Going all-in at the poker table means placing yourself at risk. The risk of putting everything in your grasp on the line carries an incomparable weight. One only pushes their chips in in the event that they think, that they know their hand is a winner. Whatever’s in their possession is unmatched. Insurmountable. A guaranteed victory of the entire pot. Respective competitors have no chance. There’s no plan in defeat because defeat isn’t a consideration. Inner confidence assures everyone else at the table is about to be so sorry they ever sat down to play against such a gambling wizard.
But when going all-in goes awry, when defeat does occur, how one reacts in quickly picking up the pieces determines the degree of recovery. That is, if a recovery is feasible.
For those that haven’t been scouring the Internet for endless hours while in quarantine, Nick Foles is a Chicago Bear. A former (temporary) record-setting starter, Super Bowl champion, and occasional uninspiring backup will don the orange C on his helmet. He’ll attempt to siphon whatever magic he may still possess in his reserves that once led to a seven-touchdown one-off performance. He’ll try to summon intervention from above that once coalesced into a January and February the city of Philadelphia will never forget. And the Bears will pray that perhaps, just this once, he can give them their own winter to remember.
Foles will give the Bears the old college try while calling Halas Hall home not because he’s their savior or answer, but because they went all-in. They went all-in and lost the whole pot on a crafted whim. Their new starter is the hopeful respite to a previously unimagined realm of failure. He’s the representation of the aftermath where you bet a three-month’s salary but still have to make rent and pay for groceries. Never a wise decision beforehand. Never one after. Well, unless you like eating nothing but Ramen noodles for a few weeks.
Failure in the NFL comes in many forms. The Bears’ failure manifests in what they once believed in from Mitchell Trubisky. Trubisky was supposed to be the Bears’ future. The franchise-changer with grand designs. The talisman that augmented and influenced every player with the pleasure, and misfortune, of sharing the field at the same time as him. Trading up to draft the 25-year-old at No. 2 overall during the 2017 Draft was not only an assertion of their faith in Trubisky, it was general manager Ryan Pace preparing for a zero sum game at his respective table. A lavish spending spree on weapons the following free agency, followed by a bold trade for a superstar like Khalil Mack but six months later, only reaffirmed what heights the Bears thought Trubisky could help them climb. A signal-caller unlike anything the organization had seen in decades. A winner to drive the Bears into contention. Someone to help end what is now Chicago sports’ longest championship drought.
It was said then, and can be reverberated now: You don’t trade for Khalil Mack unless you believe your quarterback has the all-important intangible of it. It can mean many things. Poise. Touch on throws. Arm strength. Leadership. A golden smile from ear to ear. When someone says a quarterback has it, everyone knows what they mean. The Bears, as ludicrous as it may now seem, thought Trubisky had it. He was their belle of the ball—particularly Pace’s—and they were to make certain he’d be taken care of.
Some evaluations are more sound than others.
Three years into his career, Trubisky’s ascendance has not come into fruition. Instead of acting as a one-man trump card who makes opposing defensive coordinators lose countless hours of sleep, he’s inconsistent. He’s inaccurate. He’s an oft-frustrating gaffe machine. He’s stuck on a hamster wheel running in place, and the Bears wish they had a cool dog instead. It’s a testament to the rest of the Bears’ roster that they were even able to get to .500 last season considering the albatross at quarterback. It’s an indictment of Trubisky that the Bears didn’t place much higher and win far more in a weak NFC. In Year 3 of the Trubisky Plan, perhaps that’s what had to happen: The definitive judgment on their quarterback had to arrive, for better or worse. In Trubisky’s case, it was worse, and for all parties involved.
Retracing the Bears’ steps to settle on Foles isn’t difficult. They needed fresh energy in their room to challenge Trubisky. They needed someone who could, ostensibly, take his job. Foles is an experienced quarterback who understands the Andy Reid system Matt Nagy and his offensive staff are so familiar with. The reality of an ongoing global pandemic that might end up disrupting more of the NFL world than events like mini-camps and organized team activities meant pushing hard for familiarity. Someone already chummy with what will be expected of him stands out as a first preference: Whether he’s up to the task or not. Foles also has a championship ring. A ring which you can be certain Ryan Pace will mention more than 20 times, pontificating his fired up emotions over its very existence in his proximity. This quarterback has been there, there being the Super Bowl, and done that, that meaning hoisting the Lombardi trophy.
There’s a vast gap between the past and the future. A mountain gorge between something that probably, likely won’t be recreated, and the wish of lightning striking in the same place twice. Nick Foles has achieved what many professional football humans will only ever dream of. He has a championship. He’s a multimillionaire with a fortune built on an eight-year career where he appeared to be a franchise quarterback for a few short, passing periods. None of this changes a strange dissociative feeling that travels with Foles to Chicago. A disconnect no one has pieced together.
If only on a temporary basis, Foles is the walking definition of settling. There’s a reason the Bears are his fifth team in eight seasons. The 31-year-old isn’t even a year removed from a lucrative four-year $88 million deal the Jaguars were very keen on ridding themselves of as soon as fathomable. They’re fortunate Pace and his desperation were lying in wait. Foles has never started more than 11 games in a regular season. The next time he accrues meager milestones like 3,000 passing yards will be the first. He’s is a career high-level backup occasionally capable of heroism. Nothing more. Nothing less.
When Foles’ addition is stripped of all minutiae, it’s a clear nuclear move of Bears’ despair. Without a first-round selection in this April’s draft, Pace and company weren’t going to find another premium young quarterback. Without a healthy stud available in free agency, the Bears would find themselves scraping the bottom of the barrel. Foles isn’t quite the bottom, but he’s not cream rising to the top either. He’s a stand-in designed to keep his ship afloat when it’s in danger of sinking. He’s a ploy to stay somewhat solvent when the incumbent can manage anything but.
Cautionary tales don’t often come as package deals with new quarterbacks. They’re more subtle. Foles and his baggage are anything but implicit. He’s what happens when a top-two pick can’t even meet the lowest bar of performances. He’s what happens when you go all-in, lose everything, and are trying to keep from getting evicted.
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