Monday, September 28, 2020 05:00 PM

Is Chicago's Trubisky experiment over?

in Sports | Chicago Bears by MegaBearsFan
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Readers of my blog know that I was not a big fan of the Chicago Bears' decision to trade up in the 2017 draft to select Mitchel Trubisky. The decision seemed flat-out stupid considering how much money they had given Mike Glennon in the trade with the Buccaneers. Why spend so much money to trade for veteran QB, if you were planning to go all-in on a QB in the draft? It was especially non-sensical considering that Trubisky wasn't even the highest-rated passer in the draft.

This past offseason's decision to trade for Nick Foles initially excited me. That excitement turned to disappointment when head coach Matt Nagy announced that Trubisky would remain the starter. The move to pay for a high-profile QB in a trade, only to keep the under-performing incumbent as the starter wreaked of poor decision-making in the same way that the Glennon / Trubisky situation did 3 years ago.

Mitchel Trubisky has not been nearly as infuriatingly bad as Jay Cutler was.

It isn't like Trubisky is a horrible quarterback. He had a phenomenal 2018 season that lead to a Pro Bowl invitation. His 2019 season was a noticeable regression (possibly due to nagging injury), but it was never as bad as the worst Jay Cutler years. Remember that Cutler lead the NFL in interceptions multiple years during his tenure in Chicago that got three coaching staffs fired. Trubisky has not been that bad, and he is a big upgrade over Cutler.

But Foles seemed like an upgrade over Trubisky. Foles had, after all, lead the Eagles to the Super Bowl (as a backup to injured Carson Wentz). If the Bears made the trade for Foles, then I had to conclude that it meant they didn't have faith in Trubisky.

When Nagy announced that Trubisky had won the job in offseason competition, I expected that he must have looked damn good to have beat out Foles. In fact, Trubisky did look fantastic in the comeback win against the Lions in week 1. The offense then went on to struggle in week 2 against a bad Giants team, then appeared to falter again in the first half against the Falcons. Apparently, all it took was a single interception from Trubisky for the Nagy to decide to pull him out in favor of Foles.

I didn't get to watch the game because it wasn't televised in my region of the country. The highlights that I saw made it look like Trubisky was playing a good game up until that interception. The offense was moving the ball. They just weren't scoring points, and some of that is on the kicker for missing a field goal on the opening drive.

Trubisky was benched after botching the primary read on a dagger concept.

Even though the interception was a bad decision, there must've been more going on that wasn't in the highlights that I saw. I can't imagine that the one interception by itself was enough to replace the starter. Even though Trubisky ultimately is responsible for botching the primary read and throwing the drag route right into a flat zone defender who Trubisky is supposed to be keying off of (instead of the wide open deep in route), Jimmy Graham didn't help Mitch by running a lazy-looking route and carrying it right into the defender (as opposed to stopping and sitting in the hole of the zone). So this one wasn't all on Mitch.

Fole's interception was just a great play by the defender.

That isn't to say that Foles played a perfect game either. He made a bad decision to throw an unbalanced pass off his back foot that was almost intercepted. But defenders ran into each other, and the ball sailed right through the corner's hands into the chest of Jimmy Graham for a big gain. If not for the defenders running into each other, Foles would have started with two interceptions. The first interception, by the way, isn't Foles' fault; the defender just made an outstanding play to rip the ball from Allen Robinson's hands in the end zone.

I had no doubt in my mind that Foles would eventually be the starter for the Bears. I just didn't expect it to happen so suddenly -- before the Bears had even lost a game yet. Trubisky lead a 4th-quarter comeback against Detroit in week 1. So what changed between then and week 3? Why did the quarterback switch happen in week 3 and not when the Bears were down 23 to 6 going into the 4th quarter of the week 1 match against the Lions?

At this point, I have to assume that Foles was planned to take over as the starter from the beginning. Trubisky being the starter at the beginning of the season was probably more a result of the pandemic-shortened training camps and lack of preseason. Maybe Foles hadn't learned the offense yet and didn't have enough time to practice with the team, so Trubisky had the incumbent advantage going into week 1? Now that Foles does know the offense better, maybe the coaches were just waiting for Trubisky to mess up so that they could give Foles the chance?

I never doubted that Foles would be starting by the end of the year.

Trubisky's future?

In any case, Foles is the starter going into the week 4 matchup against the Colts. And I feel so much better about the prospects for Chicago's offense! Pending a meltdown or injury, I expect him to remain the starter for the rest of the season. As for Trubisky, he is in the final year of his 4-year rookie contract. With Foles being the quarterback for Chicogo for the foreseeable future, the Bears will likely decline Trubisky's fifth year option (assuming they haven't already), and let Trubisky go into free agency.

I personally think the best fit for Trubisky might be to go to New England to back up injury-prone Cam Newton. Both have had success as option quarterbacks willing to run the ball. Belichick and his staff really have a way of getting the most out of project players. And I'm sure they must be worried about Cam's long-term durability, considering that he's started the season with only 2 TD passes, but has run for 4. The Patriots are really leaning hard on Newton's legs, which means he's going to take a pounding over the course of the season.

I think the best fit for Trubisky next year would be as a backup to Cam Newton or Ben Roethlisberger.

If Derek Carr fails to impress for the Las Vegas Raiders (that's still weird to say ... "Las Vegas Raiders"...), then Trubisky could be a good choice short-term to battle it out with Marcus Mariota for the starting job, while Gruden grooms a drafted franchise QB.

The Colts and Steelers may also be in the hunt for a back-up or short-term replacement for aging Phillip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger. And if he's willing to take a backup contract, I think he would be a decent fit as a backup to Lamar Jackson in Baltimore or Pat Mahomes in Kansas City.

Wherever he ends up, I hope Mitch has success. He hasn't infuriated me as much as Jay Cutler did, so I hold no animosity towards him. And if he does somehow end up returning to the starting role in Chicago, eh, the Bears could do worse.

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