Inspired by Michael Ernst’s list of 46 quarterbacks who have started at least once in the last 46 years, I found myself deep down the rabbit hole of quarterbacks I’ve watched since committing to Bears fandom early in my youth.
Re-visiting many of these names on the list isn’t for the faint of heart:
The names since I became a fan:
Barkley (not Chuck)
— Luis (@lcm1986) October 4, 2020
Today, a new hope presents itself in Nicholas Edward Foles.
Foles, 31, is part journeyman, part folk hero. The Bears are Foles’ fifth different franchise in six seasons. Outside of being 21-11 as a starter in Philadelphia, his other starts in Jacksonville (0-4), Kansas City (1-0), and St. Louis (4-7) have been underwhelming. And yet, Foles arrives in Chicago as a savior of some sorts. Or at minimum, the guy who can provide a bridge to the Bears’ next attempt at unearthing a bonafide franchise quarterback.
So … How Did We Get Here?
As fate would have it, the coach leading the Bears’ opponent today is a main reason Foles is starting in Chicago.
During his Wednesday press conference, Foles pointed to Colts Head Coach Frank Reich’s attempts to reach him in a different way as part of how he got to where he is today:
“He was the one who really figured me out as a player and realized we had it all wrong. They just threw some plays out there one day and said: Go play these plays. We’ve studied you. These are the plays you do. And sure enough, something triggered inside of me. … Even during games when I’d come to the sidelines, usually coaches want to coach you up, but he’d say ‘Just keep feeling it. Just keep doing it.’ He wouldn’t say much, and at first it’s sort of weird because you’re not used to a coach doing that.”
Coaching is so much more than X’s and O’s. And Foles proves that with how he talks about Reich. Because in addition to figuring out the plays that worked for Foles, Reich bonded with his quarterback on a personal level. Say what you want about the tangible coaching effect, because it’s valuable. But once you reach a real connection with a player as a person, it makes it easier to coach up the player.
What Makes Foles Different?
Head Coach Matt Nagy has raved about Foles’ ability to process defenses since the quarterback arrived via trade. And because Nagy has often stressed the importance of reading and mastering defenses, it’s no surprise the Bears turned to Foles when they did. So while I’ll fall short of expecting Foles to throw three touchdowns every half, I don’t think it’s unfair to expect him to put the Bears in a position to score points by taking what the defense gives him.
Check out the breakdown from Brian Baldinger, who explains how the Bears made their comeback with Foles running the show:
— NFL (@NFL) October 2, 2020
Seriously, that comeback was the stuff of folklore.
Now What Happens With Mitchell Trubisky?
Mitchell Trubisky’s move to QB2 doesn’t mean he stops working. In fact, the backup role is one Trubisky needs to work at in order to maintain a spot on an NFL roster. Moreover, success in this role could position him to follow in Foles’ footsteps as a journeyman who could start (and even excel) in the ideal situation.
Foles was asked about what it will be like providing input for a gameplay as a starter. And in his answer, he shed some light on how the quarterbacks room operates. Observe:
“Any time you have input or have a voice is important, but another thing that’s important is the QB room. Mitch, Tyler, and I, we all depend on each other. Obviously, there’s different roles. But at the end of the day, I know I have great support from Mitch and Tyler going through this preparation week, so I’ll lean a lot on them as we watch film and study. And also talking to the coaches about what we see on film and where we think we can attack the defense and be efficient.”
Here, Foles outlines what Trubisky must do in his new role. It’s Trubisky who has to be the eyes on the sideline sharing input for what Foles can’t see while on the field. Additionally, Trubisky needs to embrace his role as a film junky in the lead-up to games. If he can do this, Trubisky’s career will be prolonged. But if he can’t, well, your best guess is as good as mine.
We’ve discussed on-field differences between Foles and Trubisky. But their weekly press conferences will sound different, too, since both have different career and life experiences.
At age 31, Foles has a unique perspective on his way to being the Bears’ next starting QB:
“So many times, as people, we think when we have a bad game or bad opponent that the world is against us. And that’s not really the case. I’ve said it over and over again, the tough times are not fun, but they equip you for what’s ahead as long as you approach it with the right heart. It’s definitely not easy. I’ve been very blessed throughout my life. Whenever I’ve had tough times or had trials, to not only have my faith to grow from, but to have Frank (Reich) and other people to lift me up and be there for me. And I can be there for others, as well.”
Things aren’t going to be easy. Foles will have his rough patches. And when they come, the calls for his job will come. In the meantime, carrying the perspective that tough times can be conquered with perseverance is a message I wanted to share with Bears fans as we embark on this journey in the Foles era together.
The tough times have been plenty for those of us who have watched so many quarterbacks try (and ultimately fail) at breaking the cycle of putrid play. But so long as we approach it with the right mindset, it will help us get through. And so long as Foles does the same, history suggests he has a puncher’s chance of helping guide this fan base through a dark tunnel and to a brighter future.