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Bears start drinking early on New Year’s Eve, plan for so-so Mitch Trubisky to be 2020 starting QB

GM Ryan Pace downplayed the idea that Trubisky needs to be pushed by a starter-quality quarterback in training camp.

If Bears GM Ryan Pace elects to make a move, it would likely be to shore up a shaky offensive line. 
Bears general manager Ryan Pace said the plan is for Mitch Trubisky to be the starting quarterback in 2020.
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

‘‘Our heads are not in the sand,’’ Bears general manager Ryan Pace said.

As he spoke, sand was everywhere — falling out of his hair, spewing from his mouth and piling up like dunes on his shoulders.

At an end-of-season news conference Tuesday, Pace said the plan is for Mitch Trubisky to be the Bears’ starting quarterback in 2020, despite scant evidence from his 2019 performance that he deserves it.

He downplayed the idea Trubisky needed to be pushed by a starter-quality quarterback in training camp. You know, someone like, oh, I don’t know, the Saints’ Teddy Bridgewater, who will be a free agent after this season.

And coach Matt Nagy’s tone-deaf play-calling this season?

‘‘Extreme confidence in him as our head coach and extreme confidence in him as our play-caller and extreme confidence in him righting the ship and getting us back on the track we want to be on,’’ Pace said.

Is this hell? No, it’s Halas Hall.

If you hadn’t known better while listening to Pace, you would have thought the Bears had gone 12-4 this season instead of a hugely disappointing 8-8. You would have walked away certain the future was especially bright for the organization.

Even when Pace tried to don the cloak of the dissatisfied GM, it wasn’t convincing.

‘‘The next four to five months are about hard decisions . . . decisions that require real honest assessment of our roster and our entire football operations,’’ he said.

So why won’t Pace spend time in the offseason doing an ‘‘honest assessment’’ of Trubisky that might end up requiring a ‘‘hard decision’’? After such a mediocre season, why is the quarterback exempt from the scrutiny many of his teammates apparently will be under?

I think we all know the answer: Pace’s employment with the Bears is completely tied to Trubisky. For Pace to acknowledge Trubisky is nothing special would be the equivalent of him handing over his office keys and giving up his prime parking spot at the team’s headquarters.

So instead of real analysis of the quarterback from Pace, we got this Tuesday: ‘‘You see moments this year, you see games, you see him respond to adverse situations within a game, those are signs of positive improvement.’’

I see a career 85.8 passer rating in 41 NFL starts. I see an 83.0 passer rating this season, along with a measly 6.1 yards per pass attempt. When Trubisky did have those ‘‘aha’’ moments Pace gushed about, they were usually against a bad opponent.

Pace still is using Trubisky’s thin college experience and his switch to a new offense when Nagy came to town as excuses for his slow rate of growth. Pace’s last words on this planet will be, ‘‘Mitch just needs more time.’’

I asked Pace what he got wrong when he was analyzing Trubisky before the 2017 draft. That was the draft in which Pace infamously passed over now-star NFL quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson to choose Trubisky.

‘‘I don’t think we’re there yet,’’ he said. ‘‘I think we’re still watching the guy grow. So, again, he knows he needs to be more consistent. He knows he needs to play better. We know that, too. It’s not all one person. I know everybody wants to make one person the villain. It’s not all just one person’s fault.’’

He’s right. It’s not Trubisky’s fault. It’s the fault of the guy who decided to draft him.

The bottom line, though — this being the Bears — is that we’re stuck with everybody. That was the message Tuesday.

Outside linebacker Leonard Floyd, he of the three sacks in 2019?

‘‘We’re happy with Leonard,’’ Pace said.

Unproductive tight end Adam Shaheen, whom Pace took in the second round in 2017?

‘‘When he’s played, we’ve liked what we’ve seen,’’ he said.

Running back Tarik Cohen, who went from 10.2 yards per reception last season to 5.8 yards this season?

‘‘He is a dynamic player in so many areas — in the run game, in the pass game, in the return game,’’ Pace said.

And Trubisky, whom Pace chose over Mahomes? Have I already mentioned that he chose Trubisky over Mahomes?

‘‘Mitch is our starter,’’ Pace said.

Team president Ted Phillips said Mahomes is an ‘‘anomaly.’’ That, in a nutshell, is the Bears. Good teams hire good talent evaluators who find the anomalies. The Bears found Trubisky.

Halas Hall is a desert where truth, parched and crazed because of the isolation, falls to its knees and dies.

Pace is right: The decision-makers’ heads aren’t in the sand. Their heads are in an anatomically impossible position, in a place where it’s very dark.