Mitch Trubisky, Nick Foles competing to be Chicago Bears QB

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Bears general manager Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy spoke with reporters on a conference call Friday morning, their first availability since February. Both Pace and Nagy had a lot to say with all that has unfolded since the combine ended, free agency began and the coronavirus crisis became a national emergency. Here are three highlights from that 40-minute session. 1. The Mitch Trubisky-Nick Foles quarterback duel has officially been labeled ‘an open competition.’ That declaration came from Ryan Pace right out of the gates Friday, a clear indication that Mitch Trubisky’s grip on the starting role is as loose as it has been since he took over the huddle in October 2017. Nagy stressed that Trubisky would be the first quarterback into the huddle at the next Bears practice — whenever that might be. But the Bears coach also said that practice reps would be divided up equally and that he intended to give both quarterbacks equal time with the first-unit offense to make an informed decision on who the starter will be. Nagy also said both Trubisky and Nick Foles will see game action in the preseason as part of the evaluation process. “No. 1, what we’re trying to do is what is best for the Chicago Bears,” Nagy said. “Plain and simple. That’s what this comes down to. Ryan and I have had really awesome talks with both of them. And what’s important, and what you’re all going to find out through this process, is going to be real simple. It’s going to be very transparent and very honest.” Pace declined to comment when asked if the Bears had made a decision on picking up Trubisky’s fifth-year option for 2021. But at this point, with Foles arriving for an open competition, it would be a stunner if the Bears chose to pick up that final-year option on Trubisky’s rookie deal. If they are unwilling to declare him their Week 1 starter for 2020, why would they be ready to give him any sort of commitment — however loose it might be — for 2021? Nagy said he felt Trubisky’s edge come forward when he was told that he would have to fight to retain his starting job. “You could feel how much of a competitor he is,” Nagy said. “You know it and you see it. He’s a competitor now. He’s embracing it and excited to get back to work.” 2. The Bears have come up with multiple adjustments and contingency plans because of the coronavirus crisis. The NFL has shut down team facilities for all but essential personnel, and Illinois has a stay-at-home order in effect through the end of April. That means Bears general manager Ryan Pace and his staff must make preparations for the April 23-25 draft from their homes. And coach Matt Nagy must get ready to prepare his team remotely since they don’t know when they will be able to meet as a group again. Nagy said he has four computers in an office in his house, and his coaching staff has embraced the challenge of working separately. His strength coaches have been staying on top of players to make sure they are healthy and able to stay in shape from their homes. They also have discussed the best ways to lead their team virtually when team meetings begin. “You’re not going to be standing there in front of 30 or 60 or however many players speaking your team message for the day,” Nagy said. “You’re going to have to rely on them looking at it online, with online installations. How do we do that by being as clear as we possibly can, but also too not making it be forever to where they get bored staring a screen for a long time?” Pace said the Bears are sorting through their options for draft night. Their three options are using a limited number of people in their draft room at Halas Hall, operating at an offsite location or working from their homes entirely remotely. He said they haven’t yet pinpointed the offsite location they would use. Pace credited the Bears’ video and IT staff with helping with the challenges as they get ready for the draft. “The silver lining is that I think it’s pushed us further from a technology standpoint,” Pace said. “It’s actually been highly efficient, and in some ways better. … It’s really been seamless with the ability to watch video, have meetings and communicate, interview players. That part’s been really good, and it’s a credit to our staff.” 3. The belief in new tight end Jimmy Graham is shared by the Bears front office and coaching staff. Ryan Pace said the Bears front office and coaching staff were “all connected on a vision” for how Jimmy Graham fits with the team. “You have the physical evaluation of the player and he’s a guy obviously we know well,” Pace said. “But then you have the fit for our offense and within our scheme. And I just think there were a lot of discussions on how to best maximize Jimmy Graham in this offense. … And we’re all really excited about him being a Bear and how we’re going to maximize him.” Added Matt Nagy: “You have to be able to look at this with an ability to see ‘How could he’ or ‘How does he’ fit into what we want to do. So there’s a lot more to that than just looking at numbers with the stats you see and where he’s at. He’s obviously had a hell of a career. But with that, he’s also grown older. “Yet at the same time when you look at the stuff that he’s doing when he’s not catching the football or maybe when he’s not making a block but you see him within the play doing something you like, you then visualize what you can do with him and with conceptually what you do how it fits. That’s the exciting part, just understanding the knowledge he has for the game. He’s very, very motivated right now. Which I love. And so it’s just a fit for us.” 4. The Bears are confident they have upgraded their pass rush. Out goes Leonard Floyd, in comes Robert Quinn. In the end, Floyd’s versatility and his ability in coverage didn’t make up for his shortcomings as a pass rusher. The Bears signed Quinn to a $70 million, five-year contract with the key figure being a guarantee of $30 million over the next two seasons. The move didn’t come as a surprise as the Bears wound up cutting Floyd, the No. 9 pick in 2016. First-round draft picks, if they’re a success, generally have new contracts after Year 3 or 4 and Floyd was nowhere near an extension with the Bears. “With Robert Quinn, it’s obviously a position we value,” Pace said. “One of the first things that comes to mind as you strengthen your team is your pass rush affecting the opposing quarterback. We just feel like Quinn is a proven pass rusher. He’s got excellent edge speed. He’s got outstanding ability to bend the corner. We take a position of strength on our defense and we make it even stronger and more dangerous when you add Quinn and combine him with the players that are already up there, especially up front. “I think the Quinn/Leonard Floyd decision … look, Leonard had some very good years here. He was a key part of a top defense. Acquiring Robert isn’t necessarily a knock on Leonard, it’s just doing what we feel is best for our team. I think you saw how quickly Leonard signed elsewhere, a pretty good (open-year) contract, so we’re happy for him. But for us, we’re constantly tweaking and trying to upgrade our roster and we feel we like we have done with that with our pass rush in Robert Quinn.” How Quinn fits in the defense is a good question for coordinator Chuck Pagano. Quinn, who is entering his 10th season, had 11½ sacks in 14 games for the Cowboys last season. It was his first double-digit sack season since 2014. He traditionally has been far more productive playing in base 4-3 schemes and the Bears run a 3-4 but wind up being in a sub package, often with four down linemen, more than two-thirds of the time. “You do have to look at it and say, ‘OK, how has this player had success in the past and how can we make sure we maximize that?’ ” Pace said. “So that was discussed. He’s played a lot on the right side of the defense so, ‘Hey, let’s get everybody in the spots where they’re best but without being predictable at the same time.’ We feel very comfortable with that. He’s a really natural pass rusher.”
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