Mon, 01 Jun 2020

Bears to hold 'open competition' for QB job

Chicago Bears
05 Apr 2020, 00:37 GMT+10

General manager Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy revealed on a conference call with the media Friday that the Bears will conduct an "open competition" for the starting quarterback position between Mitchell Trubisky and Nick Foles.

The Bears recently acquired Foles in a trade with the Jaguars in exchange for the compensatory fourth-round draft pick they were awarded by the NFL based on a net loss of free agents in 2019.

After their offense regressed last year, the Bears entered the offseason determined to create competition at the quarterback position.

"It's been a focus for us," Pace said. "With the addition of Nick Foles, it's exactly what we talked about from the start. We've increased competition at a critical position and we talked to both players, and the way we view this is it's an open competition. And credit to both those guys for embracing it."

There were many more quality quarterbacks available in free agency this year than usual. But the Bears viewed Foles as a perfect fit-mainly due to the success he's had in the NFL as well as his familiarity with Bears coaches and the team's offense.

Foles, 31, has appeared in 58 NFL games with 48 starts over eight seasons with the Eagles (2012-14, 2017-18), Rams (2015), Chiefs (2016) and Jaguars (2019). The 6-6, 243-pounder has completed 61.8 percent of his passes for 11,901 yards with 71 touchdowns, 35 interceptions and an 88.2 passer rating.

In his second season with the Eagles in 2013, Foles was voted to the Pro Bowl after passing for a career-high 2,891 yards with 27 touchdowns, two interceptions and a league-leading 119.2 passer rating.

After one-year stints with the Rams and Chiefs, Foles returned to the Eagles in 2017. When starter Carson Wentz sustained a season-ending knee injury in Week 14, Foles stepped in and helped lead Philadelphia to the first Super Bowl championship in franchise history.

In three playoff wins, Foles threw for 971 yards and six touchdowns with a 115.7 rating. He earned MVP honors in Super Bowl LII after leading the Eagles to a 41-33 victory over the Patriots by passing for 373 yards and three TDs with a 106.1 rating and catching a 1-yard touchdown pass from current Bears tight end Trey Burton on a trick play dubbed the "Philly Special."

"We knew there were going to be a lot of options at quarterback in this free-agency period," Pace said. "We knew we'd have an opportunity to increase competition there with those options that existed. So we kind of went through each one of those and talked about each one. When we got to Nick, it was really a collective effort. [He's] just a talented player, and the fact that he's played in some big games and performed well in those big games, that carries a lot of weight.

"Then you have a lot of people in our building that are comfortable with him as a person and the makeup, which just made the decision easier. That all kind of came together to make him a target for us and someone we wanted to aggressively go get."

Nagy worked with Foles as an offensive quality coach with the Eagles in 2012 and Chiefs offensive coordinator in 2016. New Bears offensive coordinator Bill Lazor was Eagles quarterbacks coach in 2013 when Foles passed for 27 TDs and two interceptions, while new Bears quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo worked with Foles as Eagles quarterbacks coach in 2017 when Philadelphia won the Super Bowl and as Jaguars offensive coordinator last season.

"That's something that's really easy for a lot of people to connect the dots with," Nagy said. "That certainly helps. More than anything, it's relationships and being able to understand how these coaches teach. ... You build relationships through high times and low times, so that's a part of it. But in the end, it's about the player and it's about what they can do ... it's about who Nick is as a player, obviously what he's been as a person and just competition. We really hope it's a win-win for the Chicago Bears. We know it's going to bring the best out of both of these guys just because of who they are as people and what their makeup is. That's the exciting part."

Trubisky embraces competition

Trubisky, meanwhile, will have to battle for the starting job that he has held since Week 5 of his rookie season in 2017. While he certainly wasn't solely to blame for the offense's decline last year, his production dropped. After passing for 3,223 yards and 24 touchdowns with a 95.4 rating in 2018, he threw for 3,138 yards and 17 TDs with an 83.0 rating in 2019.

The Bears have no doubt that Trubisky will be up for the challenge.

"Mitch is a competitor," Pace said. "I think when you're built that way, competition brings out the best in you. Matt and I had that discussion with him, and you could feel that in him right away, just kind of that, 'OK, hey, let's go, what's best for the team and this is going to bring out the best in all of us.' I think the key word is just that he embraced the competition. I think they're both looking forward to it."

"The unique part about football is there's one quarterback," Nagy said. "Human nature has you, when you sit down and have a discussion like this, you know that there's one starter. We're all competitors. These guys haven't made it to this point without being competitive guys and they've been that way their whole life. I don't care who you are. If you're a competitor and you care, right away you're going to be fired up and you're going to be ready to go. You're going to embrace it.

"There's a couple ways to look at it. You either do that or you shy away from it. The competitor that Mitch is, with the way that he was with us, was really neat to see because he embraced it. It wasn't about excuses, it wasn't about anything other than, 'OK, I understand that, I'm going to give you everything that I've got, we're going to compete, and you're going to get the best that I've got.' And I think that's what's pretty neat in this whole process.

"When we look at that as coaches, that's all that we can ask for, is trying to make sure that we do everything we can possibly do on our end to make this completely fair, let them go out and play football and be the best quarterback that they can possibly be. If that's the case and that happens, we're going to be in a good place."

Competition will be on level playing field

In terms of the competition itself, Trubisky will take the first reps in the first practice the Bears conduct-whether that's in OTAs or training camp is anyone's guess due to the coronavirus that has shuttered team facilities. But the battle will be waged on a level playing field.

"Mitch is going to be out there [first]," Nagy said. "But at the same time, it's going to be equal and we as coaches need to make sure we do the right thing in regards to equal reps and make sure they're playing with similar or the same players on offense and going against the same players on defense.

"There will be some juggling that we have to do. It might be a little different at times on how we do it and how we get to it. But I can promise you this: It's going to be completely fair, it's going to be extremely competitive in a good way. It's going to be a healthy competitiveness. In the end for us, it's going to be a collaboration of what we all feel and I think that that's all that those guys really ask for or want as competitors."

"This is an open competition," Pace said. "They've both been told that and I think it's the best way to do it. I think the good thing is just honesty and transparency with both players as we go through it. We want what's best for the Chicago Bears; it's as simple as that, and that really applies to any position on our team. For this situation, we'll let these guys battle it out, let the process naturally happen and over time that decision will be made."

Part of the process will include Trubisky and Foles both playing in preseason games-along with other starters. It's a departure of how Nagy has handled the preseason in his first two seasons as Bears coach when he kept most key players on the sideline.

"They're going to play in preseason," Nagy said. "It'll be equal reps and it'll be a good competition for them. And, again, that kind of goes in tune with what we're doing really with our whole team. It's going to be some of the things we discuss and talk about when we're able to do that with the team. But I think that's important and they'll be a big part of that."

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