BOURBONNAIS — Ryan Pace came prepared Wednesday. Very, very prepared.
His answers to news-conference questions about what Mitch Trubisky’s rookie season might look like involved variations of, “I don’t deal in hypotheticals’’ and “Mike Glennon is our starting quarterback.’’
The general theme of the follow-up questions to the Bears’ general manager was either, “But back to Mitch Trubisky’’ or “If Mike Glennon fell in a forest, how soon would we hear that Trubisky is ready?’’
And any time there was a question about coach John Fox’s future with the team beyond this season, Pace would glance at a piece of paper in front of him.
Or walking papers for Fox?
“We’re looking for steady improvement,’’ Pace said.
And to think, training-camp practices don’t even start until Thursday. Wednesday was for Bears players to report and for everyone to wonder when Trubisky, the second pick overall in this year’s draft, will play. A hot-shot rookie quarterback and the temperature of the coach’s seat tend to be topics when a team is coming off a 3-13 season.
It will be better for Trubisky’s development if he doesn’t get on the field this season. No matter what his upside is, he only started 13 college football games. He’s learning a new offense and new teammates. He’ll see better, faster opponents in practice. It sounds as if the Bears understand this, or at least Pace does. Recent history tells us that most first-round quarterbacks end up playing some time during their rookie season, either because of injury to starting quarterbacks or because of starters’ ineffectiveness. And history tells us those rookies often struggle/get killed.
“Every situation’s different,’’ Pace said. “I can’t say this enough: Our confidence in Mike Glennon is hopefully apparent. And so, yeah, for a young quarterback, you want him to take time and develop behind the scenes. And I think that can naturally happen. But right now, our focus is Mike Glennon is our starter and competition in the backup job.’’
The Bears made only four players available to the media Wednesday, one of them named Mike Glennon and none of them named Mitch Trubisky. If this is all a ruse, if the Bears are merely waiting for the right time to unleash Trubisky this season, they’ve gone all in on the misdirection. It’s not Trubisky’s team. Yet.
“You lean on Mike’s experience a lot,’’ Pace said. “You can tell he’s been in the league for four years with different coordinators. You can feel that. They both have their strengths and weaknesses, but I think right now, you really lean on Mike’s experience and some of the things he’s been through. That’s the reason why he’s here, and that’s the reason he’s our starting quarterback.’’
Pace did have good things to say about Trubisky, though everybody has good things to say about everybody this time of year. And Pace, in particular, is wired to say good things about everybody all the time. When asked what he wants to see from the rookie in camp, Pace mentioned accuracy, ball placement, ability to get in and out of the huddle, communication with teammates, ability to go through the progression of each play and playbook comprehension. Nothing about proper lunchroom etiquette, though I’m guessing he has been talked to.
“It’s pretty substantial what he’s going through,’’ Pace said. “He’s doing a great job.’’
The Bears are hoping Glennon plays well enough this season that there won’t be a quarterback controversy. Regardless, it’s hard to see a downside for him. No matter how loud the noise gets during the season for the team to start Trubisky, Glennon can stuff his ears with some of the $16 million in guaranteed money he received for this year.
But chances are decent that Bears fans, even the ones who thought the team reached terribly when it chose Trubisky with the second pick, will be screaming for the rookie by midseason. There aren’t many people picking the Bears to have a good year. When fans begin agitating for change, it’s usually at the quarterback position. And when the alternative is the first-round pick, their agitation can be unruly. The Bears would be wise to ignore it.
“You’ve got to bring these guys along the right way,’’ Pace said.
If it’s not the quarterback whom disgruntled fans (and media) want to run out of town, it’s the head coach. Fox’ record after two seasons in Chicago is 9-23. The Bears might be in a rebuild, but very few NFL coaches survive three straight miserable seasons.
“It is very difficult to change a culture, and John’s doing that, and he’s done that while also getting younger as a team,’’ Pace said.
We’re in Year Three of talking about the excellent culture in the Bears’ locker room. What sells tickets more than that?
There doesn’t figure to be a whole lot of victories this season, so let’s try to remember to gauge the season by how interesting it is. One way or the other, the quarterback position will be an interesting story this season. Isn’t that right, Ryan?
“We’re very confident in Mike Glennon,’’ Pace said.
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