Chicago Bears

What if the Bears can't re-sign Brian Hoyer? They aren't alone in the hunt

What if the Bears can't re-sign Brian Hoyer? They aren't alone in the hunt

Several of the Bears’ options at quarterback for 2017 – they have, unofficially, somewhere between 10 to 15 – involve veteran Brian Hoyer being re-signed, an interim solution for a team with an empty developmental pipeline but expected to be moving on from the largely failed Jay Cutler Era.

But what if they can’t get Hoyer?

The Bears may find themselves in a situation not entirely dissimilar from where they stood in the 2014 offseason and were faced with a decision on Josh McCown after his career-best stretch in relief of Cutler. Then-GM Phil Emery wanted Cutler over the feelings of the coaching staff and signed Cutler to that $126 million contract. McCown’s price rose to eventually $5 million per season and the organization went in another direction with Jimmy Clausen.

McCown is back on the market after his release this month by the Cleveland Browns. He would be cheaper than Hoyer but is also 37 and possibly headed for a coaching job rather than back under center.

The conventional sense has been that Hoyer will be back with Chicago after his dramatic burst of four straight 300-yard games before going down for the year with a broken arm suffered at Green Bay. And he very well could be. Agent Joe Linta has some positive history with the Bears (Hoyer, Vlad Ducasse, Jim Miller) and the Bears offer Hoyer a starting job, at least in the near term after his interception-free run of 200 passes last season. Hoyer was a locker-room fit and arguably the best option not only as a veteran starter, but also a quality mentor/teammate for young quarterbacks with the organization’s goal of replacing him.

But Hoyer took a visit with the New York Jets last offseason and the Jets have youth (Christian Hackenberg, Bryce Petty) in training, with a short-term opening ahead of them. The Dallas Cowboys are even deeper in a true win-now mode behind Dak Prescott, and Dallas isn’t expected to keep Tony Romo as Prescott’s (very expensive) backup. Hoyer is a topic within both organizations, although the Cowboys do not offer Hoyer a shot at starting even on an interim basis.

The Jets just hired Jeremy Bates as their new quarterbacks coach, the same Bates who worked with Cutler as Denver QB coach in the latter’s Pro Bowl 2008 season, and later (2012) in Chicago. But ESPN’s Rich Cimini reported that the Jets are not in the Cutler market. However, Jets coach Todd Bowles has a known preference for a veteran, Bowles is now under job pressure after a disastrous 5-11 season in 2016 and the Jets were considered more likely to lean toward Hoyer than Cutler, anyway.

But back to the Bears...

The injury riddled outcome of the season makes any projection beyond mediocrity appear laughable in hindsight. But the Bears’ signing of Hoyer last offseason, to a one-year deal worth $2 million, was a statement that the Bears believed they were in a win-now mode in addition to the rebuilding process that, frankly, every NFL team does in some degree every offseason.

Hoyer is a quality veteran, the kind of quarterback signed as a backup only amid serious expectations. Otherwise, the pipeline behind Jay Cutler is filled with youth, beginning in the draft, which the Bears didn’t do. Connor Shaw was in fact “the promising young guy” in development, a decision that was looking good right up until Shaw broke his leg late in the third preseason game.

Shaw will be back, and presumably he will be joining a depth chart that will include a drafted QB. The early handicapping here is Clemson’s Deshaun Watson but this is way too early to start making mock draft picks. Plenty of time for those.

But the name at the top of the depth chart, best case scenario, has been and is Hoyer. The problem is, the Bears’ may not be the only ones holding a door open for Hoyer.

For Mitch Trubisky and the Bears' QBs, things remain status quo...for now

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For Mitch Trubisky and the Bears' QBs, things remain status quo...for now

Is there a way for Mitch Trubisky to take first-team snaps in Sunday’s all-important preseason game No. 3 without slighting Mike Glennon?

“I think probably not,” coach John Fox said. “… We’ll evaluate that and see where that goes.”

That’s not a definite answer, but Fox also didn’t totally dodge the question posed to him after Monday’s practice at Halas Hall. And it doesn't mean the Bears won't necessarily still give Trubisky some first-team work. 

Fox, though, stressed earlier in his press conference that he and his coaching staff haven’t talked about what the plan will be for Glennon, Trubisky and Mark Sanchez Sunday against the Tennessee Titans. 

“We’re very, very early,” Fox said. “We’re not even into preparation for the Titans yet. We’ll meet on that. We’ll talk, and we’ll keep you guys posted.”

Trubisky, as expected and for the second consecutive game, was the third Bears’ quarterback to take the field Saturday night against Arizona, taking over for Sanchez after the veteran backup played one series. Whether or not Sanchez plays on Sunday is another question, but the 2,285 passes he’s attempted in his seven-year career (compared to 630 for Glennon and zero for Trubisky) mean the Bears feel comfortable cutting into his snaps to give more to Glennon and/or Trubisky. 

Testing Trubisky — who’s largely played with and faced third and fourth stringers — with running a first-team offense against first-team defense could provide an important evaluation in his development. Fox, though, has said that getting Trubisky reps, no matter with what team, is the most important thing the team can do for his growth during training camp. 

Trubisky was hit hard a few times against Arizona behind the Bears’ third-string offensive line and played mostly with undrafted rookie Joshua Rounds as his running back. While he made a couple of poor throws — Tanner Gentry’s offensive pass interference probably prevented an interception — he finished his night having completed six of eight passes for 60 yards with a touchdown. 

“I thought again he showed good toughness,” Fox said. “I think he took a couple shots. They did a couple things different we hadn’t seen, as far as (our) protection. But I thought he showed good accuracy, probably mainly a couple decisions that he’d probably change. But I thought all in all he did well.”

Mitch Trubisky will eventually make a glaring mistake, and why he'll respond to it well

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Mitch Trubisky will eventually make a glaring mistake, and why he'll respond to it well

John Fox likes to use a formula to determine how a player will respond to adversity: Events + Responses = Outcomes (E + R = O). Mitch Trubisky hasn’t experienced much adversity in his first two preseason games, but if how he’s handled the mistakes he’s made in practice is any indication, he’ll respond to those well. 

“Your response typically equals the outcome,” Fox said. “If you haven’t dropped a ball, haven’t missed a pass, you haven’t thrown a pick, you haven’t played. It’s how they respond.”

Trubisky missed a few passes Saturday night against the Arizona Cardinals and was battered a bit behind a third-string offensive line. But he hasn’t thrown an interception in 33 preseason attempts, and his final line Saturday — 6/8, 60 yards, 1 TD — was solid, though not as spectacular as his preseason debut. 

Consider this, though: Two days before lighting up the Denver Broncos (second/third/fourth-string) defense, Mitch Trubisky ended practice by throwing an interception to Deiondre’ Hall in the end zone.

“It sucks,” Trubisky said. “The rest of my day will not feel as great since I ended practice that way.”

Trubisky responded to that pick by, in the short term, making a few more throws after practice. He then went out and dazzled against Denver, completing 18 of 25 passes for 166 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions. 

“It’s all about, for me, not making the same mistake twice,” Trubisky said. “So, you can make a mistake and that’s going to happen, especially for rookies, but it’s all about overcoming that, learning from it and don’t let it happen again. And I think I’ve done a pretty good job of that so far.”

Trubisky speaks confidently and acts that way in both practice and games. There is some general risk associated with playing a rookie quarterback before he’s “ready,” because if he struggles his confidence could be severely damaged. 

With Trubisky, though, there doesn’t seem to be as great of a confidence risk if the Bears do decide to play him early.

Of course, the best way for Trubisky to avoid a hit to his confidence is to not make any mistakes. But inevitably, he’ll throw an interception or have a bad game. That’ll be the E in that equation Fox likes. 

And, so far, Trubisky — who thought he played “alright” against Arizona —  has shown his “R” will probably be good. That’s another mark in his favor for being ready to play earlier than was expected when the Bears drafted him in April.