Tuesday, December 22, 2020 11:20 AM

Is Chicago's Nick Foles experiment over?

in Sports | Chicago Bears by MegaBearsFan
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When I wrote earlier this year about the Bears benching Mitch Trubisky in favor of Nick Foles, I said that I was surprised that Trubisky had been named the pre-season starter, that I expected Foles would eventually have the starting job, and that I was still surprised that Trubisky was suddenly benched in the middle of the week 3 game against the Falcons. It all seemed so indecisive. Trubisky had supposedly earned the job in training camp, was playing well, had lead a comeback victory in week 1 against the Lions, but was benched after a single mistake.

From my position as an un-informed spectator, the whole thing made no sense.

Then Foles came in and didn't exactly light up the scoreboard either. Foles lead the team to 2 victories, and it almost looked like the decision to change quarterbacks wouldn't hurt the team. Then the Bears' offense started playing far worse with Foles as starting quarterback, dropping the next six games straight. Granted, most of those 6 losses were against good offenses, such as the Saints, Packers, and Titans, and the Bears struggled to keep up. But Foles just wasn't looking good, and he wasn't helped by a stagnant run game while Tarik Cohen has been sidelined with injury. By the time of the week 10 matchup against the Vikings, I was starting to expect that a switch back to Trubisky probably should happen.

Mitch Trubisky has re-taken the starting job from Nick Foles. But was it too late to save the season?

That switch waited another week till the matchup against the Packers. The Bears offense was embarrassed during that primetime game with a slew of mistakes and turnovers. The offense performed better the following week against the Lions and put up 30 points, but still lost. The offense has also gone on to score more than 30 points in the Bears' 2 wins since, including a victory over the Vikings this past weekend that moved the Bears up to the top slot for playoff runner-up. The Bears are now 1 game behind the 7-seed Cardinals with 2 games left to play. They're also 2 games behind the Buccaneers and Rams, but only have a tie-breaker with the Buccaneers. Their victory against the Vikings puts them 1 game ahead of the Vikings (who are the only remaining team eligible for a wildcard berth). The Bears basically need to win both their remaining games (including a week 17 rematch against a Packers team that embarassed the Bears at the end of November), and then also hope that the Buccaneers, and/or Cardinals lose their last 2 games.

The most likely path to a playoff birth is if the Cardinals lose both their remaining games, and the Bears win both. That would give the Bears a 1-game lead over the Cardinals. The Cardinals' remaining games are a home matchup against the 49ers (coming off an upset loss to the Cowboys) and a road game against the Rams. Both are tough matchups for the cardinals, but very winnable ones. The 49ers also have nothing left to play for except pride and the satisfaction of maybe playing spoiler to a division rival.

So it seems unlikely that the Bears will make the 2020 playoffs. I doubt the Bears will beat the Packers in week 17, and I doubt the Cardinals will lose to the 49ers. Granted, the Bears do own the tie-breaker with the Cardinals, so if both finish 9-7 or both finish 8-8, the Bears would get the playoff nod.

If the Buccaneers do drop both their last 2 games, and the Bears do pull off the upset against Green Bay and finish 9-7, then it won't matter what the Cardinals do. The Bears would have the head-to-head tie-breaker against the Buccaneers and would take their spot.

As far as I know, the Bears cannot supplant the Rams.

The Bears have tie-breakers against the Cardinals (division record) and Buccaneers (head-to-head victory).

But what would have happened if the Bears would have kept Trubisky as the starter all along? Or given him back the job earlier in the season, after it became apparent that Foles was struggling? The Bears lost to the Saints, Titans, and Vikings by a single score. The Vikings game, in particular, was a very winnable one, with the Bears losing by a score of 19-13. A late-game touchdown, or replacing 2 field goals with TDs, would have been enough to win that game. And with more starts, more practice with the 1st team, and more confidence in the playbook, could Trubisky have lead the team to a more competitive performance against the Packers and/or a win against the Lions?

Had the Bears kept Trubisky as the starter, would the 6th or 7th seed be theirs to lose?

This leaves the question of who will be the Bears' quarterback in 2021? The Bears declined Trubisky's 5th year option on his rookie contract. They could still resign him, but that seems unlikely unless Trubisky does lead the team to a playoff berth and maybe a playoff victory or 2.

Foles is on contract for 2 more years, which means the Bears are stuck with him unless they can work out a trade. I'm not sure who would want Nick Foles after he bombed in both Jacksonville and Chicago. Maybe New England?

There's also the question of who will be the Bears' coach in 2021? Nagy could be on the hot seat, especially if the Bears drop both these remaining games. The Bears' coaching has been suspect over the past year or so, but do think that firing Nagy would be premature at this point.

North Dakota State's Trey Lance or BYU's Zach Wilson are potential draft picks for the Bears.

I think the most likely outcome is that the Bears give Nagy one more year. I also think they'll cut Trubisky lose into free agency. That will pencil-in Foles as the 2021 starter, pending the Bears drafting a promising rookie quarterback. The Bears will likely be picking in the middle of the pack in the 2021 draft, unless they trade up for an earlier pick. It seems unlikely to me that stud QBs like Clemson's Trevor Lawrence or Ohio State's Justin Fields falls to the Bears. But North Dakota State's Trey Lance or BYU's Zach Wilson are not out of the question. Alabama's Mac Jones and Forida's Kyle Trask are expected to hang around through the second or third round, and should be available if the Bears want to fill other position needs first.

But with the way the Bears make bone-headed personnel decisions, I wouldn't put it past them to trade away Foles for an earlier pick and then use it to take Georgia's Jamie Newman. Newman transferred to Georgia from Wake Forest after the 2019 season, then opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID, and so didn't played a down with Georgia. Newman would be a project quarterback. He's mobile, but needs to work on his progressions and form. He's exactly the kind of quarterback that the Bears would take, then completely blunder developing him and be searching for another QB 3 or 4 years later.

I wouldn't be surprised if the Bears trade up and take Jamie Newman,
even though he didn't play in 2020 and would be a project.

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