Bears Still Building Toward Quarterback Competition

"There’s no competition going on right now over Zoom," Matt Nagy says.

Chris Emma
May 18, 2020 - 11:55 am

(670 The Score) If this was a normal NFL offseason, the Bears' quarterback battle would've already begun. Mitchell Trubisky would've since taken the initial snaps with the first-team offense. Nick Foles would've shaken hands with his new teammates.

But this is an unprecedented offseason amid the coronavirus pandemic. All 32 teams have been prohibited from conducting on-field work as offseason programs are being conducted virtually, and the Bears' quarterback battle between the incumbent Trubisky and competitor Foles is on hold.

"There’s no competition going on right now over Zoom," coach Matt Nagy said.

Related: Matt Nagy 'proud' of how Mitchell Trubisky has handled offseason

The NFL is still planing to start its 2020 regular season on time, with the Bears scheduled to open at the Detroit Lions on Sept. 13. The league is also hoping training camp can begin as scheduled in July, with teams set to then play four preseason games -- with or without fans in the stadiums. Until that time comes, the Bears are doing their best to embrace the unique challenges of conducting their work on Zoom.

In January, Nagy shuffled his coaching staff by hiring Bill Lazor as offensive coordinator and John DeFilippo as quarterbacks coach while shifting Dave Ragone into a new role as passing game coordinator. The thought process behind it was to bring in two coaches in Lazor and DeFilippo whom Nagy believed could help push Trubisky in his fourth season -- and two coaches whom Foles had played for in the past.

Lazor, DeFilippo and Ragone are leading the Bears' virtual quarterback room through offensive formations and plays, teaching as if they were inside Halas Hall. Nagy is just a click away on Zoom from entering the quarterbacks' meeting or any other position group's session. The work has become seamless in time and offers benefits for the Bears' two competing quarterbacks.

Trubisky, No. 2 overall pick in 2017, is entering the final season of his rookie contract. After Trubisky produced a shaky 2019 season, the Bears prioritized bringing in earnest competition at quarterback by trading for Foles. The team then declined Trubisky's fifth-year option in early May, setting him on a course for free agency next March. It makes this season even more pressing for the 25-year-old Trubisky.

With quarterback options like Cam Newton and Andy Dalton available, the Bears chose to trade a fourth-round pick to the Jaguars for Foles because of his comfort with Chicago's scheme and coaching staff.

As uncertainty looms regarding how and when on-field work will begin, the Bears are seeing the benefits of Foles' foundation. When the time comes, they'll start the quarterback competition with a level playing field.

"The part that will be the most important is to get the opportunity to most likely be with the players," Foles said in April. "But I can get the Xs and Os down to where when we are together, there won't be as much of a lag as there would be as if I didn't."

After the hirings of Lazor and DeFilippo in January, the Bears had about eight weeks to work inside Halas Hall before the pandemic forced closure of their headquarters. In that time, the coaches sought solutions for an offense that averaged an abysmal 4.7 yards per play in 2019.

The Bears addressed a dire need at tight end by signing veteran Jimmy Graham and drafting Cole Kmet in the second round. They signed a stretch-the-field receiver in Ted Ginn Jr. and added to the offensive line. Beyond that, Nagy's belief is that new offensive line coach Juan Castillo can help establish the foundation for a running game that disappointed in 2019. 

The Bears are looking to rebuild an offense that they feel can best fit Trubisky or Foles, whoever wins the looming competition. Nagy envisions a consistent running game that can set up explosive plays down the field.

Once the Bears take the field in more normal times, the quarterback battle will begin.

"When you have two good people like we do in Mitchell and Nick, it makes these types of decisions and conversations a lot easier to have," Nagy said. "Because they’re competitive as hell, they want the best for the Bears, and they’re going to fight their tails off to do that. I think that’s the beauty of it."

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.