CHICAGO — Ready or not, here comes Mitch Trubisky.
The Bears are planning to start their first-round rookie quarterback in their next game, next Monday night against the Vikings. ESPN first reported the decision Monday morning, and two league sources with knowledge of the situation have confirmed it.
General manager Ryan Pace initially planned for the team to patiently develop Trubisky in practices. But this deviation was triggered by quarterback Mike Glennon’s failure to consistently protect the ball during the Bears’ 1-3 start.
Glennon has been credited with eight turnovers in the last three games, including blowout road losses to the Buccaneers and Packers. Surrounded by an undermanned receiving corps and a shuffled offensive line, Glennon admittedly has struggled at times going through his progressions and connecting with his most advantageous option. His lack of mobility and need for a clean pocket has constrained the offense.
Those limitations in the passing game minimized the Bears’ margin for error during an opening stretch against four opponents that had a winning record last season. And after Glennon was charged with four turnovers in Thursday’s 35-14 loss to the Packers, coach John Fox was adamant about the need for changes. Glennon’s teammates also recognized the turnovers were untenable.
"It was just a decision I thought needed to be made," Fox told Chicago's WBBM 780-AM. "We've had 10 giveaways in the first four weeks of the season, and you can't win football games that way."
Management in the spring assured Glennon that 2017 was his year. But, as it turns out, that opportunity lasted four games. The Bears have benched the veteran quarterback to whom they guaranteed $18.5 million as part of a three-year contract in March.
Now, they turn to Trubisky, a move that will satisfy a loud portion of the fan base that has been calling for him to start over Glennon since he completed his first 10 passes in his exhibition debut.
The Bears wanted to be patient with Trubisky because he threw only 572 collegiate passes, a relatively small amount, and did so in a spread offense that lacked significant overlap with the Bears’ scheme. Trubisky himself has consistently acknowledged his need to improve his footwork as he goes through his progressions, his knowledge of NFL coverages and disguises and his proficiency identifying defensive elements before the snap.
He entered training camp third on the depth chart but flashed with his ability to extend and create plays with his mobility. He sparkled in his exhibition debut against the Broncos but was more ordinary in three exhibitions after that.
Opponents’ drops saved him from interceptions against the Cardinals and Titans, and Trubisky was neither accurate nor operationally sharp during his brief opportunity with the first-string offense against the Titans.
Overall, though, Trubisky was effective against lesser competition in exhibition games, and he outpaced the Bears’ expectations for his development during the preseason. The Bears rewarded him with a promotion to the backup role Sept. 6.
Trubisky quarterbacked the scout team during the first quarter of the regular season, and the Bears have closely monitored his development.
On Friday, Fox acknowledged the uncertainty about Trubisky’s readiness for regular-season game action, as well as the upside in keeping him on the sideline.
“You don’t really know that until you put somebody out there,” Fox said. “You’d like to have them as ready to take the test as possible. Typically, the more you study, the better you get.”
Now, the Bears will find out if Trubisky has had enough time. Their plan has changed, and suddenly, the future is here.