Which Bears Quarterback Will Win the Battle for Who Can Suck Less?
If Mitch Trubisky's struggles continue, newcomer Nick Foles may beat him out for the starting job
Over the next six weeks, we’ll be preparing for the kickoff of the 2020 NFL season on September 10 by attempting to answer the most important question facing all 32 of the league’s franchises in order of their 2019 finish, from worst to first. Today’s team: the Bears.
No. 16: Chicago Bears
2019 Record: 8-8
Points For: 280 – Points Against: 298
Projected 2020 Over/Under Win Total: 8
With less than a minute left on the clock in the fourth quarter of his first playoff game, Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky threw into double coverage and completed a 25-yard pass to Allen Robinson that brought Chicago into Philadelphia territory.
The throw by the second overall pick in the 2017 draft was an absolute dime, and one that set up the Bears — trailing by a point at the time — to kick a field goal and win the game.
Four plays later, they tried to do just that. But it was not to be as Cody Parkey and the infamous double-doink intervened. The Bears lost 16-15.
Trubisky threw for just over 300 yards and a touchdown in the loss, while his counterpart on the Eagles, Nick Foles, threw for a notch above 250 and a pair of touchdowns to go with two interceptions.
After that game, which followed a regular season in which first-year head coach Matt Nagy guided the Bears to a 12-4 record and a first-place finish in the NFC North, Foles was traded to the Jaguars only to be injured for the majority of the 2019 season. In Chicago, Trubisky struggled mightily, guiding the Bears to an 8-8 record and missing the playoffs. Now Trubisky and Foles are teammates in Chicago, and one of them is going to be the starting quarterback for the Bears.
In Trubisky, the Bears have a 26-year-old quarterback entering his fourth season in the NFL after regressing across the board in his third: his passing yards (3,138), completion rate (63.2 percent), passing touchdowns (17) and rating (83) all dropped in 2019. He’ll earn $4.423 million in 2020 and count $9.237 million against the salary cap, but little is clear for him beyond that: Chicago general manager declined his fifth-year option, and the Bears have no financial obligation to him past this season.
“I feel very good about the talks that Mitch and I have had about the fact that his future — and his career — is in his hands,” new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor told The Chicago Sun-Times. “I think that’s the way he and I have agreed to look at it. And that’s a great thing about football — it’s up to you.”
But make no mistake, the Bears still have an investment in the fourth-year QB. If Trubisky struggles again this season and the Bears let him walk in 2021, the decision to trade four future picks to move up and snatch him in the first round of the 2017 draft — while passing on Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes in the process — will look substantially worse than it already does. Pace, the man who pulled the trigger on the trade and picked Trubisky, will likely lose his job over it. It would also mean the Bears, who have struggled mightily to find a franchise quarterback ever since they became a club in 1920, would once again need to go back into the draft to try to find one.
Unless, of course, Foles works out.
Already rotating with Trubisky as the No. 1 quarterback as part of an “open competition” at training camp, Foles reworked his contract after the Bears traded a fourth-round pick to the Jaguars to acquire him, but is still guaranteed $21 million — not exactly backup money. And that’s because, at his best, Foles is no backup. As we all saw when he led the Eagles to a Super Bowl win in place of an injured Carson Wentz, Foles can deliver under pressure in big moments and is fully capable of leading an above-average NFL offense.
But there’s a reason he’s only started 48 (26-22) games over the course of eight NFL seasons: he hasn’t been able to stay healthy enough to make more than nine consecutive starts as a pro.
As Bill Belichick sometimes says, the best ability is availability, and Foles, thanks to a litany of injuries, has struggled to achieve that. Perhaps that will change this season and the 31-year-old will beat out Trubisky, start 16 games and lead the Bears to the playoffs and their first postseason win in a decade. As Eagles fans can attest, stranger things — or perhaps exactly that thing — have happened. But will they in Chicago?
At this point, there’s really no way to know. Nagy has been tight-lipped on the issue, and will likely take as long as he can before naming a starting quarterback.
“We are going to stretch that out as far as we possibly can,” he said this week. “There’s limited reps, limited time, so we’re going to maximize those numbers that we have and literally take it as far as we need to go. Both of these guys have experience in this game and I think that’s only what’s fair.”
After doing what’s fair, Nagy had better be right with his quarterback choice.
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