Let’s get this out of the way: Mitch Trubisky is unquestioned inside Halas Hall as being the Bears’ No. 1 quarterback. And he will regain that title as soon as he’s healthy enough to return from the reportedly dislocated left shoulder he suffered Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings.
So cries for Chase Daniel to start over a healthy Mitch Trubisky are misguided in the sense that it’s not a realistic possibility. And the Bears will be right to go back to Trubisky as soon as he’s cleared to play.
Yes, Daniel played with a level of baseline competence on Sunday that was largely lacking from Trubisky over the season’s first three games. The Bears’ offense found a rhythm and Daniel connected on some intermediate and deep balls, all while displaying the kind of operational skills that are a major reason why coach Matt Nagy trusts him so much.
But what Daniel did against Minnesota shouldn’t be conflated with some sort of elite level of quarterback play. In completing 22 of 30 passes (73.3 percent) for 195 yards (6.5 yards/attempt), with a couple of downfield shots and a touchdown, Daniel was exactly what the Bears are paying him to be: A good backup quarterback.
“Whether he’s playing as a starter or a backup, he prepares the same,” Nagy said. “As a coach, you know you have that and if he ends up being the guy, then you feel comfortable. And he’s been in this situation before.”
Noteworthy here is how well the Bears’ offensive line played in pass protection on Sunday, too. That represented an improvement from the Bears’ first three games, and there’s a good chance Trubisky could have had a similar game to the one Daniel had with that kind of pass blocking success.
This is not Josh McCown vs. Jay Cutler all over again. McCown started 31 games before coming to Chicago in 2011; if Daniel starts Sunday at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, it’ll be his fifth career start. This isn’t a case of a starter-turned-backup playing well enough to force a discussion; it’s a career backup filling in while a former No. 2 overall pick is hurt.
Last year’s Chicago offense
Trubisky at QB: 2.0% DVOA
Daniel at QB: -38.4% DVOA
But Daniel’s looking pretty good today!
— Aaron Schatz 🏈 (@FO_ASchatz) September 29, 2019
Perhaps a better example of why the Bears won’t consider a true quarterback swap is this: A year ago, Ryan Fitzpatrick was one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks through three games, a spell that coincided with the three-game suspension Jameis Winston served at the start of the 2018 season. Fitzpatrick completed 70 percent of his passes and averaged 410 yards per game with 11 total touchdowns and four interceptions over that stretch.
When the Buccaneers came to Chicago to face the Bears in Week 4, Fitzpatrick was still the starter. He was benched by the second half.
The lesson: Even with a productive, experienced backup quarterback playing out of his mind, Tampa Bay was still quick to go back to the quarterback in whom they’d invested so much. Every other team with a young, highly-drafted quarterback would do the same thing (like the Philadelphia Eagles, as another example, did with Carson Wentz and Nick Foles).
The Bears’ best chances of winning a Super Bowl still involve Trubisky being their quarterback. Trubisky didn’t play well before his injury, yes, but the Bears have to hope and believe in his natural talent. And it’d be foolish to pull the plug on Trubisky four games into his third year in the NFL.
Which is why the Bears won’t do it.
In the interim, the Bears can win games with Daniel as their quarterback. They should beat the Oakland Raiders in London regardless if it’s Daniel or Trubisky taking the snaps. But make no mistake: When Trubisky is healthy, he should — and will — be the Bears’ quarterback.
“(Trubisky) had a really good week of practice, and every week he’s so excited to get back at it and really get this thing going,” Nagy said. “… I just — I want the kid to do really well.”