On the day Aaron Rodgers made his first public comments about the Packers selecting Utah State quarterback Jordan Love in the first round of the NFL Draft last month, Bears coach Matt Nagy clarified the not-nearly-as-compelling issue in his own quarterback room Friday: Mitch Trubisky’s reaction to the team declining the fifth-year option on his rookie contract.
As it turns out, the Packers have the more intriguing and potentially awkward quarterback dynamic. Rodgers, 36, said he was surprised but not bitter about the team taking Love and will work with Love as Brett Favre worked with him in 2005-07. But Rodgers also acknowledged disappointment that, with his desire to play into his 40s, the Packers drafting Love likely means he will finish his Hall of Fame career elsewhere. It makes it almost certain that his future eventually will be a point of discussion, if not a point of contention.
The Bears, on the other hand, are all good with Trubisky sloughing off the decision they made on his fifth-year option and embracing a competition with Nick Foles. As much as Trubisky’s every move has been scrutinized since he was drafted No. 2 overall in 2017, almost any detailed debate about the option was overdoing it.
The way Trubisky’s career has transpired, it was a business decision, not an insult. The Bears’ confidence in Trubisky — or lack thereof — was defined when they traded for Foles and assumed $21 million in guaranteed money on Foles’ contract. The option decision was a non-factor; Trubisky already knew the situation.
‘‘We had the discussion with Mitchell, explained it to him,’’ Nagy said. ‘‘And I think for him and for all of us, it was like a 24-hour process where we treat this thing with a lot of honesty . . . as far as what we’re doing moving forward. Nothing’s changed from having to make that decision in regards to this open competition. He handled it really well. I was proud of the way he handled it. . . . We move on.’’
We’ve yet to hear from Trubisky, but it sounds as though he is handling it the way a 25-year-old with an 85.8 career passer rating in three seasons and 41 starts should. Though Foles (-333) is the heavy Vegas-line favorite to beat out Trubisky (+235) for the starting job, it’s still Trubisky’s job to win at Halas Hall. That he no longer has a contract for 2021 doesn’t change that.
Trubisky has to know his best chance now is to manage his emotions the way Rodgers surely will manage his, turning whatever anger or disappointment he’s feeling into focused, driven motivation. That has worked wonders for Rodgers since the day he was drafted No. 24 overall instead of No. 1 in 2005.
Will it work for Trubisky? That’s the big question heading into the 2020 season. After two years of being handed the starting job, will he respond to a challenge? Will that heighten his focus? Does he have it in him to win a competition?
That’s a daunting challenge for a quarterback whose only starting jobs have been handed to him — as a junior at North Carolina and in three seasons with the Bears. Nagy has had one-on-one conversations on Zoom with Trubisky and likes what he is seeing and hearing about the way he is preparing for the competition of his life.
‘‘He’s starting to create his own way, his own habits,’’ Nagy said.
But it’s early.
‘‘Obviously, none of that matters unless we go out there and do it on the field,’’ Nagy said. ‘‘That’s going to be the next challenge: being able to take it onto the field and do it through a competition.’’