Mike Glennon or Mitch Trubisky? Fans on both sides saw hope Sunday

It’s almost uncanny how the Mike Glennon/Mitch Trubisky quarterback debate seems to fuel itself. From Glennon’s opening pick-6 and Trubisky’s three scoring drives in the Bears’ preseason opener, the debate was in full gear — and neither quarterback has done anything since to even remotely settle the matter.

We moved no further off that spot after the Bears’ 23-17 loss to the Falcons on Sunday at Soldier Field. Glennon wasn’t the reason the  Bears lost. But he had a golden opportunity to be the reason the Bears won and couldn’t pull it off.

Statistically, Glennon nailed the sweet spot of quarterback mediocrity with an 86.8 passer rating. He was good enough to keep the job, but unimpressive enough to leave you feeling the Bears might have a better option. Had Glennon been a little better — if he had completed that final pass to Zach Miller in the end zone, Glennon’s passer rating would have been 97.7 — there wouldn’t much of a legitimate debate today.

(In the previous five NFL seasons, quarterbacks with ratings between 84.8-88.8 are 76-80-2 — Glennon’s 86.8 was right in the middle of that range. And sure enough, the difference between winning and losing was razor thin on Sunday.)

Bears quarterback Mike Glennon completed 26-of-40 passes for 213 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions for an 86.8 passer rating Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons. (Michael Conroy/AP)

No matter which side of the argument you are on, Sunday gave you something to hang your hat on. Glennon gave his team a chance to win against the defending NFC champions (albeit with a defense that ranked 16th in yards and 20th in points allowed last year). He avoided turnovers. He had one of the most unproven receiving corps in the NFL to work with and found a way to almost win.

But he gave you little reason to think he’s going to get much better with the same supporting cast. His longest pass play was 22 yards to tight end Dion Sims. Early in the fourth quarter, a check-down to a running back on third-and-13 elicited opening-day boos from the Soldier Field crowd. Glennon definitely is not the people’s choice.

But the most legitimate indictment of Glennon was his lack of mobility and escapability. He was sacked four times. He rarely avoided a sack, let alone turn a near sack into an opportunity for a big play.  He lost 12 yards on two separate sacks against the Falcons. How unusual is that? Last year there were 1,120 sacks in the NFL — only 54 (4.8 percent) were for losses of 12 yards or more. Glennon was at 50 percent (2-of-4) against the Falcons.

It seems like an odd scenario, but the Bears’ receiving corps is so challenged to get open, a risk averse game manager might not do. They might actually be better off with an athlete whose mobility and escapability can give receivers time and room to get open. As long as he’s not reckless. Trubisky seems to fit that bill.

Sunday’s opener added fuel to the debate, right down to the final drive. Who knows if Trubisky could have put the Bears’ in position to win the game, as the veteran Glennon did in the final 3:24. But there’s little doubt that Trubisky would have given the Bears a better chance to win once they reached the 5-yard line with 21 seconds left. His ability to move the pocket and make things happen in those situations puts fear in the defense and confidence in the offense — often a winning combination.

We’re not there yet. Glennon earned the right to keep going. But if the losses and 86.8 passer ratings start to pile up, Glennon’s leash will get shorter and shorter. The worst-case scenario might be mediocrity — Glennon being just good enough to keep the Bears from being a disaster — 1-3, 2-5, 4-7, 5-9. And the Glennon/Trubisky debate will roll on into December. But it won’t be as fun then as it is now.