clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

‘You want to bond’ — Why the Bears invested so much in Mitch Trubisky’s backups

Chicago Bears quarterbacks Chase Daniel (4), Tyler Bray (9) and Mitch Trubisky (10) run on the field during training camp. (AP)

BOURBONNAIS — Always fidgety, guard Kyle Long didn’t want to go sit in his dorm room when he finished his medical treatment earlier this week. So he walked into the Bears’ quarterback meeting, where backups Chase Daniel and Tyler Bray were breaking down film of that day’s training-camp practice with starter Mitch Trubisky.

“It’s really awesome,” Long said, “because it’s no-holds-barred, and it’s honest. That’s what you need when you’re getting better.”

The Bears gave Daniel, a career backup, a two-year, $10 million contract in March. Two days later, they gave Bray a one-year, $795,000 pact. Both boast experience in coach Matt Nagy’s offense — Daniel played for his Chiefs from 2013 to 2015 and Bray from 2013 to 2017 — but little game action. Daniel has started two NFL games in eight seasons. Bray has thrown one regular-season NFL pass.

But Daniel, entering his ninth season, and Bray, entering his sixth, already know Nagy’s offense, from the verbiage to the freedoms the quarterback is afforded to change the play at the line of scrimmage.

Their value, then, lies in the meeting room. And on the sideline. And at the dinner table.

The Bears spent the offseason surrounding Trubisky with weapons — they spent $61.2 million guaranteed on receivers Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel and tight end Trey Burton — but none is more valuable, at this point in training camp, than the two backups in his ear.

“To the outside world, it’s hard to understand the whys of why you want to be able to have a Chase Daniel and Tyler Bray,” Nagy said this week. “And even people within our building are now seeing that and the importance of it.”

***

On July 17, the day after quarterbacks and rookies reported early to training camp, the three passers went for burgers at Brickstone, a nearby brewery and restaurant in Bourbonnais.

“We’re together all day, but we’re also away from our families,” Daniel said. “So we’re trying to hang out as a quarterback group as much as possible, and with other guys, too, to have that team bonding.

“That’s sorta what camp’s about. You go away. You wanna grow. You wanna bond.”

Asked if there were any tricks to developing that relationship, Daniel’s eyes twinkled.

“Just spend about 14 hours a day with each other,” Daniel said.

He’s not exaggerating. Bray broke down his own typical day: After a 6:30 a.m. alarm and a quick dining-hall breakfast — scoop of scrambled eggs, two rashers of bacon and a grande iced coffee — he joins the quarterbacks to stretch near the locker room at 7:45 a.m. After practice and lunch, the team meets again at 2 p.m., goes through a walk-through and, after dinner, holds meetings that end around 9.

That’s a lot of time with his fellow quarterbacks.

“It’s your second family,” Bray said. “Team chemistry is a huge part. You can’t have a bunch of guys bumping heads and going at each other for a long time. You have to have a good bond. That’s what makes a great team.”

And makes for a comfortable starter.

“I know exactly what I got to do, day in and day out, to be prepared for practice and in meetings with the install,” Trubisky said. “So I’m just taking very detailed notes, going over those notes, asking questions in meetings. . . . I’m just being an active learner and doing what I’ve got to do to be prepared each day, so I feel comfortable where I’m at within this offense.”

***

At first, Daniel and Bray leaned on Dave Ragone, who was Trubisky’s quarterbacks coach last year, too, for cues about when to give advice. As they’ve gotten to know Trubisky better, the conversations have become more organic. They’ll ask why he threw the ball where he did or his thought process before the play.

RELATED STORIES

• Bears best trash-talker Josh Bellamy unfazed by competition: ‘I love challenges’

• Two more top-10 draft picks sign, but not Bears LB Roquan Smith — yet

“I’ve been around some guys that probably take advice — but they don’t really take it in,” Daniel said. “Mitch truly cares. He wants to get better. He understands that we put a team around him who have been through this offense, who have been in this league. . . .

“I want to help Mitch. He wants to be helped. He’s like a sponge — he’s soaking it all in.”

Daniel and Bray, who have been friends since their Chiefs days, are impressed by the way Trubisky absorbs information — and criticism.

“Some guys take it as an attack on them — them not knowing or them making a mistake — but that’s not Mitch,” Bray said. “He shows with his leadership that he’s a great leader. The guy affects his teammates in a positive way. He’s going to be a great player.”

***

Nagy has spent half his life in quarterback meetings — as a college and Arena League player, as a quarterbacks coach and as an offensive coordinator. He knows the value of giving his starter a support system.

“I’ve lived this room,” he said. “It’s nice because it didn’t happen overnight. It took some time, but it was pretty quick. That bond that they have going on right now in that room, I just step back and kind of . . . smile.”

That’s as important as any development this early in training camp.

“I think this camp is very important, not only for [Trubisky’s] overall growth but also for our relationship,” Daniel said. “Growing that relationship. Trusting each other more than we do now. Seeing how we work together. Bouncing ideas off each other.”

Want your Bears training camp update without delay? Each day of summer practice, Sun-Times Bears’ beat writers Patrick Finley, Adam Jahns and Mark Potash will share exclusive insights on the workout and interviews in a livestream conversation 1 p.m. daily through August 12. Catch their live analysis and ask questions on Twitter: @suntimes_sports or follow Sun-Times Sports on Periscope to be notified of each live report.