Call it a “pocket” quarterback controversy (no pun intended), compared to a real one where a team’s starting quarterback is at issue. Like in Washington with Kirk Cousins and Robert Griffin III, or Cleveland with Johnny Manziel and Josh McCown.
The Bears’ starting quarterback isn’t truly being contested; that’s Jay Cutler, when he returns from a hamstring injury. But in the short term, with Jimmy Clausen failing to ignite any semblance of offense during the 23-0 loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday unless he was handing the football to Matt Forte, the Bears suddenly find themselves considering an alternative.
That alternative is David Fales, and whether it is coach John Fox using his version of a play-action fake, motivation of Clausen or a genuine short-term option, Fox did not declare Clausen as the starter for next Sunday vs. the Oakland Raiders.
“I would consider starting anybody on the 53-man roster,” Fox said. “That’s why they’re here. I think, obviously, we want to pick the best 11 whenever we deem that to be. And we won’t know that until we check the injury report on Friday.”
Clausen played poorly – 9-for-17 for 63 yards, zero TD’s but also zero interceptions – but Fox said simply, "I didn't think our whole football team played well enough to win the football game.”
What little Fox and staff really have seen of Fales came primarily in the fourth preseason game, which Fales started, completed 14 of 18 passes for 131 yards.
“Being really honest with you, I really haven’t gotten a chance to work with him much,” Fox said.
“He had a shoulder issue in the offseason that he had gotten well. He had a bit of a setback with an illness where he missed some time. So I was impressed with him when we threw him in the fourth preseason game against Cleveland and I’ve been impressed with how he went about preparing himself being on and off the 53 here in just three weeks.”
[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]
But re-signing Clausen last offseason was done with the endorsement of Fox and offensive coordinator Adam Gase. Coaches don’t usually stay with players out of ego or blind loyalty – they are in the business of winning football games – but rather because they saw things in the player that were the reasons for the choice.
And Clausen’s performance was on the road, without wide receiver Alshon Jeffery and under what Fox conceded was an explicitly conservative game plan.
Jeffery is expected back from a hamstring strain this week or next, giving Clausen and the offense a major option it lacked in Seattle. And Clausen did what every coach craves: go turnover free, something Cutler and the Bears did only three times all last season and didn’t do in the 2015 losses to Green Bay and Arizona.