The winner of the Chicago Bears’ quarterback competition will not be decided on a Zoom conference call.
Nor will it be won in May.
But let it be known: The great QB derby of 2020 is already off and running.
Albert Breer’s latest at Sports Illustrated has a healthy chunk of Bears-related goodness as the team embarks on a journey to unearth its starting quarterback for the 2020 campaign. There is a healthy dose from Head Coach Matt Nagy, who is overseeing an offseason of change and projecting a summer of challenges for incumbent starter Mitch Trubisky, challenger Nick Foles, and an offense that saw sweeping changes throughout the offseason. I would recommend clearing some time in your day to read Breer’s piece.
But there are some specific QB-competition notes that I wanted to address, given the importance of that battle this summer.
For example … During one of his offseason press conferences after the Bears acquired Foles, Nagy made it a point to say that Trubisky would get the first snap at training camp. And in Breer’s piece, Nagy Trubisky re-iterated the plan.
“[I]t’s been loud and clear with those guys—again, we’re over communicating clarity—Mitchell’s gonna be in the huddle for Day 1, Play 1. He’ll be going into his fourth year, three with us. Mitchell’s done a lot of good things for us. Nick completely understands that. When Mitchell comes out of the huddle the first time, and Nick goes into the huddle the first time, that’s gonna be the first time it’s a little different for everybody.”
But first play or not, in the grand scheme of things, this means nothing. It’s not as if Trubisky is going to do something earth-shattering enough to put an end to the competition that’s coming. But I don’t hate that Nagy is giving Trubisky the first shot – as a sign of respect – as the returning starter whose teams have a winning record with him under center.
It makes sense that the Bears are doing it this way, too. Trubisky has familiarity with operating the offense with the players on the roster. He has a bond with the likes of center Cody Whitehair, wide receiver Allen Robinson, and others. And while Foles has a rapport with Nagy, Offensive Coordinator Bill Lazor, and Quarterbacks Coach John DeFilippo (which is valuable in its own right), it’s not the same as what Trubisky has with the guys on the field.
With that said, whether you believe (1) Foles will be the guy in Week 1 or (2) Trubisky will emerge triumphant in the QB derby doesn’t really matter. That battle is going to play out as it plays out. There may be favorites, preferences, expectations, etc., but it’s going to be a legitimate competition that Trubisky can lose or Foles can win.
I will note, however, that Foles reportedly had a one-on-one moment with Nagy during which he told him: “I’m coming in here to win the job, I’m gonna do everything I can, but I’m also gonna help Mitch.”
That’s eye-opening. Foles is apparently so confident in his skills and grasp of the offense that he is willing to do what he can to guide Trubisky. As someone whose career has featured back-up duties for stars, mentor to young up-and-comers, and more, Foles likely sees the big-picture value in being a good teammate and leading someone who needs guidance (and perhaps he also knows the most direct path to winning in 2020 *as a team* is not squeezing Trubisky out before trying to help him). Otherwise, Foles would be looking for every edge to knock Trubisky down a peg on his way to a power grab. Clearly, Foles has some swag here in showing that he can win this thing on his own merits. I can dig it. And I think the Bears do, too. Because if they didn’t, then bringing Foles into the fold in the first place is a mistake.
Of course, Foles likely thinks he can win this battle and obviously wants to do whatever he can to get there. Kind words or not, there’s only one QB1 on every roster card. Foles wants to be that guy.
Finally, there’s an interwoven vibe throughout the story that hints at the Bears having done plenty to get it right at the quarterback position this offseason. The Bears have built out a competition, brought in some new coaches, challenged their previous thinking, and appear ready to go on a voyage that will shape the collective futures of this franchise.
And indeed, reading through Breer’s piece left me feeling as if we’re about to take our first steps in what might be Trubisky’s swan song in Chicago.
If the Bears win, then things will take care of themselves one way or another. But if they don’t, a deeper and more thorough re-evaluation of the quarterback position will emerge from the ashes of this experiment.