One time-honored NFL bromide is that coaches don’t make personnel decisions; players ultimately make them with their performances. Bears GM Ryan Pace now has a franchise-grade decision to make at quarterback, although Mitch Trubisky in fact has made it for him.
To many observers, Trubisky has played his way out of the Bears picking up his fifth-year option and its $24-million’ish price tag ahead of the May 2020 deadline. Trubisky has played his way into an offseason position competition with the likes of Marcus Mariota (who’s exponentially less risky financially than Teddy Bridgewater and a better fit in the Matt Nagy offense. Also, Bears offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich was Mariota’s head coach at Oregon).
No matter how you see it, this much is true: As the disappointing 2019 season ends, there are more questions about Trubisky and the Bears’ QB situation than there were at the beginning.
How willing Pace is to admit that degree of failure in his 2017 draft, in addition to TE Adam Shaheen, remains to be seen. On Tuesday, Pace will face his first media session open to questioning since before the season.
The Bears’ difficulties on offense, which extend back into mid-2018, pose a franchise dilemma. They have a quarterback problem and they have a schematic/coaching problem. Indeed, teams have figured out Nagy, not just Trubisky. So now the Bears have a choice: fix the quarterback position, or fix the scheme. They’re not working together. The Bears’ quarterback cannot operate the coach’s system.
On Sunday, despite facing a Vikings defense with three starters inactive and others playing sparingly, Trubisky was unable to get the Bears’ offense into the end zone on three first-half possessions that reached the Minnesota 8-, 15- and 16-yard lines.
The Bears finally scored a touchdown on their fourth red-zone trip, but the fact that the drive was comprised of eight runs and one pass is an illustration that the offense runs better when it’s not dependent on Trubisky’s arm.
“I think with any position, the third year’s an important year as [players] continue to grow and develop,” Pace said last spring. “We use the word incremental growth, that’s exactly what’s happening with Mitch along with a lot of other players.”
Trubisky has simply not met that incremental-growth standard. So Pace needs to decide if he wants to pick up an option that makes Trubisky a $24-million quarterback in 2021. His 2020 salary of $9.2 million is guaranteed, so cutting him doesn’t save money. And if he somehow wins the starting job over an incoming veteran like Mariota, the quarterback Pace coveted in the 2015 draft but couldn’t get, he can still be paid like an NFL starter.
But in his first two seasons at North Carolina, Trubisky was unable to beat out Marquise Williams, whose pro career has consisted of stints as a backup in the CFL, AAF and XFL. Envisioning Trubisky outplaying a Mariota, Bridgewater, Ryan Tannehill or whomever is a stretch.
Trubisky’s NFL breadcrumb trail says he won’t.
In the 2018 playoff loss to Philadelphia, the Cody Parkey double-doink was the defining image, but what Parkey’s miss obscured were the three drives that stalled at the Philadelphia 18-, 11- and 16-yard lines.
Flash forward to 2019. For all of the hype and assurances that Trubisky’s training-camp interceptions were either meaningless or part of his development, depending on who was talking about them, Trubisky’s season began with a 10-3 embarrassment against the Green Bay Packers. The game effectively ended with an end zone interception on which Trubisky was baited by ex-Bears safety Adrian Amos.
Trubisky’s passer rating that day was 62.1, his season low. Against the Packers the second time around, with the playoffs in the balance, he threw two interceptions and managed just a 64.5 rating, while the Bears settled for field goals on two of three red-zone possessions. A week later, still with playoff aspirations, Trubisky produced a low point vs. Kansas City and Patrick Mahomes, netting 3 points and producing another failing passer rating (65.4).
When it’s mattered most, over virtually three full seasons, Trubisky has been making Ryan Pace’s decision for him.Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.