Bears

Multiple routes for Mitch Trubisky to Bears starting QB

Multiple routes for Mitch Trubisky to Bears starting QB

Rookie minicamp ended Sunday for the Bears but now a measure of franchise intrigue around Mitch Trubisky starts to build behind the curtain of closed practices. Because the ultimate question about the rookie quarterback now shifts from “how’d he look?” to, with apologies to Mark Sanchez, “who’s better, Mike Glennon or The Kid?” And since all but a few OTA sessions are closed, the answer to any of that is weeks off, maybe months, and it may not be known until starting lineups are actually set.

The Bears are adjusting elements of their quarterback coaching plan for Trubisky, apparent if for no other reason than coaches don’t want to discuss details of whatever. The fact is that over much of the next month or so, Trubisky could astound and even surpass the presumed starter. It’s happened before, although “surprise” wouldn’t quite cover it in this case.

“Really it’s going to start tomorrow,” said coach John Fox on Sunday, the “it” really referring to the bigger picture that Fox is focusing, not just on rookie development. “We’ll spend a little more time with the rookies early in meetings and then we’ll kind of inject them into Phase II of what we’re doing. Obviously we’re not practicing against each other; we can’t do that until Phase III of the OTAs, but there is classroom settings as well as some field time not going against each other.”

The Bears have named Glennon the starter. More than once. But Fox has stated repeatedly what somebody has to be “the starter” at this or any point. He’s demonstrated that depth charts are the definition of “fluid.” Glennon may ultimately be the starter. He and the Bears are certainly planning on it, with Trubisky getting a redshirt year.

But Fox is old school with respect to who plays: not the guy who’ll be better down the road, but the guy who’s better. Present tense. Period. And a core reality here is that Glennon, besides having on-field experience, also knows exactly how the NFL ultimately works – if the coaches think the other guy is better, he plays. If Glennon has a problem with that, you don’t want him anyway.

Trubisky uses the word “competition” even if no one else wants to right now. “We know Mike’s the starter, but competition brings out the best in everyone,” Trubisky said on Friday. “I’m going to come out here and compete. But we know Mike is the starter, so it’s my job to support him and make sure everything I do I can help him as well.”

The NFL, however, is too replete with examples of depth charts being scrambled by rookies. The Bears have been involved in some of those.

Case study: Leonard Floyd

Consider how 2016 unfolded for the Bears and No. 1 pick Leonard Floyd. Not the same position as Trubisky, obviously, but the scenario offered insight into how the Fox staff operates.

Floyd didn’t start until the normally throwaway fourth preseason game but played more than half of Cleveland’s snaps in the game, finishing with three tackles and a quarterback hit. The next time the Bears took the field, Floyd was a starting outside linebacker opposite Willie Young against the Houston Texans on opening day.

Floyd had quietly moved past Sam Acho and Lamarr Houston, who had started in the preseason, at outside linebacker. And while an apparent factor could have been that Pernell McPhee was still in knee rehab, the fact was that Floyd would eventually start five games in which McPhee was active.

So no matter what Fox, GM Ryan Pace, O-coordinator Dowell Loggains or anyone else says at this moment, Trubisky is competing with a chance to become the starter.

Case study: Jack Del Rio-Zach Thomas

Jimmy Johnson in 1996 signed veteran linebacker Jack Del Rio to a one-year contract with the Miami Dolphins; that was in early June, more than six weeks after the Dolphins had drafted Zach Thomas in that year’s fifth round. Del Rio had been a Pro-Bowler two years earlier.

One day after the first preseason game, Johnson cut Del Rio, who’d started for Johnson earlier in his career. Asked why the call to go with the rookie, Johnson said simply, “Zach’s better.”

Any more questions? There were none.

Case study: Brian Urlacher

The day after the 2000 draft, then-coach Dick Jauron announced that Brian Urlacher, the team’s No. 1 pick, ninth-overall, was the starting strongside linebacker. It was a decision the staff had to reverse when Urlacher lost the job to a supremely motivated Rosevelt Colvin after just two preseason games. Jauron acknowledged that giving a job to an unproven anybody was a mistake. Opportunity finally came for Urlacher when Barry Minter was injured in a blowout loss at Tampa. Urlacher stepped in at middle linebacker and all went as it should have.

Urlacher hadn’t beaten out Minter when the change came. Players do not lose jobs because of injury. They lose them because the individual who fills in for them turns out to be better than they are. Urlacher made his first start the following week and started a streak with 6 sacks over the next five games.

Case study: Mike Glennon-Jameis Winston

Glennon was the Tampa Bay starter when the Buccaneers drafted Jameis Winston No. 1 overall in 2015. At this point of the 2015 offseason, Glennon was still the Tampa Bay starter. Winston was taking No. 2 reps in OTA’s, which for the Bears this year start later this month. Those culminated with the three-day mandatory minicamp in mid-June.

At that point, the Lovie Smith staff had seen what they needed and wanted to: Winston was named the starter going into training camp. A light parallel in Philadelphia last year:

As training camp and preseason were winding along, No. 2-overall pick Carson Wentz was third on the Philadelphia depth chart, behind both Sam Bradford and Chase Daniel. The Eagles traded starter Sam Bradford to the Minnesota Vikings and leap-frogged Wentz over Daniel into the No. 1 slot. Who knew?

A qualifier in Winston’s case, besides him being an exceptional student of the game, which there is no reason to suspect that Trubisky is not, was that he also had 27 starts in pro-style offense under coach Jimbo Fisher at Florida State, vs. 13 starts in a spread offense for Trubisky. Wentz’s experience similarly dwarfs Trubisky’s.

No expectation exists that Trubisky will be the Bears’ starting quarterback at any point this season, other than perhaps the starter for the fourth preseason game, which incidentally will be in Soldier Field.

Good seats still available.

Bears, Top 10 draft scenarios get one last look, and a change at No. 8

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Bears, Top 10 draft scenarios get one last look, and a change at No. 8

This member of the NBC Sports Chicago team has gone through the blizzard of mock drafts that are a rite of NFL spring, although with perhaps less clarity and certainty than in any draft season in 25 years of doing this.

Usually the requisite detective work of the job produces at least a fix on a player, or not that, then one position – in ’94, the Bears were going edge rusher (John Thierry) to replace Richard Dent; in ’95, they targeted running back (Rashaan Salaam) to upgrade from Lewis Tillman; in ’99, a quarterback (Cade McNown); in ’05, a back (Cedric Benson); in ’16, an edge rusher (Leonard Floyd); last year, a quarterback (Mitch Trubisky).

No, those were not all successful mock-draft calls (this reporter called Deshaun Watson last year). No, the point is that getting a sense of what’s behind the curtain has gotten exponentially more difficult as the Ryan Paces of the business have become so well practiced at maintaining veils and cones of silence over their intentions.

So late on the night before the draft, your humble and faithful narrator is continuing to scratch in the dirt for edible morsels (there’s no shortage of chaff, not so much wheat). Some things that come through the dust… .

Tremaine Edmunds remains the call for the Bears at No. 8. And I don’t like it. Not Edmunds; I like him more than Roquan Smith, my previous mock pick, for reasons of grade, player skillset, and need.

But the scratching around has uncovered that prominent voices in the Bears’ draft room are pushing for Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward at No. 8. Multi-year deals with a combined $36 million guaranteed for Prince Amukamara and Kyle Fuller notwithstanding, the Bears did immense work on Ward (Combine meeting, Ohio State pro day, pre-draft visit), who visited five teams drafting in the top 12 in addition to Pro Day evaluations.

The night before the 2018 draft, the order of Bears “probables” now stands at: 1) Ward, 2) Smith, 3) Edmunds, trade up for 4) Bradley Chubb (the Bears were one of only three teams to have him in for a pre-draft visit, 5) trade up for Quenton Nelson. And 6) trade down for Marcus Davenport (see below).

“4-gone” a Bears wish-list? Maybe not

Four quarterbacks going off the board within the seven picks before the Bears are on the clock at No. 8 has been cast as the best of scenarios for the Bears. And it would mean that the Bears, who don’t number a quarterback among the players in their cluster graded as worth that No. 8, would be in position to draft the de facto fourth-best player of the draft, certainly among non-quarterbacks.

But would that “4-gone” be the best of all possible Bears cases? Not necessarily.

One NFL insider suggested to NBC Sports Chicago that the Bears would be better off if THREE of the four top QB’s were gone and one was still there at No. 8. The Bears, claiming to have a cloud of guys that would comfortably allow them to trade back and still get an elite player, would then likely be fielding a call or calls from Miami, Buffalo and anyone else desperate for a quarterback.

As in: Josh Allen has fallen, still there at 8, and so are, say, Marcus Davenport, Tremaine Edmunds, Roquan Smith, Denzel Ward, any one of which would be a solid pick at No. 8. The Bills at No. 12 want Allen, Ryan Pace’s phone rings, and Pace slides back to 12, gets Buffalo’s No. 3 to replace the one he surrendered in the trade-up last year for Mitch Trubisky, and still gets one of the elites he would’ve drafted anyway at No. 8.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: What should Bears do at No. 8?

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SportsTalk Live Podcast: What should Bears do at No. 8?

On the latest SportsTalk Live Podcast, David Haugh (Chicago Tribune), Hub Arkush (Pro Football Weekly/670 The Score) and Chris Emma (670TheScore.com) join Kap on the panel.

The guys discuss Ryan Pace’s options with the NFL Draft just a day away. Plus, Porter Moser gets an extension at Loyola, Kyle Schwarber continues to rake and Michael Kopech continues to dominate at Triple-A.

Listen to the full SportsTalk Live Podcast right here: