation is still very much attached to Trubisky. The general manager worked a trade to move up one spot to take the quarterback in 2017 — the same draft in which Chicago could have had NFL MVP and Super Bowl LIV MVP Patrick Mahomes or dynamo signal-caller Deshaun Watson — and it was later revealed the 49ers weren’t considering a quarterback at No. 2, where the Bears ended up selecting Trubisky. Pace rebounded from such a decision by acquiring Mack in a trade and inking him to a long-term deal, helping remake Chicago into a defensive machine that powered the Bears to an NFC North title and earned Pace Executive of the Year honors from the Sporting News.
Still, Trubisky exists as a reminder of a draft pick perhaps made out of desperation for a solution to Chicago’s quarterback need. At this point, the team won’t commit to Trubisky beyond a camp competition, with Pace choosing to not comment Friday on whether the Bears will pick up Trubisky’s fifth-year option — which would only be guaranteed for injury — before the May deadline.
The general manager has provided himself with a legitimate Plan B in Foles, who quarterbacked the Eagles to a stunning postseason win over those same Bears in the 2018 season. If this works out, the Bears can move on from Trubisky in a year and allow others to lament what they could have done at second (or third) overall in 2017, but smile because they eventually found their guy anyway.
Or Trubisky could rise to the occasion and take the significant steps needed to gain a firm hold on his job for the foreseeable future.
"You could feel how much of a competitor Mitch is," Nagy said when asked about how the quarterback took the news of inbound competition. "He’s embracing it and he’s excited to get back to work."
Trubisky will have at least one edge on Foles, who will be tasked with learning a new offense with new teammates: familiarity. He’ll also be the beneficiary of a commendable gesture from Nagy at the start of camp.
"When we walk in on the first day, whenever it is, Mitch will be first in the huddle," Nagy said.
We’ll see who’s first to call plays come Week 1.
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