The Bears could have done better than Nick Foles when they went shopping for a quarterback, but he should be their starter in Week 1. If he’s not, things are even goofier with this franchise than I thought. How’s that for a ringing endorsement?
That’s what the Bears do to you. You’d like to get on board with them, but because they only sort of upgraded at the most important position in sports, you sort of can’t.
I never thought I’d see the day when general manager Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy would two-time Mitch Trubisky. But on a teleconference with reporters Friday, they declared an ‘‘open competition’’ between the quarterbacks. They were quick to heap praise on Trubisky for ‘‘embracing’’ the challenge. They did this because praising him is all they’ve ever known. He could rob a bank, and they’d compliment the handwriting on the note he slid to the teller.
‘‘What I thought was really neat when we talked to Mitch, which is steeped in who he is, you can feel how much of a competitor [he is],’’ Nagy said. ‘‘He’s embracing it and excited to get back to work. . . . All he wants to do is be the best quarterback he can be for the Chicago Bears.’’
My hope is that the open competition will walk and talk like one at training camp but actually will be a coronation procession for Foles, for whom the Bears gave up a fourth-round pick last month in a trade with the Jaguars. My deep concern, based on years of observing this team, is that they really do mean that Trubisky has a chance of retaining his job.
I was curious to see how the Bears, having declared their undying love for Trubisky for so long, would declare their undying love for newcomer Foles. Because, these being football people, you knew they wouldn’t be able to stop themselves.
‘‘I know who he is as a person,’’ Nagy said of Foles. ‘‘ . . . He’s a special person.’’’
Wait! What about the special person who is Mitch?
‘‘Mitch is a competitor,’’ said Pace, the man responsible for drafting Trubisky. ‘‘I think when you’re built that way, competition brings out the best in you. Matt and I had the discussion with him, and you could feel that in him right away, just kind of that: ‘OK, hey, let’s go. What’s best for the team, and this is going to bring out the best in all of us.’ ’’
If this is not a sham competition meant to elevate Foles and finally admit the Trubisky mistake, then what we’ll have is a duel, a showdown, a pitched battle. But that’s not how it was sold Friday. Among other things, it was described as a ‘‘process,’’ a ‘‘collaboration’’ and a ‘‘collective effort.’’ And, according to Foles, it’s not just an open competition, it’s a ‘‘healthy competition.’’
‘‘I’m going to be the best support system for him,’’ said Foles, who recently called Trubisky to let him know they were in this together.
This isn’t a competition. It’s an encounter group.
Pace and Nagy spent part of the teleconference praising first responders in the coronavirus outbreak and saying they hoped everyone was staying safe. Pace has been social distancing himself from the media for more than five years, so if he catches the virus, he can’t blame us.
A good quarterback, a scarcity in these parts for the longest time, could help the city forget the darkness as the pandemic plays out in the coming weeks and months. Although the Bears haven’t figured out how the competition will be structured during camp, they do know the criteria for naming a starter.
‘‘Ultimately, what it really comes down to is winning, scoring points, physical and mental toughness and then, obviously, command and leadership,’’ Nagy said.
Then it has to be Foles, right? Again, he’s not the greatest quarterback in the world. When he has been good, he has been very good, best reflected in his Super Bowl MVP award with the Eagles. When he has been average, which has been most of his career, he has been the definition of average. But if the Bears truly are looking to upgrade at the position, Foles will be a smarter, less mistake-prone quarterback than Trubisky.
If they’re going to let the possibility of one decent training camp from Mitch erase the evidence of the last three seasons, then they deserve their fate.
May the better man — Foles — win.