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.”