By Chris Emma—
(CBS) As good intentions began to go awry and the Bears’ quarterback plan became untenable, coach John Fox attempted to stay on message with the organization.
The reality inside Halas Hall was that there would be no clean way to transition from veteran Mike Glennon to rookie Mitchell Trubisky as the team’s starting quarterback. From Fox and his locker room to general manager Ryan Pace and his front office, it was understood this was a delicate situation with major ramifications moving forward.
Glennon played poorly enough to lose his job, struggling through four games as the Bears’ starting quarterback. But a change at quarterback had to be forced by Trubisky too.
“You kind of know when it’s time,” Fox said recently as Glennon’s struggles reached a breaking point.
That time arrived Monday in Lake Forest, with the Bears moving to their future at quarterback and naming Trubisky the starter. Players learned of the change on Monday morning after the team’s brass spent the weekend considering a move, and the team announced it around the noon hour after news broke earlier.
Trubisky will make his first NFL starts on the national stage next Monday at Soldier Field, facing a vaunted Vikings defense that sacked Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford six times Sunday. Fortunately for Trubisky, he should have a healthy offensive line and a long ramp-up to prepare for his opportunity. Glennon will be the backup.
The Bears signed Glennon to a three-year deal worth up to $45 million in March, but did so knowing they could very well end up paying only the $18.5 million guaranteed. All that was promised to Glennon upon signing was the opportunity to enter as the starter and the compensation a starter warrants. But change was coming well before Glennon had even landed in Chicago to sign his contract.
Change was all but certain back in February in a Chapel Hill, North Carolina, parking lot, where Pace told Trubisky to drive his beat-up old car to Lake Forest when the time would come for him to stun during the NFL Draft. Pace and his Bears brass were sold on Trubisky as their future at quarterback and committed themselves to drafting him.
The Bears gave up a haul to the 49ers to move up from the third pick to the second and ensure Trubisky would be theirs. Glennon had just settled into town and was looking for a residence. He was at the Bears’ draft party as the guest of honor, left as shocked as everyone else watching from Soldier Field. But Pace had intended all along to move for Trubisky, leaving most inside the building – Glennon included – in the dark about his plan to ensure he could get his guy.
How the decision Monday was finalized remains unclear, though Fox has said publicly that Pace has authority on all personnel changes. Pace and Fox have expressed a united front ever since the two were paired back in January 2015, a young general manager and veteran head coach. But Fox is 1-3 for a third straight season and 10-26 during his rocky tenure as coach, while Pace remains in good standing with management.
Fox is working the third season of a four-year deal, while Pace is on the third of a five-year deal. Starting Trubisky is more about the Bears’ future than their present – a future more likely to include Pace than Fox. But it reached a point with Glennon in which playing Trubisky suited the Bears for both 2017 and beyond.
“At the end of the day, you try to field the best team you have available, that gives you the best chance to win,” Fox said Friday when asked about Pace. “People aren’t always going to agree with that, much like anything in any line of business. That’s really at the core of what we’re trying to accomplish.”
The Bears opted to anoint Glennon as their starter right away with Trubisky’s development at the forefront. Despite Pace’s stream of declarations – “We like Mike Glennon,” he said days before the opener – the caution was exercised to ensure Trubisky could take his time. After all, he has started just 13 games since being named Ohio’s Mr. Football in 2012.
As Glennon faltered with his opportunity and Trubisky proved his readiness behind the scenes, the Bears’ plans became untenable and their decision was clear.
They knew it was finally Trubisky’s time.