If anyone had an incentive to be impatient with quarterback Mike Glennon, it was coach John Fox. But there he was again Monday, hands still at his side while the Mitch Trubisky button flashed in front of him.
For now, at least, the trap door remains closed underneath Glennon’s feet, and Trubisky waits offstage. It is, after all, the script general manager Ryan Pace wrote after trading up to draft Trubisky with the No. 2 pick.
It calls for Glennon to play well enough to keep the Bears competitive so that Trubisky can afford to develop in practice, where he can gain command of the offense while preserving his psyche.
But after Glennon failed to do his part against the Buccaneers, turning the ball over three times in the first half, it’s clear how the potential for organizational discord exists relative to Trubisky’s developmental timeline. Fox needs to win now, and Pace needs Trubisky to eventually be great. They both need Glennon’s help.
The context is worth restating now that the Bears are stuck in their familiar 0-2 hole: Of the four coaches in team history who have overseen three consecutive losing seasons, none returned for the next year.
Fox has two losing seasons behind him and, if Sunday’s belly flop is any indication, is tracking for a third. He is 9-25 as Bears coach. Winless in eight September games with two more chances this month: Sunday against the reigning AFC runner-up followed by a Thursday turnaround to Lambeau Field.
So if anyone was going to be tempted to abandon Glennon and turn to Trubisky, it figured to be the man who needs to win games this year.
On Monday, though, he didn’t. Not yet.
For starters, even though Fox controls the depth chart, Pace wants the decision to start Trubisky to be an organizational one. And let’s not forget Pace is Fox’s boss. The GM has left no ambiguity about his preference for Trubisky to develop in practice, where he can get accustomed to seeing pre-snap disguises and perfect his footwork outside of the NFL‘s game-day crucible.
For as much as Fox needs to win this year, Pace needs Trubisky to be the franchise quarterback he evaluated Trubisky to be. Remember, Trubisky threw only 572 college passes. By comparison, fellow rookie first-rounder Deshaun Watson, the Texans‘ new starter, threw 1,207.
Through the preseason, the developmental plan worked so well that Trubisky earned enough trust to be named the backup. Even now as the scout-team quarterback, his ascent continues.
“I love where he is,” Fox said Monday. “I love his growth. I think the guy works at it very hard.”
So he’s developing. But has he developed enough to run the show?
“It’s something that upstairs we talk about every day,” Fox said, indicating Pace and others are involved in the evaluations.
And given how conservative Pace has been with Trubisky’s process, it’s easy to see why a quarterback change this Sunday would be much less appealing than other spots in the schedule, especially considering the injuries to guards Josh Sitton (ribs) and Kyle Long (ankle).
The 10-day layoff before the Week 5 home game against the Vikings or the open date during the first weekend of November are friendlier debut possibilities than facing the Steelers and Packers in a five-day stretch.
“It’s so sensitive with that position,” Miller said. “I’ve seen it personally with different teams. You see guys, they get out there and they’re not prepared, and they’re not ready to go, and stuff starts to go south. It can put a dent in someone’s career. It can hurt them early on.”
Is that coddling Trubisky? Maybe, but if he eventually leads the Bears to the heights Pace believes he will, then the slow timeline would be justified.
The problem is how open-ended that is. A fan base with expired patience can only judge Glennon’s performance against the Bucs against the hope Trubisky represents. And that comparison is more lopsided than the game was.
Fox on Monday echoed Pace’s previous assertion that the Bears also see upside in Glennon. He cited Glennon’s good decision-making, but that was only minutes after he acknowledged Glennon’s two interceptions Sunday were throws he would “like to have back.”
It all amounts to a painful, unfulfilling wait for fans who understandably want to fast-forward to better days.