Bears coach Matt Nagy declined to name a starting quarterback for next week’s game against the Indianapolis Colts, but c’mon – it’s going to be Nick Foles.
Nagy hit the detonate button on Mitch Trubisky’s Bears career Sunday, benching the 2017 No. 2 overall pick early in the third quarter in favor of Foles, who threw three fourth quarter touchdowns to lead the Bears to a ridiculous 30-26 win over the Atlanta Falcons. It took just over two and a half games for Nagy to reveal how short his leash was for Trubisky, and it turned out it wasn’t very long.
Trubisky missed an open Anthony Miller for a potential touchdown on a deep ball toward the end of the second quarter. At halftime, Nagy said he discussed a quarterback change with his coaching staff, but stuck with Trubisky to open the third quarter.
When Trubisky threw a truly terrible interception on the Bears’ third play of the third quarter, that was it. Nagy saw enough, with his team now chasing a 16-point deficit. Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor walked over to Trubisky, told him “Nick is up,” and that was that.
“I think really when I knew it was the interception there on third down,” Nagy said. “We were struggling on third down a lot. We weren’t producing points in the red zone and I just think that sometimes there is a gut feeling as to when to do it. That seemed like the right time.
“It’s never fun. You guys understand these relationships we build with these guys, these players. They’re strong relationships. It’s not easy. There’s personal relationships and past relationships and that’s just where we were at at that time.”
Before we get into what this means for Trubisky’s future, let’s take a step back and look at what this means for the Bears. The scope of Nagy’s move is much wider than the narrow view of Foles leading a comeback to bring the Bears to 3-0. This is seismic for a franchise that built itself around Trubisky the last few years.
Nagy benched the No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 draft, the guy Ryan Pace had to have so badly he traded up one spot to draft him and not settle for Patrick Mahomes or Deshaun Watson.
That’s it. That’s the scope of this.
It took Nagy a little over 10 quarters into Trubisky’s fourth season to decide that he had a better chance to win with a different quarterback, in this case Foles. And it’s hard to see the fairytale ending those inside Halas Hall hoped for but didn’t necessarily expect happening now. It's even harder to imagine Trubisky being on the 2021 Bears now than it was when we all woke up Sunday morning.
As for Trubisky? I thought back to something NBC Sports analyst and former All-Pro safety Rodney Harrison told me this spring:
“If he doesn’t start this year, and I’m going to tell you something — this is gonna happen, this is gonna play out. He’ll never start again,” Harrison said.
What about if he only starts three games?
Trubisky is a better quarterback than the other guys living with the “bust” label (like Ryan Leaf). But that does not mean he’s not one of the worst draft picks in NFL history. Is it his fault he was picked in the same year as two generational talents? Of course not.
But it's someone's fault the guy picked ahead of Mahomes and Watson didn't even make it three full games into his fourth season before he got benched.
And the inability to consistently complete deep balls to open receivers and inconsistency with decision-making? Those are on Trubisky, and those got him benched, leaving him an NFL future that's out of his control.
“The only thing I can control is me playing better when I have those reps in the first half and I didn’t do that, so I gave him the opportunity to pull me, he did and it is what it is,” Trubisky said. “You’ve just got to move forward, accept it and continue to be a great teammate. But it’s a tough deal sometimes.”
Trubisky, by the way, deserves praise for facing questions from the media after Sunday’s game. He easily could’ve declined to speak about the lowest point in his football career. And usually this stuff doesn’t matter, but in this case it demonstrated – to me at least – that Trubisky is not going to quit on the 2020 Bears.
“He's a high character guy,” wide receiver Allen Robinson said. “(Him talking to the media), I wouldn't have expected any less for Mitch.”
And the Bears can’t afford to “lose” Trubisky now that he’s been relegated to backup duty. Foles has never started more than 11 games in season. There are 13 games left in the 2020 regular season.
So the Bears, in all likelihood, will need Trubisky again at some point in 2020. Ideally, Foles is the Bears’ Ryan Tannehill, who subbed in for Marcus Mariota, started 10 games and led the Tennessee Titans all the way to the AFC Championship game last season.
But Foles’ history doesn’t indicate he’ll do that. Even if it's just for a game or two, chances are Trubisky has not taken his final meaningful snap in a Bears uniform.
Trubisky’s story with the Bears might not be completely written just yet. But we’re down to the last few paragraphs of the final chapter. There’s not much room left for a happily ever after ending in Chicago.
For both Trubisky and the Bears.