“It’s a great opportunity for him,” coach Matt Nagy said, “if he gets a chance to play.”
The second chance that Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky has hoped for the last two months for is getting closer by the day. Bears coach Matt Nagy admitted as much Wednesday, even as he tried to buy time by refusing to officially name a starter for Sunday’s rivalry game against the Packers.
Nick Foles, the Bears’ starter for the past seven games, did not practice Wednesday, nine days after he was carted off the field with a hip injury. Trubisky practiced without limitations for the first time in almost a month. He hurt his right shoulder in his lone snap Nov. 1 against the Saints.
Nagy played coy when quizzed about his plans, but kept returning to two major points: that Foles isn’t healthy and that he has confidence in Trubisky.
By slow-playing any starting announcement, Nagy might think he’s gaining a tactical edge, though Packers coach Matt LaFleur said “the he bulk of their offense is pretty similar regardless of who’s in there.”
By pointing to the injury report and refusing to answer whether Foles should be the starter on merit, Nagy is baking in a parachute for next week: If Trubisky stands out Sunday, he’ll stick with the hot hand. If not, Foles will the take his job back once healthy.
Either way, Trubisky is the overwhelming favorite to start against the Packers.
“It’s a great opportunity for him,” Nagy said, “if he gets a chance to play.”
When Trubisky prayed for another chance to start, though, maybe he should have been more specific. If he starts Sunday, he’ll be behind an offensive line that allowed Foles to be hit a bone-rattling 12 times in the Vikings game. He will be alongside running backs that have contributed to the worst ground attack in the NFL — no one runs for fewer yards than the Bears’ 78.2 per game. And he’ll have offensive coordinator Bill Lazor — who has never called plays for Trubisky — in his ear.
Trubisky will also have to overcome his own history: in his first game back from injury in the previous two seasons, he’s averaged a 66.6 passer rating.
“I don’t know if that’s the truth, that he came back too soon the last two years,” Nagy said. “My belief — and some other people’s belief — is that maybe that was the case.”
Nagy said that the Bears have made sure to “check all the boxes,” mentally and physically, before returning Trubisky to action this year.
Then there’s the pressure. Trubisky’s Bears career has been defined by failing to live up to the expectation — set by a general manager who traded a fortune to move up one spot to draft him — of becoming the franchise’s savior.
He isn’t — that much is clear — but now, in perhaps his final act, Trubisky has a chance to save the season.
Against the Packers. In prime time.
To quote Jerry Seinfeld: Good luck with alllllll that.
“It’s a great opportunity for him to just go out and play quarterback and play it with really an appreciation for what he lost,” Nagy said. “You know, when something is taken away from you, how do people react?
“And I think for him, there are different people that might get angry and they might not have handled themselves well for the last seven, eight weeks and now they’re not prepared. I feel like it is the opposite for him. [If] he gets a chance to play, he gets a chance to be the starter, he’s gonna use the stuff that he’s learned from and use it to help him make better plays on game day.”
Nagy said he has “all the confidence in the world” in Trubisky. That’s hard to believe, given that the coach benched him, despite an undefeated record, after only 10-plus quarters. But he praised Trubisky’s growth since the day he was yanked off the field in Atlanta.
Nagy probably wouldn’t talk-up a backup that way.
“In this sport, in this world, in this life, adversity strikes,” Nagy said. “Sometimes, people take that and make it a big-time positive. At times, when you think it’s the worst feeling in the world what you’re going through, sometimes those moments are the best thing that ever happened to you. I don’t know if that’s the case.
“If he ends up starting … I don’t know what that final story will be for this game and moving forward. But I do know that what I’ve seen of Mitchell, the way that he’s handled meetings, the way that he’s handled practice in that role, I’ve seen a change in him — and for the good.
“It’s a good feeling. It comforts you.”