The Chicago Bears raised some eyebrows in and around the NFL with the way they handled their quarterback dilemma in the offseason.
After deciding to move on from Jay Cutler, the Bears signed Tampa Bay Buccaneers backup Mike Glennon to a $15-million-a-year contract in free agency. Then they traded up in the draft to select North Carolina quarterback Mitchell Trubisky second overall. Doing one or the other seemed fine. But why both? Glennon would need to be given a fair shot to find out if he could be a starter, and Trubisky would need to play at some point relatively soon to begin developing into, fingers crossed, a franchise quarterback.
Four games into the season, the Bears’ quarterback moves look just as disjointed in hindsight as they did at the time. They already have scrapped the Glennon project and have moved on to Trubisky, naming the prized rookie the starter for Monday night’s game against the Minnesota Vikings at Soldier Field.
So now Trubisky has a chance to make everything right. If he is the real deal, the Bears can rejoice in the prospect of having their quarterback in place for the next decade or so. They can rebuild around him, and no one will worry too much about the ill-fated Glennon signing.
But is Trubisky anywhere close to being ready to make that happen? The early disclaimer: Some patience might be required.
“The original thought was Glennon would be a bridge guy until Trubisky was ready to play,” Phil Savage, the former general manager of the Cleveland Browns, said. “Obviously that didn’t go well and they thought they were spinning their wheels. They’ve had some injuries at receiver. It’s a tough spot, for sure. With where they are, people are going to focus on the results right away. But this will probably be a work in progress for the next four or five weeks, then you can start to assess where he is.”
The Bears are 1-3 in what could be a win-or-else season for Coach John Fox, who is in the third season of a four-year contract. For General Manager Ryan Pace, it’s the third year of a five-year deal. That puts quite a bit on the shoulders of a rookie quarterback.
“He was a one-year starter in college in a system that’s a fairly big departure from what’s traditionally done in the NFL,” Savage said in a phone interview. “Does he have the arm strength, the mobility, the mental side to do it? He might. But did I think he needed some sort of incubation period, as the Bears originally said they were going to give him? You bet. . . . It depends on the individual. It depends on the situation. If you’re drafted by a regime in the third year of a four-year contract, you’d better get ready to be on the field.”
There’s no better time than the present, apparently.
Former NFL safety Matt Bowen wrote on Twitter: “In-game adversity will be a good test for Trubisky. See how he responds. That’s why game reps are critical for development. Gotta play.”
Trubisky’s first game comes against a Minnesota defense that is ranked 12th in the league overall, third against the run but only 24th in pass defense. So it’s possible that Trubisky will be throwing the football regularly Monday night.
The Bears do possess some of the elements that traditionally can allow a rookie quarterback to succeed. They can play decent defense and run the ball a little bit. They’re ranked in the league’s top 10 in total defense and are 12th in rushing offense.
Trubisky had some good moments during a preseason in which he connected on 67.9 percent of his throws and had three touchdown passes and no interceptions, leading some observers to wonder at the time why he was not moved ahead of Glennon to be the Opening Day starter. But Trubisky’s summertime success will mean little come Monday night.
“I don’t put much stock in the preseason,” Savage said. “The schemes are vanilla. It’s kind of fool’s gold. You can’t go by what you see in August. It’s a totally different game.”
It is true that there was no sense for the Bears to wait any longer to go to Trubisky. It was looking very much like a lost season with Glennon. If it’s going to be a lost season anyway, then the learning process should get underway for Trubisky and the Bears should begin to find out if he’s the long-term answer at quarterback. But no one should expect any miracles.
“The one thing he has going for him is that no one has a book on him,” Savage said. “He might play well for a week or two. Then once he goes through the batting order once, so to speak, people will have an idea and they’ll adjust and try to take away some of the things he likes to do. That’s when it might be a bit of a struggle and he’ll have to be the one who adjusts.”
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