The hardest thing for any NFL general manager to do is admit defeat on a first-round pick. Ryan Pace might be a little late on that when it comes to Mitch Trubisky, but give him credit for suppressing human nature in favor of steering the Bears out of their quarterback rut.
It’ll be an “open competition,” between Trubisky and the newly acquired Nick Foles, and that’s most refreshing thing Pace has said in a year.
“We want what’s best for the Chicago Bears — it’s as simple as that,” Pace said. “Let’s let these guys battle it out, let the process naturally happen and over time that decision will be made.”
There are certainly some qualifiers for this competition — it’s likely that anything close to a tie will go Trubisky’s way, and coach Matt Nagy already said he’ll be the first on the field when practice begins — but it’s clear the Bears are over the Trubisky-or-bust mindset that helped make them one of the worst offenses in the league last season.
It’s the beginning of the end for Trubisky, who went from No. 2 overall draft pick to competing with a 31-year-old journeyman in less than three calendar years.
But it’s an escape hatch for Pace. It’s a brutal, but necessary concession — and it might save his job.
The Bears are 34-46 in his five seasons in charge, a worse record than the Lions, Cardinals and Redskins, and he has botched a handful of high draft picks. His biggest mistake was trading up to take Trubisky, missing on Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson.
Trading for Foles, who cost just a fourth-round pick and a budget-friendly salary-cap hit, is his attempt to correct it.
The frustration over the last year has been Pace’s inability to see clearly on Trubisky and an unwillingness to bring in anyone except pseudo-assistant coaches as his backups. While Foles is far from overwhelming and has never been a full-time starter, he’s a legitimate contender for the starting job in a way that Chase Daniel and Tyler Bray were never intended to be.
His situation has flipped from total security to having none of it. Not only must he stave off Foles coming to town hungry for his job, Trubisky also could find himself adrift on the open market this time next year.
While it once seemed highly likely Pace would trigger his fifth-year option for 2021, something most general managers don’t mind saying publicly when they already know they’re doing it, that possibility is murky at best. While it still might happen, especially because the Bears can rescind it in March as long as he’s healthy, Pace has repeatedly ducked the question.
“We’ve got until May to make that comment,” he said Friday. “We’ll talk about it as we get closer to that date.”
When it comes to Pace and Trubisky, being noncommittal is a good thing. It’s the opposite of what got the Bears into this mess.