What acquiring Nick Foles means for the future of Mitch Trubisky

March 18, 2020

The Chicago Bears acquired Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Nick Foles, 31, in exchange for a compensatory fourth-round pick, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.  Schefter also reports that Foles restructured his contract after joining the Bears, retaining $21 million in guaranteed money while adding the option to “void the deal after either of the first two years depending on his performance.”

A Super Bowl-winning quarterback as recently as 2017, the Jaguars relegated Foles to backup duties following the emergence of 2019 sixth-round draft pick Gardner Minshew. Nevertheless, Foles benefits from his experience playing under Bears’ head coach Matt Nagy, offensive coordinator Bill Lazor and quarterbacks coach Jon DeFilippo.

Across four games last season, Foles went 0-4 with three touchdowns and two interceptions. While playing under center for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2018, Foles led the team to a 4-1 record, throwing seven touchdowns against four INTs.

In other words, Foles wasn’t good.

Nevertheless, Foles championship-winning pedigree remains enticing enough for teams to continue bringing him in as a fringe starting quarterback. With Foles now in the mix, the Mitch Trubisky experiment appears to have reached its natural conclusion.

Of course, that’s not to suggest that Trubisky won’t receive one last shot at proving himself in a starting capacity.  Just two years ago, Trubisky earned his first Pro Bowl berth, standing tall aside DeShaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes, two quarterbacks Trubisky’s legacy will forever be compared to.

Fast forward one season and Watson and Mahomes–the former who cautioned the Bears of the consequences of overlooking him in a famous pre-draft warning– went to battle to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl as Trubisky sat at home.

Following an underwhelming 2019 that saw Trubisky regress across the board, general manager Ryan Pace sought a safety net, indicating that the confidence that sheathed Trubisky from external doubters has since been penetrated.

Over an injury-plagued 15 games, Trubisky threw for 3138 yards, 17 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, the former category good for 21st in the NFL. Perhaps even more damning, the former No. 2 draft pick’s passer rating dropped by approximately 12 points from 95.2 to 83.0 between 2018 and 2019.

But Trubisky remains insulated thanks to a variety of external factors beyond his control.

A dislocated shoulder and slightly torn labrum hampered Trubisky’s ability to run the football, subsequently negating the University of North Carolina product’s greatest complement to his passing game. Critics also cite Nagy’s abandonment of the run game as an exacerbation of the issue, burdening a quarterback already laboring through injuries with an even heavier workload.

Furthermore, production from the tight end position all but disappeared, with J.P. Holtz pacing Bears’ tight ends with a measly 91 reception yards.

On Monday, the Bears addressed their tight end void by signing former Packers and Saints’ tight end Jimmy Graham. Graham is expected to line up across incumbent starter Trey Burton–who was limited to just eight games due to sports hernia surgery and a subsequent calf injury–to comprise a serviceable one-two punch.

Pace’s reputation is tethered to Trubisky’s ability to resurrect his career. Trading four draft picks (Nos. 3, 67 and 111 picks in the 2017 draft and the 70th overall selection in the 2018 draft) to the San Francisco 49ers to move up one spot in the 2017 draft, Pace sacrificed a king’s ransom to secure his franchise quarterback.

However, as Trubisky struggles to develop into a quarterback capable of engineering an offense, Alvin Kamara (No. 67 in the 2017 draft) earned three Pro Bowl berths and an AP Rookie of the Year Award. And that third-round pick in 2018? Fred Warner, who started 16 games for the Super Bowl runners-up 49ers.

Considering Pace’s near-marriage to Trubisky and Nagy’s unwillingness to mold an offense around a physically compromised Trubisky, it would be irresponsible to assume Foles–who just last year failed to reclaim his starting position from a sixth-round rookie–immediately unseats Trubisky as the Bears’ starting quarterback. Furthermore, with so much time, energy and draft capital invested in Trubisky, the safe bet is that starting duties are Trubisky’s to lose, as evidenced by the Bears bypassing better options for an average quarterback, albeit one capable of exhibiting flashes of greatest.

While the Bears undoubtedly expect Foles to compete with Trubisky for starting quarterback duties, it’s more likely that Pace brought in the former Jaguar to serve as a backup, a position Foles historically thrives in.

It may feel like a lifetime ago, but following an ACL injury to Eagles’ starting quarterback Carson Wentz in Week 14 of the 2017 season, Foles performed admirably in relief for the remainder of the regular season, leading Philadelphia to the franchise’s first Super Bowl victory.

Foles earned Super Bowl Most Valuable Player honors after completing 28 of 43 passes for 373 yards, three passing touchdowns and one interception. Foles also caught a touchdown pass from Burton on his way to becoming the first player to both throw and catch a touchdown pass in the Super Bowl.

Should Trubisky continue his startling retrogression, expect Foles to quickly usurp him on the Bears’ depth chart.

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