Bears

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

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USA TODAY

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.”

With Leonard Floyd going on injured reserve, will the Bears have a pressing need at outside linebacker in 2018?

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With Leonard Floyd going on injured reserve, will the Bears have a pressing need at outside linebacker in 2018?

The Bears placed Leonard Floyd on injured reserve Thursday morning, ending the second-year outside linebacker’s season following a knee injury suffered Sunday against the Detroit Lions. Floyd suffered an MCL and PCL injury and will have surgery in the next week, coach John Fox said, and the Bears do not have a timetable for his recovery yet. But that Floyd didn't suffer damage to his ACL is potentially good news for Floyd's recovery timetable. 

Still, with Floyd on injured reserve and out for the season, the Bears’ current outside linebacker depth chart consists of two veterans (Pernell McPhee and Sam Acho) and two practice squad signees (Isaiah Irving and Howard Jones). These final six games of the 2017 season could serve as auditions for all four players for roles on the 2018 Bears. 

If every team needs at least three good pass rushers, the Bears can count on Akiem Hicks and Floyd for 2018, provided Floyd comes back healthy. But who’s the third?

The Bears could save about $7.5 million in cap space if they release McPhee in 2018; if they were to cut ties with Willie Young, who’s on injured reserve right now as well, it would provide $4.5 million in cap relief. McPhee will be 29 in December, while Young will turn 33 next September. 

The Bears won’t necessarily need the cap relief next year, and could certainly decide to keep both players, who’ve shown they’re still productive when healthy. But even if both players are back, the Bears may need to add another outside linebacker via free agency of the draft — remember, the team could’ve began the season with Floyd, Young, McPhee, Acho and Lamarr Houston as their outside linebackers; an injury Houston suffered in the fourth preseason game ended his time in Chicago. 

Needs at wide receiver and cornerback are pressing, but outside linebacker may need to be in that same conversation. If the Bears have a top-10 pick for the fourth consecutive year, plus some cap space, they perhaps could have the ability to address all three needs in March and April. 

That may be looking a little too far into the future, though. The best-case for the Bears is McPhee finishes the season strong and Irving and/or Jones shows something in the opportunities they receive in these final six games (Jones, for what it’s worth, had five sacks as a rookie with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2015). But the worst-case — and perhaps the most realistic — is that the Bears go into the offseason needing to fill at least one pass-rushing spot. 

Under Center Podcast: Can Mitch Trubisky follow Carson Wentz’s path to stardom?

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Under Center Podcast: Can Mitch Trubisky follow Carson Wentz’s path to stardom?

JJ Stankevitz and John “Moon” Mullin are joined by NBC Sports Philadelphia Eagles reporter Dave Zangaro to offer an encouraging connection between Carson Wentz’s growth and that of Mitchell Trubisky.

Check out the entire podcast here: