For the sake of their mental health, Bears fans would be wise to remember the Nick Foles who won a Super Bowl MVP award after leading the Eagles to the title after the 2017 season.
The alternative is to remember the other Nick Foles, the unremarkable Nick Foles, the Nick Foles who will be asked to ‘‘push’’ Mitch Trubisky instead of replace him. That will send you into a very dark place.
Ever wonder how we got here, on this tiny planet in a massive universe, asking the big questions in life while burdened with an NFL team that’s doing a slapstick routine in front of us? Me, too.
Nothing against Foles, who might end up beating out Trubisky for the Bears’ starting quarterback job, but this wasn’t a time for ‘‘might,’’ ‘‘perhaps’’ or ‘‘maybe.’’ This was a time to be done with Trubisky, who was a twinkle in the eye of general manager Ryan Pace before the 2017 draft for reasons that would become indecipherable soon after.
The door is open for another year of Mitch, and that’s really all you need to know about what happened Wednesday, when the Bears sent a fourth-round pick to the Jaguars for Foles. If they had been able to sign Teddy Bridgewater or Tom Brady, there wouldn’t have been a quarterback competition in Chicago. We’d be talking about the Bears’ excellent playoff chances. Instead, we’re facing the specter of Trubisky outplaying Foles in camp.
Every fiber of a Bears fan’s being should be screaming ‘‘Nooooo!’’ to that possibility. But as is the case so often with this franchise, the Bears don’t care about your fiber — unless they can sell you some more. Foles is no great shakes, but he’s better than Trubisky — smarter, more experienced and able to read defenses better. But because Foles is something less than Bridgewater, who will sign with the Panthers, and Brady, who will sign with the Buccaneers, he’ll have to compete for the job.
That gives Trubisky a chance of coming out on top. Those of us with a more conspiratorial bent will wonder if that was the idea all along, given Pace’s affinity for the player he took second overall in the 2017 draft.
It’s a positive that Foles has played for Bears coach Matt Nagy, offensive coordinator Bill Lazor and quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo during his eight-year career. Nothing warms an NFL coach more than having a past connection with a player. It at least levels the playing field if Nagy still had been leaning toward Trubisky. And with the uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus outbreak and the offseason schedule, having a quarterback who’s familiar with the system only can help.
The deep hope here is that Nagy, despite all his glowing praise of Trubisky the last two seasons, understands he can’t stay on the same path. His already-good defense got better this week with the signing of pass rusher Robert Quinn, who had 11.5 sacks in 14 games with the Cowboys last season. If Nagy wants a playoff team and a shot at the Super Bowl, he has to get the offense right, and that starts with the quarterback. You can point fingers at the poor offensive-line play and Nagy’s sometimes-peculiar play-calling for the 8-8 disappointment last season, and you’ll be partially right. Pointing the finger at Trubisky’s mediocrity will make you more right.
It’s hard to know exactly what the Bears are thinking. Do Pace and Nagy agree on Trubisky’s viability as an NFL quarterback? Do both think he’s salvageable? Do they really want to double-down on their careers with this kid? I wish the Bears would take less pride in keeping everything a secret and more pride in making quality decisions.
Maybe this is all a bad dream and the answer is obvious: They brought in Foles to win the job. He hasn’t been a standout for most of his career, but when he has been good, he has been very, very good. In 2013, his second season in the NFL, he led the league in passer rating (119.2), yards per attempt (9.1) and yards per completion (14.2) for the Eagles. I’d rather gamble on the possibility of that happening again than on the possibility of Trubisky discovering a magic potion that turns him into a reliable quarterback.
Foles had a 115.7 passer rating during the Eagles’ 2017 playoff run. Let’s hope — hard — that’s the quarterback who shows up for training camp.