View from the Moon: Start Mike Glennon or Mitch Trubisky? Bears have two other options


View from the Moon: Start Mike Glennon or Mitch Trubisky? Bears have two other options

Obscured behind the smoke of the start-Mike-or-Mitch brouhaha is the reality that the Bears have, not one, but two viable options at quarterback that they have not yet unveiled. And neither of them involve starting Mitch Trubisky a week from Monday against the Minnesota Vikings.

And either of which would be preferable to starting an inexperienced, very green rookie against a defense that went into this weekend ranked No. 3 in rush yards allowed – which should be more than a little concerning for a team whose offensive identity is pegged to running the football.

One point to be clear on going into the Bears’ current quarterback scenarios: Trubisky is not ready to start an NFL game. If he were, he would have already. It’s a point that’s gotten lost in the mayhem created by Glennon’s play. Two things are not – repeat: not –  linked: How good or bad Glennon is, and whether Trubisky is a better, NFL-ready option.

Understand that one basic tenet of the John Fox regime is that he needs/wants to win now or he’s increasingly likely to be out of a job. If Trubisky were the Bears’ best clear chance to win NOW, he would be playing. Allow that Fox and the staff can rate quarterbacks.

As far as QB decisions: GM Ryan Pace is involved in player decisions and has his own opinion on what should be happening. But he’s in the position of being “right” either way: If Glennon is good, that was Pace’s signing. If Trubisky is good, that was Pace’s draft call.

Structurally, Pace could order Fox to play one of the two. But several points here: That’s not Pace’s operating philosophy or style. Fox could quite possibly resign on the spot (and Pace would have a difficult task finding a quality coach for a culture in which the GM tells the coach whom to play); and those GM-dictated situations commonly blow up, as the Bears’ did in 2013 when the Marc Trestman staff was ordered by Phil Emery to reinstate Jay Cutler as the starter over a Josh McCown whom coaches privately wanted to remain the starter.

(Pace’s starter preference isn’t a matter of public record, but a surprise would be if he wanted Trubisky under center before the young man is somewhere within sight of ready. Besides the injury risk inherent in uncertain play, if Trubisky is ghastly, Pace would be pilloried for having whiffed on his first two major quarterback efforts.)

But the Bears do have alternatives to prematurely (which it would be) turning their franchise future into its present:

Option 1: The McNair/McNown Maneuver

Amid the rubble left after a couple of Glennon’s starts, the Trubisky debate has broken along obvious and predictable lines: bring him along as unhurriedly as possible, allowing him to learn the NFL game while minimizing the chance of catastrophic setback; or give him the keys and directions to downtown, and let him learn how to drive in rush-hour traffic.

But what if there were a hybrid NFL orientation plan, say, one in which the rookie quarterback is inserted and plays a predetermined series or two each game and… .

Oh, wait, the Bears tried that once, and it definitely didn’t work.

But it is an alternative that at least one member of the extended Bears family – and who was part of that experiment in 1999 – who thinks is an option preferable to simply parachuting The Kid into a Monday Night Football crucible.

Former Bears quarterback Jim Miller was there when the Bears selected Cade McNown with the 12th pick of the 1999 draft. McNown was by acclamation the most NFL-ready member of what was expected to be a quarterback-rich draft (five in the first 12 picks, 13 drafted overall).

The incoming coaching staff of Dick Jauron hatched a plan to stay with Shane Matthews as the starter but give McNown a package of plays and drop him in for a designated possession in the first half. However, while a similar plan had worked nicely for Steve McNair, the No. 3-overall pick by the Houston Oilers in the 1995 draft, the McNown Maneuver produced nothing, for two reasons. McNair was good and McNown wasn’t, and because McNair had the maturity to study in depth his play package; McNown, never one to be accused of maturity in those days, did not.

Parenthetically, Houston starting quarterback Chris Chandler, a Bear later in his career, didn’t particularly like the plan, any more than Glennon would. Chandler didn’t particularly like the Oilers using the No. 3 pick on a quarterback after he’d signed in the offseason with them (sound familiar?) but he understood that was the deal.

That the Bears did not implement some variation of the McNown/McNair Maneuver may have been because Bears coaches just don’t like that concept. Or because Trubisky wasn’t ready for even that level of usage. But if Trubisky indeed isn’t full-game-ready, a gradual immersion may make exponentially more sense than an abrupt all-in dunking. And Trubisky has gotten high marks for maturity, certainly off the field.

“If [Trubisky] is not ready for everything, that’s one way they could get him on the field, to provide a change of pace and those type of things,” Miller said. “I don’t think he’s ready to go a 65-snap game; I just don’t from what I’ve witnessed.”

The situation would not necessarily be one of staying with Trubisky when he got the chance with his play parcel; preferably not, in fact. “I personally think Glennon should start against that [Minnesota] defense,” Miller added. “If he goes out and turns over the football, then you’re going to insert Mitchell – coaches say, ‘Mike, come over here, we’re going to call this package of plays for Mitch, collect yourself,’ and then trot Mike back out on the field after Mitch’s series.”

Option 2: The Sanchez Scenario

One of Pace’s offseason moves was to sign veteran Mark Sanchez to the quarterback depth chart. Sanchez has been inactive for all four games, raising questions of its own, not the least of which would be why the organization would have committed a roster spot and nearly $1.8 million to ostensibly a third-stringer.

Unless there was more to it, a “secret” codicil to a plan that outwardly consisted of just Glennon-Trubisky.

Sanchez was in a similar situation with the Dallas Cowboys last year, part of a depth chart that included Tony Romo and draftee Dak Prescott. Now, “I don’t want to close or open any possibilities,” Fox said regarding Sanchez after the Green Bay game.

“Nobody’s even talked about that,” Miller said, “but Mark is there for a reason. You could start Mark and see how it goes. If he doesn’t turn over the ball, he cools everybody down, gives everybody some breathing room.

“[The Bears organization] can’t give in. They’ve got to go with their plan, and that plan includes Mark Sanchez as well.”

Bears cut ties with linebacker Jerrell Freeman

Bears cut ties with linebacker Jerrell Freeman

The Bears began their slew of offseason moves by releasing inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Freeman, 31, signed a three-year, $12 million deal with the Bears in 2016.

In his first year in Chicago he amassed 110 tackles in 12 games but was suspended four games for PED use. He played in just one game lsat season before suffering a pectoral injury that placed him on IR. He then tested positive again for a performance-enhancing drug, resulting in a 10-game suspension that bleeds over into 2018 for two more games, wherever he winds up.

2017 Bears position grades: Outside Linebacker

2017 Bears position grades: Outside Linebacker


2017 grade: C-

Level of need: High

Decisions to be made on: Willie Young (contract), Pernell McPhee (contract), Sam Acho (free agent), Lamarr Houston (free agent)

Possible free agent targets: DeMarcus Lawrence, Ezekiel Ansah, Adrian Clayborn, Connor Barwin, Kony Ealy


Would you believe that no true outside linebacker in this year’s free agent class had more sacks than Lamarr Houston did last year? Houston and the Rams’ Connor Barwin each had five, underscoring how rare it is for an elite edge rusher to make it to free agency.


There are a few that, for now, are due to hit the open market. DeMarcus Lawrence racked up 14 ½ sacks with the Dallas Cowboys last year, but played as a defensive end in a 4-3 scheme. The same goes for the Detroit Lions’ Ezekiel Ansah, who had a dozen sacks in 2017. But if either reaches free agency, it’d be a surprise -- again, pass-rushers with that kind of production rarely escape the franchise tag.


If Lawrence or Ansah do become available, the Bears would likely be a part of the feeding frenzy to sign either player. Whether they could convince either player that 1) Chicago is a desirable destination and 2) that they’d be just as, if not more, productive in a 3-4 base instead of a 4-3 is a different question.


The same goes for Atlanta’s Adrian Clayborn, who had 9 ½ sacks last year (including a ridiculous six-sack game) but played in a 4-3 and may not be looking to leave Atlanta. The Falcons, though, could be in a tricky salary cap situation with defensive lineman Dontari Poe and longtime kicker Matt Bryant both due to hit free agency.


Fangio’s scheme is malleable, though, and any of these players would be a fit in it one way or another. Spotrac estimates Lawrence would command an average annual salary of $14 million per year, while Ansah would be slightly lower at $13.2 million. Either way, either of those guys could command the biggest contract Pace has given a defensive player (although the Bears were prepared to give cornerback A.J. Bouye more than the $13.5 million average annual salary that he’s receiving with the Jacksonville Jaguars.


Both Willie Young and Pernell McPhee could be released this off-season, too, to free up cap room. Cutting Young would net $4.5 million in cap savings, while a release of McPhee would free up a little over $7 million, according to Spotrac. Of the two, Young may be the more likely guy to stick around, despite coming off a season-ending triceps injury. While he’ll be 33 next September, Young has 9 ½ sacks in the last two year while McPhee has eight (while playing in more games than Young). This may not be an either-or situation, though -- the Bears could very well cut both.


Houston is an interesting option to retain after he racked up four sacks in five games after returning to the Bears last December. He’s struggled to stay healthy in his career, though, and the Bears probably wouldn’t re-sign him and count on the 30-year-old to be a starter in 2018, especially considering the uncertain recovery status of Leonard Floyd. Sam Acho could be brought back as a solid depth option, too.


The success of this unit, though, will hinge more on Floyd than whatever the Bears are able to do in free agency or the draft. The Bears need their 2016 first-round pick to A) stay healthy and B) improve as an edge rusher after injuries have limited him to 22 games and 11 ½ sacks in his first two seasons. If every team needs three reliable pass-rushers, the Bears will need to pencil in Floyd next to Akiem Hicks (who, for what it’s worth, is more of a run-stuffer, but did total 8 ½ sacks in 2017) and then either a free agent or a draft pick.


The most likely route to land that third pass rusher, though, is probably through the draft unless a top talent like Lawrence, Ansah or Clayborn hits free agency -- and then matches with the Bears.