The Chicago Bears shocked the NFL world last Thursday when they traded up exactly one selection slot to take Mitch Trubisky with the second overall pick in the draft.
Almost immediately, whether it was frustration that the Bears had managed to keep a secret from the NFL insiders or just the surprise nature of the trade up for an unproven prospect, but the move was widely ridiculed.
Shortly after the anonymous reports began to surface of executives around the league saying that Ryan Pace was getting himself fired and that the Bears made the most baffling pick of the night.
That’s one question that there may never be a definitive answer to: Did the Bears need to trade up one spot because there was competition for the chance to draft Trubisky?
The only thing that will answer that is if unnamed GMs come out of the woodwork to admit that there were indeed teams trying to get that pick, which there are reports of.
The question of if Trubisky was worth the pick and the draft capital will come over the course of the next three or four seasons. It is just too soon to tell and that story will only be answered on the field.
However, the other post-draft storyline that emerged surrounding the Bears and their pick has an answer.
The question is whether or not John Fox was: a) on board with taking Trubisky or b) even knew that the Bears would pick him and knew that they would trade up to select him.
This story emerged on Friday, first with this Kevin Seifert tweet:
Wow. Per @mortreport, even @ChicagoBears coach John Fox didn’t know about plan to draft QB Mitchell Trubisky until a couple hours before.— Kevin Seifert (@SeifertESPN) April 28, 2017
Where did Mort report this, exactly, is not stated. There is no video of Mortensen saying this and no tweet on timeline. However, this tweet went out at 1:38 p.m. Friday and by 2:02 p.m. this Yahoo story popped up by Eric Edholm, under the very gossipy headline “Did John Fox not have Mitch Trubisky as his No. 1 QB? Bears’ war-room video is revealing.”
Siefert’s tweet makes an appearance and then a clip from the team’s official website is sited as the evidence here, but with no reporting of fact and merely just conjecture:
“No. 1 quarterback for me,” Pace said. “No. 1 quarterback for Josh. No. 1 quarterback for Mark. Dowell’s No. 1 quarterback. Overall scout’s No. 1 quarterback. Area scout’s top quarterback. That’s conviction. On a quarterback.”
Josh is director of player personnel Josh Lucas. Mark is director of college scouting Mark Sadowski. Dowell is offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains.
Any key names missing there? One stands out: head coach John Fox.
Edholm did try to offer a fair-and-balanced yang to his story’s ying but it fails the test of editorializing:
Let’s be fair. Pace was talking off the cuff (and even with the camera rolling likely wasn’t sure his words would be broadcast). And it’s possible he simply forgot to mention Fox when going down the list. Possible … but unlikely.
And then he ends his article with this:
Could be nothing. But this feels odd to us.
Basically he lays out the editorial equivalent of “I’m not saying but I’m just saying, wink, wink.”
It’s completely speculative: 1+1+1=5. Because of this tweet, that report and this video, then obviously Fox was in the dark.
However, this has been completely debunked.
First, less than two hours after Seifert’s tweet, Mortensen himself disputed it:
John Fox very involved in #Bears draft process w Mitch Trubisky. Decision crystallized for GM R. Pace as scenarios played out early eve.— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) April 28, 2017
Then late Saturday, Brad Biggs published an article looking deep into why Trubisky was unable to win the starting job at UNC against a player that has no NFL career, something that’s been widely seen as a red flag on the hotshot’s resume. Late in the article Biggs details the homework and scouting process the Bears went through on Trubisky and the lengths they went to keep it quiet:
They needed more information. They sent Pace, coach John Fox, offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains, quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone and player personnel boss Josh Lucas. They implored Trubisky and his agents to keep it quiet.
Ryan Pace then said as much when meeting with the media after the second night of the draft:
“John is involved in every decision deeply,” Pace said. “The respect I have for John is enormous, especially his experience and all of the players that he’s been with. I think if you look back — and we talked about this — I think a lot of it was kept secret I thought we did a good job keeping this thing pretty under wraps, it’s so sensitive. But if you go back to the private workouts that we had, I mean John and I — it’s pretty hard to hide him — but we’re traveling to Chapel Hill and having dinners and workouts with Mitch, so he’s been deeply involved from the very beginning.”
And finally, this from WGN Radio’s Adam Hoge, in his 10 Bears Things column lays it out in utter black and white clarity:
The idea that Fox wasn’t involved in the Trubisky pick is unequivocally false. For one, Fox was a big part of the Bears’ private dinner and workout with Trubisky in North Carolina, despite concerns that the former Carolina Panthers head coach was going to be too recognizable in Chapel Hill as the Bears tried to get in and out without being noticed.
Understand this: Trubisky was not just Pace’s No. 1 quarterback. He was also the No. 1 quarterback for director of player personnel Josh Lucas, director of college scouting Mark Sadowski, national scout Ryan Kessenich, area scout Chris Prescott and offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains. Pace did not go rogue with the Bears’ pick. There was unanimous approval among those who get paid to make these draft decisions.
And what exactly, tinfoil hat truthers, clinging to the idea that Pace overrode his head coach to take his guy, does Pace have to gain by saddling a player the GM likes but his coach doesn’t?
The argument of a riff between the two has been out there but there’s absolutely no reason why Pace would want to hurt a young QB’s development by throwing him into an unstable environment.
Pace literally just saw the tail end of QB’s time with one team when he constantly has a revolving door of coaches and coordinators in Jay Cutler. Cutler never got a chance to get comfortable in a system after he was traded to Chicago and it stunted his growth and ultimately hurt his development.
Why would Pace take the QB he sees leading the franchise for the next decade and pair him with coaches he envisions letting go and replacing in seven months time? That would only hurt Trubisky’s development and possibly slow his chance to be ready for the start of 2018.
Pace may have more time than Fox, but the idea that not everyone in the organization was onboard with the selection is laughable.
It can all be traced back to one single vague tweet that seems to have nothing concrete surrounding it and the source of the original report, in this case Mortensen, even disputes it himself in a later report!
The whole thing should serve as a case study in one flimsy (at best) report being taken and run with instead of digging into more sources and getting more of the facts. Fox and Pace were in Chapel Hill, likely multiple times, meeting with Trubisky and his agent. This flew under the radar and yet the prevailing narrative by Friday night was that Fox didn’t know what was going on.
For the people who still believe it, well there’s some prime swampland in Florida for sale with their name on it.