Why timing of Bears quarterback change from Mike Glennon to Mitch Trubisky was interesting


Why timing of Bears quarterback change from Mike Glennon to Mitch Trubisky was interesting

Wringing out the notebook after the Bears’ 20-17 loss to the Minnesota Vikings… .

The criticism the Bears are taking in some quarters for taking four regular-season weeks to switch from Mike Glennon to Mitch Trubisky is a little difficult to understand. A coaching staff desperately in need of wins NOW had a decision to make at the end of preseason, and the nod went to Glennon because he was judged to give the Bears the best chance to win right then. The rookie kept on developing as scout-team QB, and he was eventually going to get the job unless Glennon played to his anticipated level, which he didn’t.

This wasn’t exactly the Trubisky “plan” but sometimes things end up as they were supposed to, just their own pace instead of the anticipated one.

And coaches seldom make decisions that aren’t in the best interest of winning, even if public outcry is for something and someone else. It once took three weeks for the Bears and Mike Ditka to quit starting Bob Avellini and get to Jim McMahon. Last year the Bears staff never took leave of its senses, any more than it did last year when it took three games for coaches to decide that Jordan Howard was their bell-cow running back. Howard admitted this year that he just hadn’t been near NFL shape when the 2016 season started and it took until Game 4 before he was physically ready.

Quarterback change

The timing of the QB switch is interesting – not for how long it took, but more so how quickly it occurred. Consider it part of a bigger picture organizationally than just the quarterback position.

Glennon’s four games as starter may have seemed like a football eternity. But general manager Ryan Pace, who’d lavished a three-year, $45 million contract on Glennon, did not stand in the way of a change that effectively ended any chance that Glennon could reach some sort of equilibrium recover from his debacles. More than a few GM egos have compounded one mistake with another, forcing staffs to stay the course with a player. Ownership has undoubtedly had its questions about the signing, but Pace’s priority was for cutting his team’s losses, literally and figuratively, not proving he was “right” on Glennon.

And the Bears are far from the first team to mis-evaluate a backup quarterback and overpay to bring him in as a starter-wannabe: Packers backup Matt Flynn to Seattle in 2012, a few years after the Kansas City Chiefs gave Matt Cassel $28 million guaranteed as part of a six-year, $62 million contract after trading to get him from the New England Patriots.

Some sentiment had existed upstairs at Halas Hall for opening this season with Trubisky, an indication of just how accelerated his growth had been through training camp and the preseason. But Glennon didn’t lose the job in preseason, and in that case it made sense to start the more experienced quarterback, fully expecting Trubisky to continue developing, which he clearly did.

The benching does all but project to an end for Glennon’s time in Chicago after this season. His current 2018 base of $12.5 million is way too much for a No. 2 even if there were football reasons to keep him. An offset is in place for the $2.5 million roster bonus due on the third day of the league year, meaning whatever he signs for elsewhere reduces by that amount the Bears owe him.

The Glennon benching stamped the signing as an “official” mistake, even though NFL sources remarked that, while Glennon perhaps wasn’t expected to be much more than he’d always been, absolutely no one foresaw the abyssmal decision-making that was the biggest factor in his demotion.

But that’s all rearview-mirror stuff. Pace paid for two spins of the quarterback wheel and wasn’t stubborn about moving on from the first.

In moving forward with Dion Sims, the Bears will keep a mix of skillsets at tight end

USA Today

In moving forward with Dion Sims, the Bears will keep a mix of skillsets at tight end

When the Bears signed Trey Burton to a four-year contract worth a reported $32 million (with $18 million of it guaranteed), the natural thought was this: So long, Dion Sims. But the Bears are all but certainly going to hang on to the 27-year-old tight end after his $4 million roster bonus became fully guaranteed on Friday, barring a trade. 

“We like Dion Sims, a well-rounded tight end,” general manager Ryan Pace said on Thursday. “We’re excited we got him.”

Cynically — or, perhaps, fairly — Pace’s comments could’ve been interpreted as part of a play to trade Sims, who signed a three-year contract in 2017. The Bears saw Sims as a strong run blocker with pass-catching upside, but still gave themselves an out after one year that would’ve netted $5.666 million in cap savings. 

Sims didn’t show any of that receiving upside last year, though, catching 15 of 29 targets (51 percent) for 180 yards with one touchdown. Crucially, the Bears have the cap space to keep Sims, even with the flurry of signings they’ve announced this week -- and Kyle Fuller's reported four-year, $56 million extension -- and contract extensions looming for Eddie Goldman and possibly Adrian Amos, too. 

So hanging on to Sims means the Bears value his contributions as a run blocker and are willing to shoulder a $6.3 million cap hit for him to primarily be used in that role. The Bears expect Shaheen to be their primary in-line tight end, with Burton and Daniel Brown, who signed a one-year contract Friday, the more pass-catching-oriented “move” guys in Matt Nagy’s offense. But Sims will still have a role as the Bears look to maximize their production from the tight end position. 

“I think we can use all our tight ends,” Pace said. “I think the Super Bowl champions are a recent example of that, of using a lot of tight ends. They’re all valuable weapons. They’re all a little different. I think they all complement each other. It fits together nicely.”

Bears attitude adjustment already apparent in first wave of free agents

Bears attitude adjustment already apparent in first wave of free agents

The first thing you notice is some swagger, some chips on the shoulders of the newest Bears, and while that doesn’t win any games in-season, let alone in March, it’s something of a positive for a team that’d had a lot of its swagger pained out of it over the past two years in particular.

Receivers Taylor Gabriel and Allen Robinson, tight end Trey Burton, backup quarterback Chase Daniel and kicker Cody Parkey all said the requisite niceties and platitudes on Thursday, all about how much they like the coaches, the organization, all that stuff.

But I’ve seen free agents come and go since real free agency started in 1993. All levels of players coming through, and they all say right stuff. There was something else with this bunch, though, and it wasn’t always there in the past. (More on that in a second.)

So there was Gabriel mentioning how Mitch Trubisky had texted him after Gabriel had signed, and Gabriel first piping in with, “How’s your deep ball?” And Trubisky was right back at Gabriel, one of the fastest players in the NFL, with, “Are you still fast?”

Best guess — they’ll get along just fine.

Gabriel’s first comment on impressions of coach Matt Nagy? Not about his football knowledge, his enthusiasm. No, it was: “Smooth dude, man,” Gabriel said. “I like his swag a little bit.”

Robinson was described by former Jacksonville and current Bears teammate cornerback Prince Amukamara as “a nightmare” to play against because he let defensive guys, even his own, know when he’d had them for lunch. As far as now, a very high bar has been set: “I think for me as a player, it's not my job to make Mitch's job easier, it's to make his job easy.”

Two points on why this comes with a touch more relevance in the case of a Bears team coming off a fourth straight NFC North basement finish:

First, because of what developed on the other side of the football when the likes of Akiem Hicks, Pernell McPhee (describing his style of football as “violent”) and Danny Trevathan came in, even rookie safety Eddie Jackson last year. They brought in attitudes from not just winning organizations, but more important, championship organizations. And they were good enough to walk the walk, even as they struggled through injuries.

The result was that in less than three full seasons, the Bears were a Top 10 defense. Attitudes can be infectious, for good or bad, and the right attitude with the right players made the defense a force, even with its injuries.

What the Bears secured in their first wave of free agents was five players all involved in points production — two wide receivers, a tight end, a kicker and a backup quarterback, whose two mission statements consist of being ready to play winning football if he’s needed and also to be a foundation pillar for the starter, in this case Trubisky.

What makes this a speck more interesting is that Trubisky will be the biggest factor in formation of the 2018-and-beyond Bears, and it was Trubisky whom Leonard Floyd and his defensive mates dubbed “Pretty Boy Assassin” last year because of Trubisky’s give-some-smack attitude anytime he lit up the No. 1 defense just running scout-team plays.

The second observation is that this wasn’t the case last year with Markus Wheaton, Quintin Demps, Marcus Cooper, Dion Sims and certainly not Mike Glennon, last year’s main free agency additions. Some of that’s obviously personality; Glennon and those guys are simply not swagger-smack kinds of guys, and that’s OK, as long as they play with attitude.

Last year’s group, just to use them as a case in point, came from decent programs. But the current top Bears additions include Super Bowl winners (Burton, Daniel as Drew Brees’ backup), a Super Bowl loser (Gabriel, painfully in the Atlanta Falcons’ collapse vs. New England) and a top wideout who had his dream derailed by injury and missed out on his team’s drive to within 2 minutes 48 seconds of a Super Bowl (Robinson).

And while Nagy and the organization are probably wise to counsel patience in the Bears’ recovery climb, the players aren’t seeing it that way.

“You can never underestimate how important youth is and guys who are willing to learn and willing to get better, but then also you look at the city,” Burton said. “They want another championship. They want to win. They want to be winners. You look at the other sports, the Bulls, the Blackhawks, the Cubs, the Cubs just won a couple years ago.

“The city's ready for another championship and like I said, they have a great quarterback, young quarterback, and an unbelievable head coach. They're aggressive and they're ready to win right now.”