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Bears must beware false positives in early part of QB duel

The Bears can’t hold a padded practice until Aug. 17. Until then, their coaches are forced to judge the preliminary round of their quarterback derby on more subtle things.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Jacksonville Jaguars
Nick Foles and Mitch Trubisky are competing for the Bears’ starting job.
Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images

Bears quarterback coach John DeFilippo has the grading system drawn up. When he watches practice film, he’ll judge his passers on whether they threw a completion — but also on just how accurate they were. He’ll consider not only whether a scramble resulted in a first down, but whether it was the right decision in the moment.

“We’re going to take it to the next level a little bit in terms of accuracy, in terms of timing, decision-making,” DeFilippo said Thursday.

With no preseason games to judge Mitch Trubisky and Nick Foles on, that’s all the Bears can do.

“Trying to keep perspective,” offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said. “The part that’s closest to real football is the part that should be the most important.”

That part is still 10 days away. The Bears can’t hold a padded practice until Aug. 17.

Until then, Bears coaches will be forced to judge the preliminary round of their quarterback derby on more subtle details.

First impressions matter. Until this week, DeFilippo had never seen Trubisky throw live — or even met third-stringer Tyler Bray in person.

Still, there’s only so much DeFilippo and his fellow coaches can learn from how a QB handles a walk-through at Halas Hall.

And that’s where the danger lies — and not just because Trubisky has been notorious in his career for playing well in practice but not on Sundays. This early in the NFL’s most bizarre preseason ever, a strong classroom performance can easily produce a false positive. If a coach catches Trubisky or Foles leading in a quiet moment, it could portend great things — or nothing at all.

“It’s a very unique situation,” DeFilippo said. “We’ve just got to get to know each other as well as we can and as quick as we can.”

And pick a starter as fast as they can, too.

“In that competitive environment, you want to see which guy moves this offense better, and I think it just really comes down to something as simple as that,” DeFilippo said. “Obviously, when you’re in the huddle, [you’re looking for] who’s functioning better. But at the end of the day, which guy is raising the other 10 guys’ level of play?

“Hopefully one of those guys steps up in that role sooner rather than later. That would be great for our football team. But obviously, we’ll take it out as long as we need to, to make the best choice for our football team.”

DeFilippo became a first-time father on July 31. He can’t imagine, if he were to have another child, trying to pick a favorite. He has used that analogy with his friends lately when they’ve quietly asked him which quarterback he prefers.

DeFilippo admitted what head coach Matt Nagy did last week: that Foles being out of state for the entire offseason was a disadvantage for him — but not necessarily an edge for Trubisky. DeFilippo said he’s watching how Foles and Trubisky interact with each other during team meetings and walk-throughs, and so far, it’s comfortable. That, he said, is a good sign of character.

“There’s gonna be great competition,” he said. “But it’s not gonna be combative.”

The practice film won’t lie.

“We get a grade, every week, for 16 regular-season games, and you pass or you fail,” he said. “There’s no in-between. There’s no getting a C. It’s either an F or an A.

“So we would be doing a disservice to our fans, our organization, our ownership, if we put any bias into this at all. And so I think that, when you put it that way, it allows your mind to work in an unbiased way.”