The Bears might have to reckon with a quarterback change at some point, but, for now, Mitch Trubisky has the job. And with that, he has regained coach Matt Nagy’s trust.
As he heads into the opener Sunday in Detroit, Trubisky doesn’t have to worry about getting yanked for performance. Nagy indicated he’ll let Trubisky ride out the game regardless of how it’s going rather than have Nick Foles essentially in the bullpen.
“This is Mitch’s game, and this is what he does,” Nagy said Wednesday. “And then if that time [to make a change] ever comes down the road, it comes. But our focus isn’t there.”
It’s one of the biggest opportunities of Trubisky’s career. It’s his chance to propel the Bears after a frustrating 2019 season, his chance to eliminate any doubt that he was the right choice over Foles and his chance to relaunch his career.
That’s a lot of weight to put on a game in September, but the stakes are huge for Trubisky. Every good game he can muster pushes the looming Foles threat another week down the road and provides some breathing room.
If he plays well and beats the Lions, he is assured that Week 2 against the Giants also will be “Mitch’s game.” If he flops, everything’s on the table Monday morning.
The first four games give Trubisky a great shot to solidify his place. The Lions, Giants, Falcons and Colts ranked 24th or worse in opponent passer rating last season.
While Trubisky isn’t looking that far ahead in the schedule, he clearly senses the importance of the 2020 season if he intends to remain an NFL starter. That urgency became apparent to Trubisky when the Bears traded for Foles in March and declined his fifth-year option in May.
He triumphed over those skeptical signals from the Bears to beat out Foles, and emerging with the ball in his hand for the opener has made him much more assured than he seemed to be last season, when he and the Bears tumbled.
“I just found my confidence this offseason when I figured out it was going to be a competition,” Trubisky said. “I mean, something had to change. . . . Just talking to my support cast and family and friends and reaching out for advice, I found my confidence again.
“I came in here with a different attitude and mindset, and . . . there’s gonna be no regrets. I’m not even worried about outcomes. I’m just worried about putting my best foot forward.”
He never directly expressed self-doubt last season — he fired off a line about turning the locker-room TVs off that showed some weariness — but it had to be there. He regressed across the board, and it was no secret in the building that Nagy was frustrated by his inability to read defenses and run the offense with precision.
Statistically, Trubisky was one of the worst starting quarterbacks in the NFL. Among the 31 players with at least 300 passes last season, he ranked 17th in completion percentage (63.2), 27th in passer rating (83.0) and touchdown passes (17) and 31st in yards per attempt (6.1).
With that level of play at quarterback, it’s no surprise the Bears finished 29th in scoring and yardage. They had other issues, but Trubisky was at the top of the list.
Through it all, Nagy was adamant he wouldn’t pull him for performance. This season is different, however, because the Bears believe they have an upgrade at backup quarterback with Foles instead of Chase Daniel and are open to the possibility that he could be better than Trubisky.
Those thoughts loom in the distance for Trubisky and won’t ever materialize if his newfound urgency and confidence produce the best football of his career, as he thinks they will.