Bears don’t need Trubisky; they need an offense

Mitch Trubisky and Nick Foles share a dubious distinction: Each was more popular as a backup than a starter. They share another commonality: With either of them under center, it’s the offense that makes the quarterback, not the other way around.

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New Orleans Saints v Chicago Bears

Mitch Trubisky’s gained 87 yards on eight carries (10.9 avg.) as the Bears’ starting quarterback this season.

Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Nick Foles came to the Bears not as a savior but a litmus test — the guy who could determine whether coach Matt Nagy’s problem was his quarterback or his offense.

With his checkered résumé, with all his inconsistency, moxie and limitations, Foles is perfectly suited to do that. In a good offense, he can reach the highest levels: winning Super Bowl MVP honors with the Eagles, or leading the NFL in passer rating (119.2!) under coach Chip Kelly in 2013. And in a bad offense, he’s absolutely disposable: a 69.0 rating and 4-7 record with the Rams before being benched in 2015, or an 84.6 rating and 0-4 record with the Jaguars last year before losing his job to sixth-round draft pick Gardner Minshew.

So, basically, if the offense is good, Foles is good. If the offense is bad, Foles is bad.

And after seven starts, the Bears have their answer: It’s the offense. After an initial impromptu burst against the Falcons, Foles’ seven starts since replacing Mitch Trubisky have been marked by stagnation and regression. It’s almost as if the more familiar he became with Nagy’s offense, the worse he got.

In fairness, Foles’ degree of difficulty was greater. Four of his first five starts were against defenses that currently rank in the top five in the NFL in yards and the top 10 in points: the Colts (second/fifth), Buccaneers (fifth/10th), Rams (first/second) and Saints (third/eighth). And his offensive line, not great to begin with, lost three starters: left guard James Daniels (five games), right tackle Bobby Massie (three games) and center Cody Whitehair (two games).

But against the very playable Vikings defense (22nd in yards, 27th in points), Foles was worse than ever. He threw for 106 yards with an interception for a 51.1 passer rating.

As different as they are skill-wise, Trubisky and Foles share a dubious distinction: Each was more popular as a backup than as a starter — another red flag. And there’s another commonality: With either of them under center, it’s the offense that makes the quarterback, not the other way around. They both are capable but need help they aren’t getting. Foles already has proven he can win with a quality offense. Don’t be surprised if Trubisky does the same someday.

But probably not here. Trubisky returns with a worse supporting cast than when he was benched. And while you can’t blame Nagy for his positivity, his support of Trubisky just rings hollow at this stage:

“I was really impressed with his huddle mechanics.”

“I like the way that he’s practiced this week.”

“I’m very impressed with how he’s grown week to week. . . . I’ve seen a change in him, and for the good. It’s a good feeling. It comforts you. It’s exciting because you know how good of a kid he is.”

That last sentiment didn’t pass the smell test. If Nagy were that encouraged by Trubisky’s growth, wouldn’t he be looking for any excuse to see if it could unlock the potential the Bears so heavily invested in? Foles wasn’t playing too well to be replaced, and Trubisky wasn’t a complete dud when Foles replaced him. Before the interception that got him benched, Trubisky’s passer rating was 93.3.

Called on that, Nagy didn’t have an answer.

“It’s a good point, for sure,” he said Wednesday, two days before announcing the starter. “I’m just a big believer [that] things happen for a reason, and I don’t know how this is gonna go this weekend either way. But I can’t argue as well with your point, either. It’s something where we have to be able to look at all that, and again, the same with Nick, too. Nick . . . is fighting like heck to get healthy. It’s such a balance and fine line because it’s not easy. But it all does go back to right now for this team — the availability and health of these guys.”

And away we go.

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