Washington started the season with Alex Smith out for the year. Ben Roethlisberger is now done for the year, as well. Drew Brees and Nick Foles are done for an unknown period of time, but they are certain to miss a significant chunk of the season. Sam Darnold is out indefinitely (with Trevor Siemian likewise out for the year). Other injuries are piling up at the quarterback position, as well. Each of these injuries reveals something about the franchises dealing with them, and they highlight a particular vulnerability of the Chicago Bears.
Imagine that Mitchell Trubisky suddenly rediscovers the mediocrity of the 2018 season (19th in DVOA and 16th in passer rating) and so is an acceptable quarterback for the near future. Fans should still ask what happens if he goes down for more than a game or two? Chase Daniel cannot and should not be the team’s answer.
Washington’s Case Keenum has Daniel beaten in almost every category--his career started later, but he has almost 1800 more passing attempts with the same passer rating and a much better ANY/A (5.89 vs 5.07), and he costs $2.5million less. Mason Rudolph was thrown into a rough spot, but already the third-round pick has played well enough to suggest that he might be worth the investment. It’s too early to say that he’s the future after Ben, obviously, but he’s at least hope for the future. Brees is backed up by a former Pro Bowler. Not only is Gardner Minshew’s best game better than Daniel’s best game, both of Gardener Minshew’s games would rank in Trubisky’s ten best games to date, at least as far as passer rating is concerned.
In other words, the Bears seem to lack a plan at quarterback. Mike Glennon was set up to fail, and regardless of whether or not he was intended to be the starter for an entire year or the plan was always to have Trubisky step in at some point in 2017, he was never going to be a reasonable backup option.
It is one thing for the franchise to have over-invested in Trubisky, and it’s frustrating that he has not developed into a true leader for the offense. It’s even more frustrating when other teams seem to have found long-term answers while the Bears continue to struggle. However, the bigger question is simple--what’s the backup plan?
Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy have planned redundancy in everything. If there is a weakness at tight end, they draft tight ends, sign free agent tight ends, and convert offensive linemen into tight ends. The one position where this redundancy does not exist--and has not existed--is quarterback. If Trubisky fails to improve in 2019, does the franchise waste another year of an elite defense trying to bring someone else on board? If Trubisky breaks a thumb or an ankle in November, is there anyone in place who fans can believe in?
Obviously, no team can be strong everywhere, and there are never enough quality quarterbacks. However, well-run teams seem to have a way of having at least options when injury strikes. The Eagles proved that with Wentz and Foles. The Saints have Bridgewater in place. The Patriots don’t even seem to miss a beat when Brady takes a break, and Luke Falk seems serviceable in a pinch. Right now, the Bears’ answer seems to be Daniel, or—if Kyle Long had his way—having Jay Cutler tell someone to hold his beer (commercial). Neither of those options can be enough.
No matter what else Ryan Pace does at the start of 2020, even if he still believes in the future of Mitchell Trubisky, the Bears need a true backup plan. Right now, they just don’t have one. What’s going on around the league shows that when teams lose their starting quarterback, it is possible to have someone competent step in.