We’re only five starts in to the Nick Foles era and already every mistake he makes, every three-and-out he engineers, every maddening procedural miscue he oversees leads to one question.
It couldn’t be worse if the Bears went back to the other guy, right?
Joe Buck and Troy Aikman – who sounded genuinely offended by the Bears’ offense – broached that question on the FOX broadcast of the Bears’ 26-23 overtime loss to the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.
And I get it. Foles’ experience in a version of Matt Nagy’s offense, and his pre-existing relationships with Nagy and a number of coaches, were supposed to bring a baseline competency to the job.
Instead, all we’ve seen is a baseline mediocrity. It’s exasperating to watch.
Sometimes it’s worse than mediocre, sometimes it’s a little bit better. But most of the time, the Bears’ offense is the same old mistake-filled, inefficient group under Foles it was when Mitch Trubisky was quarterbacking it.
“I think it's just rhythm, tempo, all the little things in football that we're figuring out,” Foles said. “There's are a lot of new pieces here whether it be coaches or players that we're working the bond together and figuring out this as a unit.”
Foles has been the Bears’ starting quarterback for a month. How much longer can it take?
That’s no reason to go back to Trubisky, though. Nagy might as well raise a white flag with “10” painted on it if he benched Foles for Trubisky. It would be a last resort, the kind of move made when you’re completely out of other ideas as to how to fix this offense.
And for moments on Sunday, we saw an offense that showed signs of life. Foles was given great protection on a 50-yard bomb to Darnell Mooney, then followed it up with a 24-yard strike to Allen Robinson, who made a tremendous catch for a touchdown. David Montgomery ripped off a 38-yard run against a top-four run defense in the NFL.
Foles, too, deserves credit for scraping together two scoring drives late in the game to get this thing to overtime. But for a stretch of the game that saw the Bears go from up 10 to down 10, the only fight the offense had came when Javon Wims decided to become the laughingstock of social media for an ignominious 15 minutes of fame.
“It's hard for me to try to figure that thing out,” Nagy said. “It's hard, because we're all trying. We talked about just cutting it loose, having fun, not playing tight and doing that. There were a lot of times in that game where we were doing it.
“I'm just going to continue going back, I am really, really bothered by that third quarter incident. That bothers me. I'm being completely honest with you guys. It bothers me.
“You know, but I'm proud of the guys that played hard. I'm proud of the guys that were selfless and tried to do everything they could to help us win.”
The problem is an answer to the Bears’ problems on offense just might not exist on this roster.
Nagy can bench Foles for Trubisky, but he’d be swapping one mediocre quarterback for another mediocre quarterback, just with a different skillset.
He can fire himself as playcaller, but the new guy is going to have to contend with an offensive line missing 40-60 percent of its starters, depending on the severity of right tackle Bobby Massie’s injury.
Anthony Miller can get more involved but can’t continue to drop passes, like the one he fumbled in overtime. Cole Kmet can get more involved but you’re only going to get so much out of a rookie tight end. David Montgomery can get the ball more but on a per-carry basis, he and 2018 Jordan Howard are the exact same player (3.7 yards per rush).
The reality is the Bears are already running out of time to find the right answers. They’re 5-3, which feels good, except if the playoffs started today they wouldn’t be in them (the Los Angeles Rams would have the tiebreaker for the No. 7 seed).
Whatever the answers are – if they exist at all – the Bears have to find them. Otherwise, you might as well raise the white flag and see if Trubisky actually can’t be any worse.