Those waiting for general manager Ryan Pace to cap quarterback Mitch Trubisky’s Bears career with a long-awaited, public mea culpa were left to thumb through their Latin dictionaries for, well, whatever the opposite of an apology is.
But coach Matt Nagy acknowledged Friday that the Bears — and not just Trubisky — dropped the ball. It wasn’t a mea culpa but a we-a culpa — as in “we didn’t do enough.”
“When you look back at the relationship side, the communication side [with Trubisky], you always want to go back and say, ‘OK, could I have done more in a certain way of communicating?’ ” Nagy said. “Maybe a different way of how you learn who he is . . .
“I’m always gonna start with myself and say, ‘OK, where could I have gotten better?’ . . . As I built this staff, and we have different parts to the coaching staff and how they deal with the quarterback position — the coaching side, the on-the-field, the game-day, etc. — I just feel like in general, that’s probably where I would have started.
“I learned through it. And I’m sure Mitch did, too. Again, there’s a lot of other teams that have been in similar situations throughout the years.”
But few teams have had to carry baggage as heavy as trading four draft picks in 2017 to move up one spot to draft Trubisky instead of Patrick Mahomes or Deshaun Watson. With the outsized expectations, a split between Trubisky and the Bears was probably best, for the team and the player.
The Bears never doubted Trubisky’s effort or attitude. But his landing place — as a Bills backup, for one year, $2.5 million — reflects how far he’d fallen in the eyes of the league.
Nailing a first-round pick of a quarterback opens championship windows. Nagy acknow-ledged the huge financial advantage of being able to pay at rookie scale for the most expensive position in the game; it allows a team to spend at other spots during those first years.
The 2019 Chiefs won the Super Bowl with Mahomes on a rookie deal; the 2018 Rams went to the Super Bowl with Jared Goff on his first contract. Russell Wilson — trigger warning, Bears fans — won a Super Bowl and lost another before signing his first contract extension.
“[Quarterback] has changed in this league in the last five to six years,” Nagy said. “And right now, there’s just so much instant gratification that’s wanted and needed. People want it right away, especially, too, when you can hit on a quarterback that’s cheap in their first four years.”
Nagy was hired in 2018 to mold Trubisky, then a second-year quarterback. So what went wrong the last three seasons?
“You come here, different things happen,” he said. “But the kid worked so hard. He won a lot of football games for us. And when I say I’m indebted to him, there’s so many different conversations — and good conversations — that we had and things we worked through throughout those three years.
“For different reasons, it didn’t work out. But I certainly appreciate the way that he handled everything. And I’m sure he’s learned a lot. I know I’ve learned a lot.”
Pace, meanwhile, said merely that Trubisky “battled” and “sacrificed a lot for this team.” As for why the Bears didn’t bring Trubisky back, Pace said, “There’s a lot of factors and multiple people involved.” Asked why new starter Andy Dalton fits the scheme better than Trubisky did, Pace said he wants to look forward.
But he doesn’t get to dictate when the Trubisky discussions stop. And they won’t stop simply because Trubisky is in Buffalo and there’s finally finality to his Bears career.
“It’s hard to go through these processes,” Nagy said. “I care so much about him. . . . It didn’t work out here.”