Even after he used four draft picks to move up one spot and take quarterback Mitch Trubisky second overall in April, Bears general manager Ryan Pace spent the rest of the offseason anointing Mike Glennon as the starter.
Two weeks ago, as the Bears settled into camp in Bourbonnais, someone asked Pace the obvious: What if Trubisky is the best quarterback this preseason?
“Glennon’s our starter, and we’re confident with that,” Pace said. “This thing is going to have to play out. But Mike Glennon is our starting quarterback, and I don’t think now is the time to deal in hypotheticals going forward.”
OK, how about now?
The Bears are wise to say they won’t make any changes to their depth chart after just one preseason game. But dismissing the idea of Trubisky usurping Glennon sounds more ridiculous today that it did before the game Thursday.
The Bears might not yet have a quarterback controversy, but you can see it from here. And it’s coming faster at them than they expected.
How they handle it will be critical to both quarterbacks’ futures. Both Pace and coach John Fox have been clear in their public expectations about Glennon and Trubisky since the latter was drafted — much to the former’s surprise. They hoped to smother any flames of controversy in a city that embraces such debate and fixates, fairly or not, on its quarterbacks.
But on Thursday, Trubisky stoked the fire back to life. He completed 18 of 25 passes for 166 yards and one touchdown and fell a half-inch shy of a second TD in a 24-17 loss to the Denver Broncos. According to Pro Football Focus, his adjusted completion percentage — meant to weed out drops, spikes, throwaways, batted passes and throws when he’s hit — was 90.9, the highest of any debuting player in the last four years.
Glennon, meanwhile, threw a pick-six and finished with a passer rating that would make Bluto Blutarsky smile: 0.0.
Both players, of course, dismissed the idea of a quarterback controversy as outside noise — simply a distraction. Trubisky declared Glennon the starter, as if he’d say anything else.
“Hopefully we block everything out on the outside, what everyone’s writing, everyone’s saying, and it brings us closer so we can approach it and get better as a group,” Trubisky said.
After what might have been his worst NFL game ever, albeit a brief one in the preseason — he went 2-for-8 for 20 yards and the interception — Glennon was asked by an NFL Network reporter if he planned to turn his phone off.
“I think you could make it difficult if you wanted to,” he said. “If you’re going to be looking on your phone and getting on Twitter and all that, then, yeah, I’m sure it could. I won’t do that.
“I wouldn’t say my phone’s going to be off, but if you work for NFL Network, I’m not going to be checking you out.”
If the Bears insist on staying the course, they should be more concerned about Glennon’s struggles than excited about Trubisky’s success. The rookie’s stat line was impressive, but he wasn’t in elite company; by the end of Thursday’s games, the four quarterbacks who had attempted at least 10 passes and had a better passer rating than Trubisky were all backups: the Patriots’ Jimmy Garoppolo, the Cardinals’ Blaine Gabbert, the Saints’ Ryan Nassib and Browns rookie DeShone Kizer.
Fox said he wasn’t worried about Glennon’s confidence, but he said Glennon must spend the next week digesting the dual pressures of proving he deserves the starting job and tuning out Trubisky’s footsteps.
In that sense, the next preseason game — Aug. 19 at Arizona — is more important for Glennon than for Trubisky.
In June, Glennon admitted to thinking about his long-term future with the Bears after they drafted Trubisky, noting that those ideas brought about “unnecessary stress” and were “negative rather than positive.”
On Thursday, he played so poorly — and Trubisky so well — that he was forced to confront it again.
“Yeah, when you take a guy that high, I immediately knew that there could be something stirred up,” he said Thursday. “I’m not going to focus on the outside world. I’ll focus on what’s going on within the locker room and the coaches.”
The Bears, in turn, will focus on their quarterback room — and wonder how they’ll answer the question of a controversy if Trubisky outplays their starter once more.
Follow me on Twitter @patrickfinley.