For most of their fans, watching the Bears in the offseason is a lot like watching Martin Landau’s Bela Lugosi in the lake with the octopus in “Ed Wood.” Not only does he have to thrash about wildly, but he has to additionally do the thrashing about for the inanimate and unwieldy beast he’s wrestling. And almost always, the octopus that doesn’t work and needs any kind of animating is the quarterback.
The Bears were doing a fair amount of thrashing in no general direction this offseason, other than getting older. They let promising young linebacker Nick Kwiatkowski shuffle off to Las Vegas when they re-signed Danny Trevathan in his position, the latter having missed half of the season with an elbow that went several different directions. They agreed to pay the corpse of Jimmy Graham $16M over two years to barely get out of a canter, when even their supposed greatest rivals didn’t want him. They bid adieu to yet another top-10 pick in Leonard Floyd — who had flashes of moments over his four years but had not justified his upcoming fifth-year paycheck — to back up the truck for Robert Quinn. In the coming days, I can only assume Miracle Max will be hired as an assistant defensive coordinator.
Now they reached into the water, picked up the tentacle (pun pretty much intended) and began whirling it about today by trading a compensatory fourth-round pick to Jacksonville for Nick Foles. Foles is ostensibly being brought in to compete with Mitch Trubisky for the starter’s job, a QB competition not unlike a sack race where neither competitor has been told which way the finish line is.
Trubisky was unquestionably terrible for the Bears last year, and torpedoed a follow-up season to 2018’s surprise 12-4, division-winning campaign. He was indecisive and inaccurate, and, after a Week 4 shoulder injury against the Vikings, seemed hesitant to run — which is a strength of his. His 83.0 QBR ranked him 28th out of 32 qualifying QBs. When you’re behind Jameis Winston and his Bingham Canyonesque collection of INTs, it’s a problem (though at least if you’re behind Winston, you can keep his invasive and criminal appendages in full view).
But Trubisky had some help on the way down (and he would tell you the same) as head coach and play-caller Matt Nagy simply refused to move him around or call designed runs for him to loosen up opposing defenses. Nagy certainly didn’t play to Trubisky’s strengths much, however hard they may be to see at the moment. How much blame is to be placed on one or the other party has been a hot topic of debate over Old Styles and Malort around Chicago.
So in comes Foles, who had previously worked with Nagy in Kansas City, apparently giving him the fabled “comfort factor” that all NFL teams crave. Why a coach who oversaw a team where exactly no players got better in his second year needs to be heavily catered to will be a question GM Ryan Pace can answer in his quickly approaching job interviews elsewhere.
For all the press and money spilled on Foles, it’s still pretty important to remember he has exactly one good year as a starter, which was seven years ago in Philadelphia, and then he miraculously spasmed three postseason games out of the abyss that scientists and historians will be trying to explain for years. Even in the following 2018 season, his playoff run was subpar, at best, hurling two INTs against the Bears. And anyone watching that game knows that the wounded ducks he was tossing to no one in particular should have resulted in at least two more. He was even worse as the Saints kept their hands firmly on the Eagles’ forehead in the divisional round.
But that playoff loss to the Eagles appeared to break Nagy’s brain even last offseason, culminating in the national laughingstock of the “kicking competition” the Bears subjected everyone to last training camp. Luckily, “winner” Eddie Pineiro only ended up costing the Bears two wins in 2019. Assuredly in Nagy’s mind, Foles was the lovechild of Joe Montana, Dan Marino and Ares in that 2019 playoff wildcard contest, given how he views it.
The Bears seem to be ignoring that, even when healthy last year, Foles was removed from the Jacksonville starter’s role by Ben Siller’s Dodgeball stand-in Gordon Minshew. Which is in line with far more of the majority of his career than the one month when he couldn’t miss.
Perhaps it’s just for show, as the Bears can now claim they’ve given Trubisky the competition he’s never really had, while still giving him a highway to remain the starter. That’s a $15M smokescreen though, and a $12M dead cap weight should the Bears shoo Foles off into the dark after the 2020 season. What’s clear with all of these moves is that Pace knows the clock is ticking on his employment in Chicago, and he’s certainly not going to go down without firing all the guns. Even if they happen to be pointed at his own face.
But nothing should be ruled out when it comes to the Bears and the quarterback position. It’s been a portal to a dimension of pain, slime, and confusion for close to 30 years now, one only the truly lost have documented if only to feel something again—even if it’s immense and world-shifting sadness. Trubisky’s only competition in his career so far was Mike Glennon in his rookie year, a non-sentient giraffe with an arm like a discarded muppet. Foles is probably north of that, but he might not be any better than any of the other constantly-huffing clowns that have attempted to steer the Bears in any discernible direction.
Twas ever thus.