Mitch Trubisky-Nick Foles battle at a standstill
So even though Foles seemed to win the day, it was a victory by points rather than anything close to a knockout. The Bears’ quarterback against the Lions on Sept. 13 remains a mystery. If somebody’s winning, it’s not by much. Maybe by default.
With Soldier Field as the backdrop, the Bears’ practice Saturday looked like the best chance yet to see the Mitch Trubisky vs. Nick Foles competition in all its glory — enough to maybe even draw some conclusions nine days before Week 1 begins.
The players were in full uniform for an 11-on-11 scrimmage. They went through a game-day routine — warming up, going back to the locker room, then returning to the field with a welcome from new public-address announcer Tim Sinclair.
Alas, it was not to be. The scrimmage was first team vs. second team, which never seems like a good way to evaluate the starters on a football team. There was no live tackling. And it wasn’t even a true scrimmage; it was actually a series of scripted plays. So after a long completion, the Bears often went back to the same yard line for the next snap instead moving the ball downfield.
Foles seemed to win the day, but it was a victory by points rather than anything close to a knockout. The Bears’ starting quarterback against the Lions on Sept. 13 remains a mystery. If somebody’s winning, it’s not by much. Maybe by default.
Trubisky threw two interceptions, both with the second-team offense and both by cornerback Kyle Fuller. And Nagy at least partially excused them both. The first one was a “scramble breakdown” in which Trubisky threw the ball after a would-be sack. The second one was on a ball tipped at the line by defensive end Roy Robertson-Harris.
“Remember,” Nagy said, “we are not allowed to cut [block] the defensive players. So a lot of times you can get their hands down with cutting, and we had a couple tipped. So I talked to [defensive line] coach Jay Rodgers and said, ‘Hey, we can’t cut you, so be careful with all those tips.’ ”
Nagy said he won’t name a starter before the Lions game. When he was asked if either quarterback was leading — without naming the leader — he declined in the name of “gamesmanship.” But he still seemed to indicate the competition might be as murky to the coaches as it appears to the untrained eye.
“We know that there certainly can be improvement with both of them,” Nagy said. “But they’re making good decisions. There’s times they’re making good throws. There’s times they’re making throws they wish they had back. But I’m going to put it this way: Intentionally, I’m not going to give a direction right now.”
This scrimmage was a good example of the difficulty in finding a winner.
The whole process, almost by its nature, is herky-jerky. With two quarterbacks splitting possessions and predetermined scripted plays preventing either from getting into the true rhythm of a successful drive, there was little chance for Foles or Trubisky to actually play quarterback. There’s little opportunity to build off momentum and lead a drive that helps foster the quarterback-led cohesion any good offense needs.
“Exactly,” Trubisky said. “I think it’s just hard to show. But with the circumstances, we’re trying to do the best we can. And we’re trying to run the offense. I wouldn’t say it’s a problem. But it is kind of weird. You’re just not in the flow of the game.”
Foles called it a “good work day” but also acknowledged the difficulty of getting in a groove.
“It’s definitely different when it’s a scripted scrimmage,” Foles said. “It’s almost like a double battle — you’re trying to play the game, but then you’re playing the script.”
Therein lies a bit of a paradox with the “open competition” process. It’s designed to find a starter, but the Bears need to develop a leader.
“You would like to feel more in a game flow and build that momentum and show the intangibles,” Trubisky said. “But it is what it is. We’re just trying to put together good practices right now.”