Mitch Trubisky reads a room better than he does a defense.
After he was benched in the third quarter Sunday for throwing an interception to a defender he never saw, Trubisky spoke to the media and vowed to do his best in his new role as Nick Foles’ backup.
“This is still a team-first game,” Trubisky said after the game. “So whoever’s first, if Nick’s the starter going forward, it is what it is. And I’ve got to have his back just like he had mine.”
When the Bears named Trubisky the starting quarterback last month, they were comforted by the fact that Foles, perhaps the most accomplished backup in NFL history, knew his role: to mentor, encourage and to be ready when called upon.
Now that they’ve switched to Foles, they need Trubisky, as frustrated as he is by the decision, to do the same.
Keeping Trubisky engaged and mentally prepared is critical to the Bears’ season. Foles, who’s had injury and performance issues in the past, probably won’t go the distance. He has never started more than 12 games in a season.
The Bears will eventually need Trubisky.
He’s already saying the right things. Now he needs to follow through.
“I think what you know about Mitchell is he understands the perspective and the big picture . . .” said passing game coordinator Dave Ragone, who’s known Trubisky longer than any of the Bears’ current coaches. “For me, understanding and knowing him, he’s going to do this the right way in terms of being a great teammate. . . . There’s no doubt in any of our minds that’s how he’s going to approach this.
“Internally? Sure, as a competitor, anybody who’s ever played a down of anything, you obviously want to be out there. And when you’re not out there you have to switch that role. And I think that’s what he’s going to do.”
Trubisky was a backup quarterback in his first four NFL games. He spent two years in that role at North Carolina, though. When Marquise Williams beat him out in 2014, coach Larry Fedora vowed to “use Mitch as we need to do throughout a game.” The redshirt freshman threw 78 passes in relief, with a season-high 16 in a blowout win against Liberty. As a sophomore, Trubisky threw 47, with a season-high 20 in garbage time against Delaware.
He stayed engaged — and was effective — but never started. Trubisky took over in 2016 only after Williams graduated. This time, though, Foles is the one who will stick around longer; he’s on a three-year deal, while Trubisky can be a free agent at the end of the season. If Trubisky doesn’t fight his way back onto the field, his next snap will be with another team.
The Bears have been delicate with Trubisky since the switch. That’s one reason coach Matt Nagy waited a day to name Foles the starter.
The Bears’ coaching staff is filled with quarterbacks who started in college: Nagy [Delaware], offensive coordinator Bill Lazor [Cornell], John DeFilippo [Fordham] and Ragone [Louisville]. Even defensive line coach Jay Rodgers played quarterback at Indiana and Missouri State.
They all know first-hand that changing quarterbacks is devastating.
“If you polled us all, at some point in our careers, we’ve been in the situation that Mitch is going through right now,” said DeFilippo, who reached out to Trubisky on Sunday and Monday night. “The emotions that are going on inside of you right now as a competitor are human. . . . So we all understand what Mitch is going through.”
Trubisky is hurting. But he’ll be defined by what he does next.
“There is no doubt in my mind,” DeFilippo said, “that he will be the teammate we want him to be, that he wants to be.”
NOTES: The Bears put Tarik Cohen on injured reserve two days after he tore the ACL in his right knee. They promoted running back Artavis Pierce to take his place.
• Defensive end Terry Beckner and linebacker Sharif Finch were added to the practice squad.