Who’s winning the Bears’ quarterback battle? The rest of the league
Opposing offenses know they might not score much against the Bears’ defense, but they also know they might not need to.
The big question every day at Bears camp is: Who’s winning the quarterback competition? The answer, after a week of unmemorable work, is the rest of the NFL.
Neither Nick Foles nor Mitch Trubisky has amazed, leaving no decisive verdict on who should start against the Lions in three weeks. Trubisky has been a hair better, but practice performance is not the full equation.
It’s going to come down to whom coach Matt Nagy trusts, and he acknowledged last week that it’s not exactly a fresh start. He’ll survey the full history on each quarterback, and red flags abound.
Trubisky has an 85.8 passer rating through three years as a pro. In his best season, 2018, a quarter of his touchdown passes came in one game against the dismal Buccaneers — after which their coach declared, “We should fire everybody that was on that field today, starting with me. That was horrific.”
His most recent entry was a season in which his production fell across the board, and he averaged the fewest yards per attempt in the NFL. And he’d have to show dramatic improvement to regain Nagy’s confidence after Nagy said he needed to master the scheme and get better at reading coverages.
Foles, meanwhile, will forever have the words “Super Bowl MVP” in front of his name. His run that took the Eagles to a championship was unbelievable, so he deserves all the accompanying prestige.
But that accomplishment doesn’t negate that he has changed teams five times in nine years and has started eight or more games in only three seasons. The Jaguars bailed on him one season into a four-year, $88 million contract.
When Cam Newton and Andy Dalton were available for next to nothing, the Bears were convinced that Foles was far enough above those two to justify giving up a fourth-rounder from an already-depleted stock of draft picks and signing him to a three-year, $24 million contract.
They still don’t know if he’s an upgrade over Trubisky.
Nothing that happens in the remaining eight practices will rewrite the book on either guy, and general manager Ryan Pace’s quarterback boondoggle undercuts everything he has built defensively.
The strength of this team is the trio of Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks and Robert Quinn — accounting for more than a fifth of the payroll — and the Pro Bowl-caliber talent buttressing those pass rushers. Any opposing offense will rightfully fear the worst.
Quarterbacks know Mack will perpetually be on the verge of trampling them. They know Kyle Fuller and Eddie Jackson will pounce on the slightest mistake. They know they’ll be fortunate to get 14-17 points.
And they know that might be enough.
Over the last two years, the Bears are 21st in scoring at 21.9 points per game and lost games last season despite holding opponents to 17, 17 and 10 points. One of the two quarterbacks will probably play better than Trubisky did last season, but that’s not saying much, and a minor uptick doesn’t vault the Bears into contention.
It’s an unpopular thought in August, when all 32 teams believe they can win it all, but the cycle of the Bears inflating and bursting hope is exhausting.
“Let me tell you something: We’re in a phenomenal spot right now,” Nagy said when asked about Trubisky this time last year. “I love where we’re at.”
If anyone still wants to swoon over Nagy’s rosy outlook — both quarterbacks are getting better every day and progressing toward a big season — that’s fine. It’s kind of a tradition at this point.
But, eventually, the games begin, and the truth surfaces. And this gamble only pays off if Trubisky emerges as something he has never been or if Foles can consistently be something he has been only sporadically. It’s hard to have faith in that.