After five months of waiting to see who the Bears’ starting quarterback will be, it looks like the suspense will continue to drag out awhile.
Incumbent Mitch Trubisky and challenger Nick Foles took turns in team drills during practice Monday, and coach Matt Nagy is in no hurry to shift toward one of them taking the bulk of the snaps.
“We are going to stretch that out as far as we possibly can,” Nagy said. “There’s limited reps, limited time, so we’re going to . . . literally take it as far as we need to go. Both of these guys have experience in this game, and I think that’s only what’s fair.”
But satisfying? Hardly.
Nonetheless, that’s the plan. The Bears will keep alternating the two as they work through the preseason. There are 13 practices remaining before they begin preparations for the opener at Detroit on Sept. 13.
Trubisky and Foles have unoffi-cially been making their cases in walkthroughs and teleconferences, but the real competition began Monday. Each was in for fewer than 20 snaps for 11-on-11 drills, and a large portion was run plays.
Amid that work, there were signs of frustration and hope. Early in practice, Trubisky forced one over the middle to wide receiver Allen Robinson in triple coverage; it fell incomplete. Foles came through later with a completion to new tight end Jimmy Graham in heavy traffic. Both had good and bad moments.
For those eager to make a judgment on who leads the race, there wasn’t nearly enough evidence for that. Any prediction would still be based on what Trubisky and Foles did in seasons past, and neither is the runaway favorite based on that.
Trubisky played well enough for the Bears to cash in on their elite defense in 2018 and win the NFC North, then spiraled toward the bottom of the NFL last season. He was bottom-six in passer rating (83.0) and yards per game (209.2) and threw just 17 touchdowns against 10 interceptions.
That was enough for Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace to decide they no longer wanted to bet their future employment on him. So, in a world where Cam Newton was available for the veteran minimum, the Bears traded a fourth-round draft pick for Foles and signed him for three years, $24 million.
Foles casts an impressive shadow at 6-6, 253 pounds and has a Super Bowl MVP trophy from his days with the Eagles, but his overall résumé is choppy. He’s on his fifth team in nine seasons, has been a full-time starter twice and is coming off a frustrating stint in Jacksonville last year. The Jaguars signed him to a four-year, $88 million contract; he then suffered a broken clavicle in the first quarter of the first game (on a touchdown pass, no less) and was out until November. He returned for three games before being benched in favor of Gardner Minshew.
Trubisky bristled at the Bears stripping him of his place as the unquestioned starter, but he knew it was likely after how poorly he played last season. Both he and Foles have spoken highly of each other, and either figures to be a good teammate as the backup.
Asked about Tru-bisky’s response to being thrown into a competition, Nagy noted an enhanced determination but also a willingness to coexist with his competitor.
“Whatever he’s doing, there’s just a great intention for him right now to play quarterback the best that he can and not worry about anything else,” Nagy said. “Mitch right now is in a place mentally that I really just feel like is really good. I like where he’s at.”
That’s fine for Day 1, but eventually Nagy must decide whether he trusts Trubisky or Foles to turn the team around after a brutal disappointment in 2019. One of the two must set himself apart, and time is already running short.