INDIANAPOLIS — Maybe Ryan Pace’s actions will speak louder than his words. But after he doubled down on his commitment to Mitch Trubisky being the Bears’ starting quarterback in 2020, it's easy to see how they won't.
“We believe in Mitch,” Pace said. “Mitch knows he needs to be better. We need to be better around him. And that's our goal.”
That may not be what you want to hear and yes, Pace’s actions when the new league year begins will speak far, far louder than his words. But it’s hard to square what Pace said — and didn’t say — on Tuesday with believing he’ll bring in a new starting quarterback in the next month or two.
First of all, don’t expect the Bears to be in the market for a free agent starter. “Hey, all that stuff we said about Mitch being our guy multiple times? We didn’t mean it,” isn’t exactly a great pitch to Teddy Bridgewater or Ryan Tannehill, let alone Philip Rivers or Tom Brady.
Pace could still be angling to trade for a quarterback while covering his bases if a deal for, say, Andy Dalton didn’t materialize. He was non-committal when asked if the Bears would pick up or decline Trubisky’s 2021 fifth-year option; while he said uncertainty with the league’s next CBA didn’t have anything to do with that lack of action, it would make sense if it did (Pace has until early May to make a decision).
And, yes, Trubisky is the only quarterback the Bears will have under contract until March 18 at the earliest. That matters when parsing Pace's comments.
But Pace also could’ve coyly deflected a direct question about whether Trubisky was still his guy or not, instead reiterating his support in his quarterback. An answer of “we’re still evaluating everyone” and speaking in generalities — as he did for most of the 24 minutes he spent with the media — might’ve been more a signal he’s at least willing to consider a new starting quarterback.
Instead, it felt like Pace either believes (or wants to believe) in Trubisky’s potential, or he knows there’s not a viable upgrade available to him and has no choice but to support his guy. That means improving the roster and coaching staff around Trubisky and hoping to, baseline, get him back to the 2018 version of himself.
The Bears want Trubisky to succeed not just because they drafted him second overall three years ago. By all accounts, he’s a good guy and a hard worker, the type of player who’s easy to root for inside and outside of Halas Hall.
But Trubisky was dead last in the NFL in yards/attempt (6.1) and had the fourth-worst QBR (40.6) while missing too many throws in 2019. Can the Bears square liking Trubisky the person and teammate with an unbiased view of his shortcomings as a quarterback?
“You have to be honest with yourself and what's best for our team,” Pace said. “And so, I think just getting different opinions. This isn't a dictatorship, you know? This is a very collaborative effort. We've got a lot of talented scouts and coaches so evaluating those opinions. I think it helps too when you bring new people into the building. We have new coaches that come in with fresh eyes and taking advantage of that.”
We’ll see in the coming weeks if Pace actually believes what's best for the Bears is keeping Trubisky as his No. 1 quarterback. But right now, that outcome feels more likely than not.