NFL

Mitch Trubisky Will Start for the Bears, but He Hasn’t Actually Won the Job

Yes, there is a chance that Mitch Trubisky may yet step to justify the Chicago Bears’ selection of the quarterback with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft. No, anointing him as the Week 1 starter over Nick Foles doesn’t mean Trubisky will still be taking snaps by early October.

It doesn’t matter who looked better in camp. The Bears picked Trubisky to start because opening the season with Foles on the sideline gives them an out if they need it.

Mitch Trubisky gets the nod for now

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Adam Schefter of ESPN tweeted that the Bears are expected to name Mitch Trubisky as their starting quarterback as they prepare for their Sept. 13 opener against the Detroit Lions. Coach Matt Nagy had to choose between Trubisky and Nick Foles, acquired from the Jacksonville Jaguars in the spring for a fourth-round draft pick.

Trubisky has been under fire for most of his three seasons with the Bears, but he’s not a bust. In fact, his passing numbers are comparable to Josh Allen, the more mobile Buffalo Bills QB perceived by many as a rising talent. Truth be told, what frustrates Bears fans most about Trubisky is that he’s not Patrick Mahomes or Deshaun Watson, taken 10 and 12th, respectively, in the same draft class.

Declining the fifth-year option on him this spring didn’t mean that the Bears were done with Trubisky, just that they still weren’t sure. With or without that extra year to decide, his next contract hinges on his 2020 performance. It’s just that the Bears will have competition if he turns out to be worth keeping.

Meanwhile, Foles remains in the picture and in the Bears’ short- and long-term plans.

Mitch Trubisky will start, but it’s not like he’s won the job

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Some will look at the decision to start Mitch Trubisky in Week 1 and suggest that the Chicago Bears lit a fire under the fourth-year quarterback out of North Carolina by forcing him to compete. Had this been an ordinary year, that argument might be valid. But the reality is that Trubisky caught two lucky breaks.

The first break is obvious. The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted every NFL team’s offseason training program. It denied Nick Foles, an eight-year veteran who has started games with four teams, the opportunity to get up to speed during the spring and early summer by working out with his receivers.

Secondly, the Bears have a new offensive coaching staff led by coordinator Bill Lazor and quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo. While DeFilippo knew Foles from their time together in Jacksonville and Lazor was the coordinator during Foles’ great 2013 season in Philadelphia, Trubisky was starting camp under the new staff with a clean slate after a 2019 disaster that saw the Bears slip from 12-4 to 8-8.

Knowing that Trubisky played with a torn labrum in his left shoulder last season perhaps gave Lazor and DeFilippo even more reason to give him the benefit of the doubt. Tack on the fact that, by most accounts, Trubisky had a decent camp, and it’s understandable why he’s getting a do-over in 2020.

The big reason why Nick Foles can’t start at quarterback in Week 1

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With all that being said, the Chicago Bears will give Mitch Trubisky at least two or three starts over Nick Foles at the beginning of the season. That’s because reversing their roles leaves the coaching staff with no wiggle room.

If Trubisky plays well and the Bears have some early success against the Detroit Lions and New York Giants — both terrible on defense last fall — everyone involved in the decision comes out looking smart. If Trubisky bombs, however, the coaches can turn to Foles and his 48 games as a starter over eight seasons.

Reversing the scenario would have been a recipe for disaster. An ineffective start to the season by Foles would have raised cries of a wasted draft pick, not to mention $24 million over three years. In addition, it would have meant handing the keys to the offense to Trubisky, widely regarded – unfairly or not – as ineffective in three prior seasons.

Also, Foles has his contract and Trubisky does not. That’s a tipoff as to which would be willing to bide his time at the start of the season.

So, Trubisky gets first crack at playing. But he’ll be on a short leash.