I covered two summertime quarterback competitions while on the Notre Dame beat from 2011 through 2016. And I can't help think about them while looking ahead to the Bears' "open competition" between Nick Foles and Mitch Trubisky.
In the first one in South Bend, Dayne Christ was named the Irish starter…and was replaced by Tommy Rees halfway through the first game of the season. In the second, Brian Kelly threw his hands up and didn’t name a starter, pledging to have DeShone Kizer and Malik Zaire split drives during games. That lasted about a half before Kizer asserted himself as the better quarterback and season-long starter.
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Matt Nagy will effectively hold a college quarterback competition this summer. There will only be a few weeks of practices and no preseason games to evaluate Trubisky and Foles. Every little thing will be evaluated, sure – if each quarterback makes the proper check at the line, how they lead in and out of the huddle, if they make the right reads and accurate throws, etc. – but there just won’t be the mountain of data and film Bears hoped to have when the Foles trade went through and the “open competition” was announced.
So when Nagy reveals the Bears’ Week 1 starter – either Trubisky or Foles – it hardly means he's guaranteed to finish that game in Detroit, let alone start for the whole year.
“This is a seasonal process,” Nagy said. “So what I mean by that is obviously we’re going to have to name a starter at some point. We as a staff, internally, will discuss that and how we want to go about that. And then when you name that starter, you obviously want that starter in a perfect world to be able to go win a Super Bowl.
“But there are so many different things that can happen. Especially this season.”
In a normal year, training camp practices would’ve began this week. Foles and Trubisky would've had upward of 20 practices and three preseason games to compete against each other. By the end of it, the Bears would hold a clear picture of A) if Trubisky truly were a different quarterback than he was in 2019 and B) if Foles developed a connection with his receivers and is the solid, dependable guy they hoped to get from the Jacksonville Jaguars.
2020, of course, is a laugh-or-you’ll-cry sort of abnormal year. It’ll be hard for the Bears’ quarterback picture to truly come into focus until they actually see Foles and/or Trubisky in a game. And that game won’t happen until (hopefully) Sept. 13 at Ford Field.
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So the Bears can drill down all they want on Foles and Trubisky during these practices at Halas Hall, which won’t actually begin with pads until the week of Aug. 17. But the bigger question may not be who wins the starting job out of camp. It might be how quickly Nagy tells the backup to start getting loose.
Again, I’ve seen it before at the college level. And this year’s quarterback competition in Lake Forest isn’t going to be all that different from what college football coaches have to do when they don’t have a clear-cut starting quarterback, either.