The competitor in quarterback Mitch Trubisky was upset when the Bears traded a fourth-round draft pick to the Jaguars in March and guaranteed Nick Foles $21 million to try to take his starting job.
‘‘I think I was kind of pissed off — in a good way,’’ Trubisky said. ‘‘I’ve been motivated ever since.’’
The realist in him wasn’t surprised, though. Nor was he shocked when the Bears last month declined the fifth-year option that would have paid him $23.9 million in 2021. The Bears called Trubisky three days before the news was made public to tell him his tenure with the team would depend on how he plays this season.
‘‘It wasn’t really a big surprise to me because I kind of felt like I had it coming,’’ Trubisky said Friday via video chat, his first interview with reporters since Dec. 29. ‘‘I put myself in their shoes. If I was looking at myself, I feel like I would have to go out and earn that fifth[-year] option, and I feel like the way I played last year didn’t merit that. . . . I think it’s just more fuel to the fire to me, more motivation that I could have done more to get extended.’’
One year removed from going to the Pro Bowl as an alternate, Trubisky finished 28th in the NFL in passer rating and 32nd in yards per pass last season. It’s fair to wonder whether Trubisky will start another game for the Bears, who have declared an open competition between him and Foles.
‘‘My plan is just to go out there and earn my next contract, wherever that is,’’ Trubisky said. ‘‘I want it to be here in Chicago. I’m going to play my heart and soul out for this team and give it everything I’ve got. So I’m just excited to get back on the field with my teammates and get back to work.’’
The Bears haven’t been able to practice all offseason because of the leaguewide coronavirus shutdown. Trubisky said that gives him the initial edge over Foles, given that he has run Nagy’s offense the last two seasons. But he knows that won’t mean much when the Bears report for training camp in late July.
‘‘At the end of the day, it comes down to on-field performance,’’ Trubisky said. ‘‘I think we both know that, the coaches know that and our teammates know that. When it comes down to getting on the field in training camp and competing against our defense, we just want to go out there and be a better offense. . . . Whatever the sample size is, the on-field performance in practices, preseason games, whatever capacity that is, I think will determine it.’’
Trubisky has been holding throwing sessions with receiver Allen Robinson, running back Tarik Cohen and others for the last few weeks. Organizing the outings provides insight into his leadership — he said he still thinks of the Bears as ‘‘my team’’ — but practice performance never has been an issue for him. Translating it to Sundays has been.
That’s what will make the Bears’ quarterback competition so compelling, particularly if the NFL truncates the preseason schedule. The Bears have praised Trubisky’s practice play for years, only to see him fizzle in games. Will they trust his practice performances as an indicator of any real progress this season?
When they first spoke, Trubisky and Foles agreed they would work together to make the quarterback room as strong as it can be. Their relationship has grown from there.
‘‘But there also comes the competition side of it,’’ Trubisky said. ‘‘And I want to win this competition, and I want to be the guy out on the field leading this team.’’
Trubisky spent his video chat sitting in front of a poster spelling out former President Theodore Roosevelt’s ‘‘The Man in the Arena’’ speech, which starts: ‘‘It’s not the critic who counts.’’
For someone who has spent the offseason under scrutiny — Trubisky being drafted after Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson has become even more of a punch line — the message wasn’t subtle.
Trubisky’s most notable critic this offseason, however, might have been his own coach. Matt Nagy said in December he wanted Trubisky to be ‘‘a master at understanding coverages.’’ In February, he said that Trubisky needed to spend the offseason studying the playbook, so that he knew it better than Nagy did.
In the last few months, Trubisky has watched every snap from the last two seasons. He compared the throws he made then with what Nagy wanted him to do.
‘‘He challenged me in that, and I fully accepted it, as well as knowing the offense really, really well,’’ Trubisky said. ‘‘I’m just watching a lot of film and studying it like the back of my hand. I’m excited to be a lot better in that area this year.’’
That reading defenses and studying film were even questions is an indictment of Trubisky, who’s entering his fourth season. He blamed his offensive struggles last season on two things: health and a lack of attention to detail.
Trubisky was an offender in both categories. He suffered a partially torn labrum in his left shoulder in Week 4, wore a harness for the rest of the season and had surgery when the season ended.
‘‘I felt like we lacked details overall on offense — myself included, especially,’’ he said. ‘‘If we’re on top of those this year and we just hold each other accountable to the standard we know we’re capable of, then we’ll have a lot more success and win more games.’’
Trubisky knows he’ll be judged by his actions, not by what he says while sitting between a computer screen and a motivational poster in June.
‘‘It’s good to be pissed off a little bit,’’ Trubisky said. ‘‘It’s good to have that motivation. I think everyone on our team should be, [given] the way we performed last year. . . .
‘‘[It’s] one thing to talk about it. We’ve gotta go out and do it. We’ve gotta do it with our actions, and we’ve gotta back up the talk with our play and make it translate to the field.’’