For an offense sinking toward the bottom of the NFL – again – trying something different wasn’t necessarily a bad idea. That idea just might’ve cost the Bears their backup quarterback for the rest of the 2020 season.
It's a season quarterbacked by Nick Foles – who has never started more than 11 games in a year – and now features a patchwork offensive line that’s likely to be missing numerous starters and backups on Sunday against the Tennessee Titans.
Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky did not participate in Wednesday’s practice at Halas Hall with a right (throwing) shoulder injury he suffered during his lone snap against the New Orleans Saints last weekend. NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported while Trubisky is undergoing further testing, there may be “significant structural issues” with the quarterback’s throwing shoulder.
Trubisky previously missed two games with a right shoulder injury in 2018. He had offseason surgery to repair a partially torn labrum in his left (non-throwing) shoulder this year.
Bears coach Matt Nagy said Trubisky landed on his shoulder “weird” when he was tackled by Saints linebacker Alex Anzalone on a designed running play in Week 8.
“He just got dinged up on that one play that we put him on and so he's currently rehabbing things and just working on it that way,” Nagy said. “It's unfortunate, you know, and I know that he's bummed out.”
The next 72 hours will be telling with Trubisky. If the Bears put him on injured reserve, it means he’ll miss at least three games. But if we get to Sunday morning and Trubisky is still on the active roster, it’d be a good sign the Bears believe he’ll be available soon, perhaps by their post-off-week trip to Green Bay in Week 13.
Either way, it looks like the Bears will roll with Tyler Bray as Nick Foles’ backup at least for at least the near future. Good thing the Bears every week have dutifully protected Bray, who’s attempted one pass in his eight-year NFL career, from being signed off their practice squad.
The Bears will bring in quarterbacks Jake Rudock and Kyle Sloter for workouts, too, in case Trubisky does miss significant time and they need a third-string quarterback in Halas Hall.
But this is the risk Nagy took when he built a play – or package of plays – for Trubisky, who missed two starts with an injured right shoulder in 2018 and one start with an injured left shoulder in 2019. The plan for Trubisky never was to turn him into a Chicago version of Taysom Hill, who is a quarterback, but is not the Saints’ backup quarterback (Jameis Winston is). There was, though, a plan to use Trubisky in a package of plays designed to take advantage of his athleticism while, potentially, still letting him pass.
“It's a weapon for us to be able to use his legs and then obviously be able to throw the ball as well,” Nagy said after Sunday’s game. “That's something that we're looking at and every game could be a little bit different but it's something that teams have to prepare for.”
While the play in question here – a two-yard run – might be the last time we see Trubisky in a Bears uniform, ultimately, I think it was a risk worth taking. Trubisky does have a certain skillset that, if used in a specific, targeted way, could be effective on a couple of plays per game. Nagy had to take the chance with a struggling offense.
But also: Nagy and the Bears never indicated any interest in benching Foles. If Trubisky is out for an extended period of time – or for the entire season – that option is definitively off the table, and Foles will be the Bears’ unquestioned starter for the rest of the season.
For better or for worse.