For Bears, offseason QB change feels inevitable

The Bears’ decision to keep general manager Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy for the 2021 season decreased the chance Mitch Trubisky will return — and might have eliminated it altogether.

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Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky walks out of the tunnel before the 2019 finale against the Vikings.

Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky walks out of the tunnel before the 2019 finale against the Vikings.

Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

The Bears fielded a fair catch Sunday at their own 18-yard line with 1:58 left in the first half. They trailed the Saints by only four and knew they would get the ball to start the second half. The Bears had two timeouts left, the Saints one.

On first down, they ran.

On second down, they ran.

On third down, they ran.

The Bears punted as the clock expired and ran to the locker room. 

In a playoff game. Down four.

“I didn’t like the field position,” coach Matt Nagy said after the game.

And he didn’t trust quarterback Mitch Trubisky. Nagy had calculated the likelihood of Trubisky marching the team into field-goal range versus the quarterback making a catastrophic mistake and decided to hand the ball off instead.

Anyone stumping Trubisky’s return to the Bears should keep that series in mind — not because Nagy made the wrong decision, but, given the context, the right one. 

The Bears’ decision to keep general manager Ryan Pace and Nagy for the 2021 season decreased the chance Trubisky will return — and might have eliminated it altogether.

Pace had his chance to show support for Trubisky on Wednesday but passed. Rather, he said “everything’s on the table” regarding the quarterback position. The team had to sit down and painstakingly evaluate every player on the roster.

Do you honestly believe Pace — who turned down the quarterback’s fifth-year option last year — doesn’t know whether he wants Trubisky back? 

Nagy decided to punt at the end of the first half Sunday, but in December he called a pass play on third-and-four at his own 17 with a three-point lead and 1:54 left. Trubisky fumbled while being sacked. The Lions recovered, scored six seconds later and won the game. Do you think Nagy wants to bet his head-coaching career in 2021 on another situation in which he’s damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t?

When Pace and Nagy met with chairman George McCaskey and president/CEO Ted Phillips for two days earlier this week, do you genuinely believe they pitched their vision of the future as doing the same thing they’ve done for the previous two years? 

“It starts with getting that [quarterback] part right,” Pace said.

Those are the words of a man prepared to do something different.

“To get to where we want to go, we definitely need more out of that position,” Pace said. “We know that. What does that entail? That is what this whole offseason is about.”

The Bears will yank the arm of the slot machine once again, hoping that wherever it stops — with a veteran, draft pick or, preferably, both — yields a better result at quarterback than Mike Glennon, Nick Foles and Trubisky. 

Trubisky, to be fair, sparked the Bears’ offense during a monthlong span against weak opponents. His 88.4 passer rating over the final two games, though, mirrors his 87.2 -career mark — and that’s after a garbage-time 99-yard drive against the Saints.

Nagy said Foles’ season “wasn’t easy,” given the lack of training camp and his benching after a 2-5 record.

“Are there areas where he could approve? Absolutely,” Nagy said. “Are there areas we can improve as a coaching staff to help him? Yes. And so . . . we’ll evaluate all that.”

Foles’ salary is guaranteed next year. He figures to return — unless he retires or the Bears can convince another team to take him. 

“There’s obviously a lot to sift through [at quarterback],” Phillips said. “That will be done. And frankly we’re excited about, and so are Matt and Ryan, about the ability for the two of them to look at that position together, whether it’s free agency, the draft, current quarterbacks we have, and to make the right decisions.”

That decision could be moving up from the 20th spot in the draft — a Pace speciality. Speaking generally Wednesday, Pace referenced having “ammunition in the draft” and “some creative things we can do.”

Unless they believe Foles can start for an entire season — they shouldn’t — the Bears will likely pursue a veteran via trade, regardless of whether they draft a quarterback. 

There are only two free agents who started at least 10 games last year: Philip Rivers, who will retire if he doesn’t return to the Colts, and the Patriots’ Cam Newton, who was a dud. Dak Prescott, whom the Cowboys could sign to a long-term deal or give a $37 million franchise tag, is recovering from a grisly ankle injury. 

The Bears are more likely to pursue mid-level starters via trade. The Eagles’ Carson Wentz and the Jets’ Sam Darnold were once top-three picks. Rolling Meadows High School and Eastern Illinois alum Jimmy Garoppolo doesn’t have any guaranteed money left on his deal with the 49ers. The Raiders have two quarterbacks, Derek Carr and Marcus Mariota, who should interest the Bears. Carr is one of Khalil Mack’s best friends.

Would the Lions trade Matthew Stafford to a rival? Would the Texans dare move a frustrated Deshaun Watson? 

Pace and Nagy will kick around all those hypotheticals the next two months. They -already have.

“I think when you go into selecting a quarterback or acquiring a quarterback in any way we do it — or whatever we do at that position — and everything is on the table, I go back to . . . the collaborative relationship that Matt and I have,” Pace said.

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