The Bears still plan on Mitch Trubisky being their starter in 2020, despite significant steps backward by the former No. 2 overall pick and offense this past season, his second in Matt Nagy’s system.
But Bears GM Ryan Pace wasn't ready Tuesday in his annual end-of-season press conference to commit to picking up Trubisky's fifth-year option for 2021, at a price tag north of $25 million. Chicago has until May to exercise the option — which is guaranteed for injury only — and will take more time to evaluate Trubisky, unlike a year ago, when the organization confirmed in January it would exercise Leonard Floyd's option.
“We do [feel confident he'll remain the Week 1 starter]," Pace said. "With Mitch, we need more time in the coming months to evaluate everything. The first thing that comes to mind for me is just consistency. You see moments, you see games, but for him streaming together better consistency. You have the peaks and valleys. We just need to flatten that out."
Pace again pointed out that QB development isn't linear, and though Trubisky's growth hasn't come at nearly the accelerated rate of Patrick Mahomes, the reigning MVP whom the Bears passed on to select Trubisky, and soon-to-be MVP Lamar Jackson — both earning the award in their first full season as starters —the Bears see enough potential long-term benefits in continuing to back the embattled 25-year-old quarterback.
It's worth noting with many Bears fans likely unsatisified in what they heard Tuesday from Pace, that there's no benefit to declaring now that there will be an open QB competition in 2020, or that the team is done with Trubisky. The Bears have only him under contract in their QB corps, where Chase Daniel and Tyler Bray are impending free agents. Pace made it clear the Bears have tough decisions to make in that room, likely heading toward a rebuild.
But how aggressively Pace seeks a starter-caliber veteran who can step in, a la Ryan Tannehill in Tennessee this season and Nick Foles in Philadelphia during the Eagles’ Super Bowl run two years ago, will be far more telling than anything we heard Tuesday as to how the team feels about Trubisky.
“I think we're looking to increase competition at every position. Mitch is our starter. We believe in Mitch and we believe in the progress that he's going to continue to make,” Pace said. “But two of the three players in that room are free agents. We’ve got to look at it. The quarterback room is critical, it's important for us. We're always going to try to make it better. But as far as who it is, what we're going to do, we're not there yet.”
The theme of Pace and Nagy’s nearly 35-minute press conference Tuesday essentially was that Trubisky isn’t where he needs to be yet, either, but the Bears remain confident that he can take the offense where it needs to go. Pace said one of the general manager's strengths is separating his emotions from objective decision making, which is critical considering he made a legacy-defining move up for Trubisky, who has yet to reward the general manager’s faith in making the selection.
But Pace said that he and Nagy, who was nine months after Trubisky’s arrival, only grew closer during the trying season. The general manager praised the “commitment” that Nagy and QB coach Dave Ragone have to continuing to develop his hand-picked quarterback.
“They're steadfast in seeing that through, working through him. I think the goal is for them to all see things the same way,” Pace said. “That's hard when you got a guy who has a master’s in this area and you have a young quarterback that's developing. I just appreciate the relationships and the passion and the work they all put into it.”
Chicago’s Trubisky-led offense regressed across the board in 2019, when it finished No. 29 in points scored and the quarterback’s completion percentage, average yards per attempt and passer rating, among other key quarterbacking metrics, plummeted. Pace said Tuesday it’s easy to point to one “villain,” but plenty of other elements on offense aside from Trubisky fell short of expectations.
Nagy said atop Trubisky’s to-do list this offseason will be continuing to hone his decision making and ability to read defenses.
“Our first year here, I thought Mitch did a really good job at understanding the importance of getting in and out of the huddle with the verbiage that we have. We've also learned not just with him, but with our players how to use that,” Nagy said.
“The next step we talked a lot about this past year, level 202. How do you see the defense? Is that front, stunts, blitzes, first wide vision with the motion or a shift, seeing the Mike rotation?
Let's now put all that together and understand now how defenses are going to try to trick you. Let's not get tricked. If we do that, we slow the game down, we collectively get other parts of this offense fixed, which I know we can, and that's our job. That's the exciting part, looking for solutions, staying positive, believing in people, and getting this thing done.”