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1st-and-10: Don’t count Mitch Trubisky out yet

Nick Foles might be the favorite to win the “open competition” for the Bears’ starting quarterback job, but it’s folly to argue that Trubisky has no chance — or no right — to win it.

Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky (10, celebrating a touchdown run against the Lions in 2018) will battle Nick Foles in an “open competition” for the starting job whenever the 2020 season begins.
Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky (10, celebrating a touchdown run against the Lions in 2018) will battle Nick Foles in an “open competition” for the starting job whenever the 2020 season begins.
Nam Y. Huh/AP

Nick Foles seems to be the people’s choice in his competition with Mitch Trubisky for the Bears’ starting quarterback job — which is quite the irony, considering Foles’ only significant success in the NFL is as a No. 2 quarterback. If you’re certain that Foles is the Bears’ best quarterback, maybe you should be rooting for him to lose the competition. Historically, he’s much better coming to the rescue.

And don’t count Trubisky out yet. While the former No. 2 overall pick is not Patrick Mahomes and hasn’t shown the instinct to make plays that aren’t there, turn bad situations into touchdowns and put a team on his back, he’s not unsalvageable. It’s possible that Trubisky responds better to the challenge of an open competition than he did to being coddled in his first two years in coach Matt Nagy’s offense. He likely never will justify the price of being the No. 2 overall pick and the price the Bears paid to get him. But he’s got some fight in him.

And while Trubisky deserves his share of the blame for last season’s regression, it’s possible that Nagy was a drag on the offense as much as Trubisky or more — the subpar running game, the dearth of capable tight ends, the game-planning and play-calling. If all those are issues in 2020, Foles won’t have much better luck pulling the offense out of the muck.

If the Bears had the No. 1 or No. 2 pick in this year’s draft, this would be a different conversation. But they don’t. They have Foles, who’s had more than his share of 2019 Trubisky moments in his career. Foles might be the favorite in this competition, but it’s folly to argue that Trubisky has no chance — or no right to win it.

2. Fun Fact: Trubisky has not had a passer rating in the 90s in the last two seasons. In 29 starts, he has either been below 87 (an NFL-high 19 times) or above 102 (10 times). He’s the only NFL quarterback who has played more than half of his team’s games in that span with that distinction.

That’s a dubious statistic, but it’s also an indication that Trubisky’s ceiling is still fairly high in favorable conditions. So the question is: Does the quarterback make the offense, or does the offense make the quarterback?

At the elite level, there’s no doubt it’s all about the quarterback. But below that level, it’s often as much about the offense. And the Bears don’t have to look too far anymore for evidence: Foles. In a bad offense, he has been below average — worse than Trubisky. In a good offense, he has been spectacularly successful.

So if you think Foles will excel in an improved Nagy offense, it’s a bit of a stretch to totally dismiss the notion that Trubisky can thrive, as well.

3. As a backup quarterback, Foles is 20-11 with a 97.6 passer rating in his career. In fact, excluding his rookie season in 2012 — when he was 1-5 as a replacement for Michael Vick on a bad Eagles team that got Andy Reid fired — Foles is 19-6 with a 103.2 passer rating as a replacement starter, including the glorious Super Bowl run after the 2017 season.

But when Foles has entered the season as the starter, he generally has been worse than Trubisky — 9-13 with a 76.4 passer rating with the Eagles in 2014, the Rams in 2015 and the Jaguars last season.

4. For what it’s worth, Foles was a quick study under Reid and Doug Pederson. As a rookie in 2012 with the Eagles, Foles threw a 70-yard touchdown pass in his first preseason game; his 110.1 rating for the preseason was fifth in the league.

In 2017 with Pederson and the Eagles, Foles did not play in the preseason because of an elbow injury. But his first pass of the season — in Week 9 — was a 35-yard completion. And in his first start — in Week 15 — he threw four touchdown passes in a victory over the Giants on the road. The rest is history.

5. This will be the Bears’ first “open competition” at quarterback since 2008, when Kyle Orton beat out Rex Grossman (with the decision made before the third preseason game). Orton started 15 games — missing one because of injury — and went 9-6 with a 79.6 passer rating (18 touchdowns, 12 interceptions) that ranked 25th in the NFL.

The Bears finished 9-7, missing a playoff spot when they lost to the Texans 31-24 in Week 17. The Bears traded for Jay Cutler the following offseason. The rest is . . .

6. One potential benefit of the Trubisky-Foles competition is that the Bears likely will play their starters more in the preseason to give Nagy a true evaluation of both players.

Under Nagy, the Bears have been among the leaders of the leaguewide trend of sitting starters through most of the preseason to avoid injury. But while it does ensure health, the quality of play early in the season does seem to suffer.

7. The NFL Draft should be delayed at least a month because of the COVID-19 quarantine — at this point, what’s the rush? The opening of the offseason program is not imminent.

But if the NFL insists on conducting its draft on schedule April 23-25, it wouldn’t be a big surprise if there were no more “misses” with this curtailed process than with the usual micromanaged draft process. Some teams might do better.

8. Bears 2020 draft picks to click: Second round (No. 43): Grant Delpit, safety, LSU; second round (No. 50): Chase Claypool, WR, Notre Dame; third round (No. 92, via trade): Brycen Hopkins, TE, Purdue; sixth round (No. 196): Oluwole Betiku, DL, Illinois; sixth round (No. 200): Nate Stanley, QB, Iowa; seventh round (No. 226): Jon Runyan, G, Michigan; seventh round (No. 233): Sewo Olonilua, RB, TCU.

9. Josh McCown Ex-Bears Player of the Week Award: Former Bear defensive lineman/humanitarian Israel Idonije’s company, Blessed Communion, which produces pre-filled disposable communion cups designed for “a sanitary and efficient solution for serving communion,” saw demand skyrocket ahead of Easter in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Idonije, who founded Blessed Communion in 2009 when he was still with the Bears, told CNN the company’s production doubled from 300,000 per day to 600,000 per day last month. The cups contain grape juice at the bottom, with a wafer in a sealed compartment at the top.

10. Bear-ometer (7-5) — vs. Buccaneers (cancelled); at Falcons (cancelled); vs. Packers (cancelled); at Titans (cancelled); vs. Vikings (W); at Panthers (W); vs. Colts (L); at Jaguars (W); at Packers (L); vs. Lions (W); vs. Texans (W); at Lions (L); vs. Saints (L); at Rams (W); vs. Giants (W); at Vikings (L).

(Note: Though these are the Bears’ 2020 opponents, the actual schedule is expected to be announced in May.)