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Mitch Trubisky or Nick Foles? Bears QB derby too close to call after one day

The quarterbacks threw routes to receivers for the first time Wednesday at Halas Hall, but the real competition begins Friday, when Trubisky and Foles compete against the defense in training camp.

Mitch Trubisky (10) is battling veteran Nick Foles for the Bears’ starting quarterback job. “The evaluation process ... isn’t gonna start until you put some people on the other side,” coach Matt Nagy said.
Mitch Trubisky (10) is battling veteran Nick Foles for the Bears’ starting quarterback job. “The evaluation process ... isn’t gonna start until you put some people on the other side,” coach Matt Nagy said.
Matt Ludtke/AP

In the COVID-19 world of sports, one baby step is a giant leap. So it was no surprise that you could hear the excitement in coach Matt Nagy’s voice as he talked about seeing his offense finally on the field Wednesday.

“Today was our very first day throwing routes to each other on air [full speed but not against a defense] for the first time,” Nagy said in a teleconference with reporters. “Think about that. We’ve had a lot of Zoom meetings; we’ve had a lot of discussions. We can talk about it — it sounds good through this computer. But today was the very first time of our entire [offense] being able to throw routes from these quarterbacks to the wide receivers, tight ends and running backs. For the first time since last year.”

The next step will be Friday, when the Bears practice in full — offense vs. defense — for the first time. Considering the circumstances of a long, difficult offseason, it’ll be kind of like the first day of school.

“These guys are going to be really excited to actually go against somebody else on the other side and compete for the first time in a long time,” Nagy said.

And, of course, this was the first step in the ballyhooed quarterback derby between incumbent Mitch Trubisky and newcomer Nick Foles. Every time they step on the field — even in the most cursory of ways — Nagy will be asked the same question: How did they do? But it’s way too early for that.

“I wish I could give you more, but it is just too limited,” Nagy said when asked about Trubisky. “When we start getting into competitive periods and the defense is on the other side, I’ll be able to answer that question for you.

“It’s the same thing with Nick. The evaluation process that we’re all trying to watch and look for and search for really isn’t gonna start until you put some people on the other side.”

As for Foles, “so far, so good,” Nagy said. “I thought his feet were good. I thought his timing was good. But we’re evaluating and watching these guys at the same time. And I thought Mitch, too — we’ve talked about how he’s growing, as well, as a quarterback.

“So both of those guys — the [quarterbacks] room has been great. They’re really helping each other out. I told you all that it’s going to be a healthy competition, and so far they’re proving me right.”

Without preseason games, Nagy will have only practices to evaluate Trubisky and Foles — and the rest of the offense, as well. That’s not the worst scenario for Nagy, who has a first-rate first-team defense at his disposal to test both quarterbacks. But full-speed scrimmaging between first-team units is considered a risky endeavor, and Nagy figures to tread carefully in that area.

“You can still get away with doing that,” Nagy said when asked about starters against starters. “To go live one [vs.] one — that’s where I think you have to have a balance. Is that what you want to do or not do? If we do go one [vs.] one, understanding that there are pros and cons to that.”

In other words, Nagy figures to stick close to a traditional practice regimen to find a starting quarterback.

“For each quarterback, and for the rest of these guys that are competing, as long as it’s equal in regard to who they are going against,” Nagy said. “We know both of these quarterbacks have played against NFL defenses in their careers.”