Bears camp: How coaches are ensuring QB derby remains a fair fight
They structure practices with the goal of giving each quarterback a similar number of snaps — and ensure they run the same plays. When it’s over, they analyze the film and break down how each man played. And then they do it again the next day.
Mitch Trubisky and Nick Foles spend almost two hours every practice competing for the Bears’ starting quarterback job.
The team’s coaches spend the other 22 hours in the day trying to make sure it’s a fair fight.
They structure practices with the goal of giving each quarterback a similar number of snaps — and ensure they run the same plays. When it’s over, they analyze the film and break down how each man played.
And then they do it again the next day, knowing that the season opener looms Sept. 13, and a starter likely needs to be picked at least a week before then.
Coach Matt Nagy is relying on his cadre of quarterback-focused coaches — offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo and pass-game coordinator Dave Ragone — to chart the too-short-for-comfort course.
“Every morning, we get together and discuss a lot of different things,” Nagy said Friday. “Every night, we get together and we wrap up the day — what we saw, what our beliefs are and what our opinions are — and then, ‘OK, how are we going to prep for tomorrow?’ ’’
Lazor is responsible for scripting practice. He must schedule the concepts — and the plays — the Bears want to run on a given day. Then the Bears go about dividing the plays between Trubisky and Foles.
“Making sure if one guy gets 2 Jet All-Go, the other guy gets 2 Jet All-Go,” DeFilippo said. “And making sure it’s not just equal reps, it’s equal plays, where we can judge a guy’s eyes, we can judge a guy’s footwork on the same exact rep.”
In the name of equity, the Bears have rotated whether Trubisky or Foles starts practice with the first team. But they can’t easily control whether they throw to starting receivers because of the unique circumstances of this training camp. NFL teams are operating with 80 players, not 90 — and probably two fewer receivers than they would have otherwise.
To protect the receivers from injury — and to keep from running them to exhaustion —coaches have to slow down the frequency of passes during drills. The Bears are running far fewer than the 40 plays in 20 minutes they could rattle off during a normal camp.
“What’s hard,” Nagy said, ‘‘is you just don’t have the reps and the numbers of players.”
Nagy said he watches a quarterback and asks the following questions: How does his footwork match up with the timing of the route? Has he done the proper progression when looking for the open receiver? Has he correctly identified the middle linebacker at the line of scrimmage?
In the name of efficiency, neither he nor his coaches pick apart throws while standing on the practice field.
“It gets too choppy,” Nagy said. “That’s why we have so much film. We can get right back in here and get to the details of, ‘What did we see?’ ”
They use practice film to teach in the classroom. DeFilippo developed a grading system that focuses not only on results but on decision-making. It’s not enough to complete a pass — a quarterback must throw the ball accurately to the proper receiver on time.
“Is his timing correct, whether it be the right drop or getting in front at the right time?” Lazor said. “Is his decision correct, based on what that play asks him to do? Is he accurate with the football?
“If you just hang with those three things, that’s the bulk of the pass-game evaluation.”
It’s straightforward but not easy. If it were, Nagy and his coaches wouldn’t spend their entire day preparing for, executing and reviewing their quarterback competition.
“When you speak the same language, there’s no short circuit on plays,” Nagy said. “And it filters down to the players. We just have got to keep that thing going and make sure it always stays that way.”