Will Mitch Trubisky have to be saved from John Fox?
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The Bears’ minicamps and organized team activities are over, and if you don’t know the critical difference between the two exercises, I’m here to help.
NFL minicamps are mandatory for players. OTAs are voluntary, and by voluntary, coaches mean, “If you value your job, your salary and your ability to get free drinks around town, you will be here.’’
The one thing that came out of the Bears’ offseason workouts is the same thing that was there before any of them started: Don’t play Mitch Trubisky this season. This is true not because he looked bad in shorts and helmet at any of the be-there-or-else practices, but because there is very little in it for the franchise for him to take a snap in 2017.
This is going to take willpower from ownership, general manager Ryan Pace, fans and, ahem, media members, who have been known to have an itchy trigger finger when it comes to agitating for a quarterback change. But most of all, this is going to take willpower from John Fox, who could be facing his last year as Bears coach. And if not willpower from a desperate Fox, then a pair of handcuffs to stop him from doing something that could ruin the quarterback and the franchise.
The team’s drafting of Trubisky was greeted by extremely loud boos. Critics saw the pick as a huge reach, especially for a quarterback who had started just 13 games in his career at North Carolina. Making it worse, those critics said, was the Bears’ unnecessary decision to trade up one spot with the 49ers, from third to second, to choose Trubisky.
I saw it as a general manager having the conviction of his beliefs and possessing the boldness to follow through on that conviction. Pace very well could end up being a bold idiot and a convicted fool. But for now, I’m sticking with the idea that he might be on to something – with one caveat.
If a franchise is bold enough to take an unheralded quarterback with the second overall pick in the draft, it needs to be bold enough not to give in to impulse and every outside demand to play him during his rookie year. That won’t be easy. Pace wants to be right, and surely he has a strong desire to prove his doubters wrong. There might be a temptation to play Trubisky and say, “Told you so!’’
But the best way to accomplish optimal results is to let him spend the year learning behind the scenes and avoiding the mental and physical scars that could last a lifetime.
This is where Fox comes in. Does anyone know what he’ll do if push comes to shove comes to a possible quarterback change? He wants to win football games, and he hasn’t done much of that in Chicago. If Mike “This Is My Year’’ Glennon doesn’t perform well as the starting quarterback, will Fox get antsy?
We have the possibility of a rogue coach looking to save his job by playing a young quarterback who might surprise everybody and catch fire. The right thing, the prudent thing, is to have a healthy Mark Sanchez or a healthy anybody else be Glennon’s backup this season. Anybody but Trubisky.
The Bears probably aren’t going to win many games in 2017, and this can’t be overstated: It’ll be OK. It really will be. The moment NFL commissioner Roger Goodell read Trubisky’s name as the Bears’ pick, it meant that the team was committed to a patient approach. It’s tough when everyone, coaches and players especially, is impatient. But the patient route is the way to go.
For better or worse, Pace’s career forever will be tied to Trubisky. For the good of the organization, it’s up to him to make sure the young quarterback is put in the best position to succeed. Even if playing time is the purview of the head coach, Pace will need to race down from his private box at the first hint of a Trubisky sideline warm-up pass and say, “Stand down, son.’’
By all reports, Trubisky looked good during the offseason workouts, mandatory or otherwise. Those practices don’t mean a whole lot. They aren’t real games. But I’m concerned the young quarterback’s performance put a twinkle in Fox’s eye and an idea in his head.
Let’s hope not. But if it did, let’s hope even more that Pace steps in if Fox tries to act on that impulse.