As many of you are aware, the Bears have had some uncertainty at the most important position in sports for the last seventy years. Come 2017, many hoped that trend would end by investing the 2nd overall pick in Trubisky—the highest draft pick the Bears have spent on a quarterback since the famous 2nd-overall Bob Williams selection in 1951 set in motion an endless cycle of hope, disappointment, and despair in the Windy City. You know what happened next. It’s 2020, and Mitchell Trubisky just barely beat out career-backup Nick Foles for the privilege to helm the offense of our Beloved Bears.
Lets see how our staff is feeling about it:
Who were you hoping would be named the starter and why?
Lester A. Wiltfong Jr.: My thinking on this never wavered all offseason. I thought they’d go with Foles, but I just wanted the best man to win the job, and if that was Trubisky then so be it. I want to see my favorite team win games and I don’t care who they win with. Always cheer the laundry.
Patti Curl: I talked myself into being hopeful in either case. If it was Foles, I’d feel confident we’d get a chance to see Nagy’s offense as intended, with a quarterback who could read the defenses and make the right call. If it was Trubisky, well, honestly I’ve been hoping for him to get one last chance to prove the doubters wrong. Not the Bears-fan doubters whose opinions come from suffering the pain and disappointment and at times shocking embarrassment of Trubisky’s lows, just the national opinion spigots who thought the dumb Bears made a dumb trade and a dumb pick from the start and have taken every opportunity to feel self-satisfied with their decision to jump on the Bear-mocking bandwagon. I also think, though unlikely, the best chance for the Bears to have a “franchise quarterback” in the near future is for Trubisky to have a surprising transformation.
ECD: In complete honesty, I wasn’t “hoping” for any one player to win. I wanted whomever performed better to win. I wanted the best guy at QB to be the starter at QB.
I am happy to see Mitchell Trubisky respond to the challenge and win his job back. Likewise, I would have been happy if Nick Foles took advantage of his opportunity and won the job outright. I’d even be supportive of some crazy hypothetical weird-world scenario of Tyler Bray or Mason Fine arriving out of nowhere to win the job.
At the end of the day, I’m placing my faith into the coaching staff’s hands and trusting them to ensure this was the right decision for the team.
We just need acceptable and consistent QB play to be competitive. No matter who that guy at QB is.
Josh Sunderbruch: Nick Foles, because then I could at least hope that he would be able to spark something and put together a few really good games.
Jack R Salo: First of all, cheer the laundry. Second of all, Mitch Trubisky. He was drafted in the first round for a reason. I think it’s obvious that the better scenario is Trubisky developing into an NFL starter than Foles holding down the fort until the Bears can draft their next QB. I’m not delusional, don’t take this to mean that I think Mitch will flip the switch. It’s just better if he does.
Robert Schmitz: Nick Foles, and that’s because it would’ve shown me that the Bears were truly “all-in” on the 2020 season and didn’t want to lose any more games than they have to. Simply put, I think the idea of playing a bad quarterback on a “short leash” is intrinsically flawed — having a “leash” at all indicates that you don’t have faith in your quarterback (which is bad), but the only way to warrant replacing him once he’s starting is for him to poorly, which will likely cost at least one or more NFL wins. Ultimately I want the Bears to win as many games as possible every year, and I don’t think Mitch’s 2020 “tryout” helps the team do that.
Ken Mitchell: I wanted whichever player earned the job in camp to win. This answer is not an evasion, I root for the laundry, and whichever player did the best in camp is the guy I wanted.
Sam Householder: If I’m honest, Mitch. We know what he is but he still has more upside than Nick Foles. They were both going to play this season in any event so why not start with the guy that’s younger and still has a little bit of upside? I’m not jazzed about it.
WhiskeyRanger: Honestly, I was pretty ambivalent about it. I didn’t have a favorite. All I wanted was for the best option to win out. For at least one of them to impress. That didn’t exactly happen. Neither seemed to play poorly by most accounts, but neither really stood out either. And in a tie, the win was always going to go to the more physically gifted Trubisky. So when Foles didn’t separate himself in camp, it was pretty clear to me that Mitch was going to get the nod, at least to start the season.
Jacob Infante: I wanted the player who would make the biggest positive impact for the Bears’ offense, and I thought that was going to be Nick Foles. While I still feel that Foles is the superior player, I am hoping that the reports of Trubisky’s development are true. If that is the case, then I support that.
Jeff Berckes: Cam Newton. It sure seemed like the move to make when it was clear he’d be made available. I was looking forward to adding the former MVP to the Bears, a team he publicly stated he’d be interested in joining, so I figured it might happen. Oh - you mean between the Talented Mr. Biscuit and Foles? I didn’t take sides because I just didn’t see a clear path for either to be a viable long-term starter at this point. I hope I’m wrong though because this would be an amazing redemption story.
Why do you think Trubisky’s performance regressed in 2019? Do you think things can be different in 2020?
Lester A. Wiltfong Jr.: You can’t do the same thing year after year from a scheme standpoint in the NFL. The coaches and players are too smart and they’ll figure you out at some point. Nagy had to try to evolve his offense (Version 202) and the new wrinkles he tried to throw in were too much for Mitch to work with. He looked like he was thinking while he was out there and that’s not a good thing. Football players are best when they can quickly react and just play. Then you factor in the o-line regressing a bit and Nagy stubbornly sticking with some stuff too long, and it was a recipe for disaster. As far as him bouncing back in 2020... I’ll have to wait and see like the rest of us.
Patti Curl: In short, he seemed overwhelmed. Offense 202 was definitely more than he could chew, and the offense around him, particularly the offensive line, left him on unsure footing. He faced a swift change in opinion in the Chicago public eye, and it all added up to too much. He was frequently flustered and intermittently accurate. There were still times he played well, but they were too short and inconsistent to get much credit for. His early shoulder injury didn’t help, as he became clearly reluctant to run with the ball, losing what was previously a much needed strength in his game.
If this can change, it starts with being more prepared. He needs to understand the playbook and opposing defenses thoroughly and confidently enough that he doesn’t pause or doubt himself on the field. The rest of it exists in the unknown nebula between Mitchell’s ears. I do believe if he’s in the right mindset, he still has the potential to lead this offense through an average+ season.
ECD: A big issue I saw last year was just how poorly the offense was coordinated last season. Put the blame on Trubisky all you want. He wasn’t the guy who called 50+ passes to just 7 runs in one game, 45+ passes and just 11 runs in another game, etc. Bad play calls and a lack of balance were compounded with bad execution.
The path to misery was a two-way street in 2019. That lack of coordination is why Mark Helfrich and several others were fired after the season ended. Not only did QB play need to improve, the coaching did, too.
That last part is why I feel things can be much different in 2020. A real commitment to balance on offense will do wonders for sustaining drives. Utilizing more 12 personnel and having actual tight ends to feature in the passing game will help, too. It’s all about 1) putting Trubisky in a position for success and 2) being unpredictable. Of course, the coaching staff needs to follow through on all decisions. That will be the biggest key along with better performances from Trubisky.
Josh Sunderbruch: In 2018, the Bears had the second-highest lead per start of drive in the NFL and they had the sixth-best average starting field position. The defense allowed the fewest yards per drive. Basically, in 2018 he was assisted by an epic defense that made him look better. He regressed because the defense that was carrying him regressed. He’ll look better if the defense looks better.
Jack R Salo: We can
make discuss every excuse in the book for him. His non-throwing shoulder was injured, so he played some games with a harness. This limited his running ability. His offensive line, a unit ranked by PFF in the top half of the league the year prior, fell off a cliff in terms of pass protection. At the end of the day though, he didn’t read the field well at all and everything around him fell apart because of it. That entire offense from 2019 was abysmal. In 2020, they need to pound the rock.
Robert Schmitz: I think Trubisky’s performance regressed in 2019 because the NFL figured out that Trubisky has 3 fatal flaws: He doesn’t read defenses well (RPO issues, throws into triple coverage, etc), he’s not particularly accurate downfield (missed open shots to Gabriel/Miller all year, Robinson in the KC game), and he’s skittish in the pocket (can be pressured simply by moving an offensive lineman back a few feet). These issues were present in 2018 too, but the hope around Chicago was that Trubisky would grow in at least one of these areas — based on what we saw in 2019, he didn’t. In fact, these issues got even worse. Because of this, I personally don’t see how things get any better in 2020 for Trubisky. I certainly hope they do, but I think his transformation would have to be borderline miraculous.
Ken Mitchell: Lots of reasons. False confidence, an attitude of “I’m another year in the system, that will automatically make me better” plus I think the shoulder injury sapped a lot of his confidence, causing him to rush.
Sam Householder: I don’t think he can process what he’s seeing. He’s only been able to progress so far because he just doesn’t have that ability. He’s never going to develop like they thought he would when they drafted him, it’s the gamble you take in the NFL. I do not think things can be vastly different this year, but maybe he’s gotten a little bit better and we’ll see that when the live games get going but I highly doubt it.
WhiskeyRanger: Oh man. How much time ya got? To my mind, there were many reasons for his 2019 downturn. 1. Lack of comfort in the “expanded” playbook. That seemed to lead to indecision, and kept him from being able to focus on processing the field. When you don’t fully know the offense, you have to constantly be thinking about what everyone’s responsibilities are, and that keeps you from being able to concentrate on other aspects of the game. 2. Line performance. 2019 was a mess in that regard. Poor play, confusion with the scheme, players out of position, injury etc. This caused an already uncomfortable QB to lose confidence in his protection. When that happens, you start hearing footsteps, and everything suffers. 3. Lack of a strong run game. The line performance played into this, but so did having a rookie starting RB, and an overreliance on gadget players in situations that didn’t suit them. This hurt both field position, and allowed defenses to concentrate on the pass game. 4. Lack of TE production. This offense relies heavily on production out of the TE positions. Without that, it doesn’t work as designed. 5. Questionable play calling. In a likely combination of inexperience, over thinking, and attempts to compensate for things listed above, the offensive play calling last year was far from ideal. 6. Injury and fear of injury. Trubisky has injured his shoulder twice (week 11 in 2018, and again in week 4 of 2019). Obviously the injuries themselves limited him. However, even after he recovered, you could see a change in his play style. Avoiding hits, and playing more cautiously, especially with his legs. He didn’t want to miss any more games, and it appeared to get in his head. And on top of all this, he was still dealing with his shortcomings from 2018 (reading defenses, mechanics breakdowns, downfield accuracy etc.).
Jacob Infante: A lot of surrounding factors played into Trubisky’s regression in 2019. He had a significant downgrade in offensive line play from the year before, the tight end production was essentially nonexistent, the ground game was poor, and his weapons weren’t necessarily consistent outside of Allen Robinson. However, plenty went wrong on Trubisky’s end, too. His pocket presence hasn’t improved since he first got into the league, causing his footwork to fall apart, his decisions to be rushed and his confidence shattered when faced with any signs of pressure. He struggles with his touch on the deep ball, and he has proven incapable of looking past his first read and going through his progressions, even in a passing attack that had to simplify its play-calling down the line last year, likely because of his inability to grasp certain concepts. Reports say that he’s worked on his mechanics over the summer, and I really hope that’s true. I’ve seen far too many throws gone awry because of Trubisky’s inability to set his feet and follow through with his throws.
Jeff Berckes: The Bears defense provided Biscuit with a lot of positive game scripts in 2018. His best performances came against defenses that play predictably consistent coverages (Lions, Bucs). When the coverages get exotic and varied, he struggles. Once coaches figure that out, they will adjust until he can prove he can beat the adjustments, which he simply didn’t do in 2019. That’s the source of the infamous sentiment from last year’s opener where the Packers boasted all they had to do was make him play quarterback - they knew he couldn’t sit in the pocket and make the right reads. He also clearly made a decision to not run as much, probably due to the injury that he nursed through the season and required off season surgery. If you’re one that believes things can improve, you have to assume that he can make a big leap mentally, recover physically and resume using his gift as a runner, and fix lingering mechanical issues impacting his deep ball accuracy. That’s a tough trifecta to pull off.
What do you see as Trubisky’s ceiling and his floor?
Lester A. Wiltfong Jr.: After last year’s regression I figured his ceiling was as a high end back up in the NFL, but now with him winning the starting job in 2020... I still see his ceiling as a high end back up in the NFL. I’ll be rooting for him to kick ass each week, but I’ll need to see him play with the same confidence and decisiveness he had in 2018 before thinking he can be anything more. He doesn’t need to be an All-Pro, he just needs to run the offense efficiently.
Patti Curl: I still have a vision in my mind as Mitch Trubisky as Alex Smith on coffee. Not quite Alex Smith on crack or steroids, but slightly more effective than Alex Smith on green tea. Smith is a comfortable comparison for me since he took several years to hit his stride and had his most successful seasons under Matt Nagy.
I think we saw his floor last season. I suppose it would be taking his worst games last season and repeating them into eternity. In career terms, that would probably look like a backup that bounces between teams and disappoints whenever he gets the chance.
ECD: Trubisky’s ceiling is, still, an adequate QB that can do his job and deliver in key moments. We’ve seen him do this before. Once again, hold him accountable for his flops and stupidity from time to time. But give credit to his moments of brilliant play, too. A more consistent 2018 edition of Trubisky would suffice for what the Bears need at QB.
Now, regarding his floor.....I think we’ve already seen that. 2019 was a year to forget. I’m not ready to say those performances were the worst I’ve ever seen — Todd Collins and Caleb Hanie hold those dubious honors — but let’s not pretend that Trubisky didn’t piss away games either. The Chargers game in particular has me incensed to this day.
Josh Sunderbruch: His ceiling is probably 20th-best quarterback in the NFL, and his floor is probably used Camry salesman (but he might hang around as a back-up for a solid five years).
Jack R Salo: He’s a talented athlete. His ceiling is as high as any other talented athlete. It’s the NFL, people can turn it around. Unfortunately, the bottom fell out for his “floor.” Being drafted in the 1st round, your floor should at least be a second contract. If he plays poorly enough in 2020, an honest floor is that he’s done after this year. Are either of these scenarios likely? No.
Robert Schmitz: Trubisky’s floor is obvious — a fairly typical NFL bust who’s athletic enough to draw the eye of GMs through tantalizing “potential” but never really plays up to their draft status. His ceiling, on the other hand, is more complicated — due to obvious issues with reading defenses (not something that everyone can “just learn”), I think that Mitch’s best-case-scenario would be in an offense much like the Tennessee Titans, who ruthlessly hammer the ball on the ground and pass primarily out of one-look play action sets. The problem for Trubisky here is that I think even this scenario would require better accuracy and pocket presence than he’s shown in Chicago, so he’d have to make strides in those areas for this to work.
Ken Mitchell: 2018 ceiling - 2019 floor
Sam Householder: I am hopeful against all hope that his ceiling can be Alex Smith 2011-2012, that he finds it within himself to play to his strengths, take care of the football and just make smart, safe plays and play ultra efficient but ultimately unexciting football. His floor is what we saw last year; good against bad defenses that don’t disguise what they do or pressure him and bad against everyone else.
WhiskeyRanger: Well, his floor appears to be 2019. Basically an inconsistent passer who has trouble reading opposing defenses and struggles with decision making. His ceiling however, is much more difficult to predict. He is extremely physically talented. He’s athletic, has good arm strength and when everything comes together is accurate. If he can sort his mechanics out, and come to grips with the mental aspects of the game, then I’d say his ceiling is Russell Wilson. As it’s unlikely he ever completely overcomes his issues though, realistically, his ceiling is probably more Alex Smith territory. Where he’ll actually settle is anyone’s guess at this point.
Jacob Infante: At this stage, Trubisky’s ceiling is much lower than it was when he came out of North Carolina. At his absolute best, he is a decent starting quarterback who may not ever be elite, but he can win games and take a team to the playoffs if there’s enough talent around him. He’s a game-manager, at best: not a legitimate franchise quarterback. And that’s okay! Many quarterbacks in recent years, such as Alex Smith, Ryan Tannehill, Joe Flacco - heck, even Case Keenum with the Vikings in 2017 - have all led their respective teams to respectable seasons while being little more than game-managers. His floor is a high-end backup quarterback who can step in for an injured starter and do just well enough to keep his team competitive, but not well enough to earn an expensive contract as a starter elsewhere.I don’t think he’s bad enough to end up completely out of the league in the immediate future, but I also don’t expect his next contract to come with the expectation of him being an NFL starting quarterback.
Jeff Berckes: Well, I think we saw the floor in 2019. Generally, players don’t make huge strides in year 4 of their career, but if it suddenly “clicks” for him mentally, he feels better physically, and cleans up mechanical issues, he could be a mid tier starter... but that’s a lot of ifs. The hard truth might be that he’s a career backup or needs a completely different system to be viable.
That’s a lot of thoughts from the WCG writers, and plenty of variety in opinions. As always, we look forward to hearing your thoughts and opinions in the comments.