How Bears Look Different With Nick Foles at QB
Adding another potential starting quarterback alters everything about the Chicago Bears.
The quarterback is the hub of everything on a football team, even one with a potentially dominant defense like the Bears.
With Nick Foles taking snaps and throwing, the way the Bears look on the field in games changes. The way they conduct practices and training camp is different.
Even the Halas Hall television sets might be turned back on now with a different quarterback playing.
Mitchell Trubisky could still win the position, but it would only happen if his play is greatly elevated over last year.
The numbers he had in 2018 would be acceptable, a passer rating of 95.4. Aaron Rodgers had a 95.4 passer rating last year and took the Packers within a win of the Super Bowl.
Yards per attempt are a critical number and the Bears can't have anything close to the 6.1 per attempt Trubisky averaged last year. It was the lowest in the NFL for any quarterback who threw at least 175 passes, which encompasses. It doesn't have to be in the mid 7s for the Bears to win with their defense. Tom Brady's was only 6.6 last year and Carson Wentz's 6.7 but both quarterbacked playoff teams.
The same obviously goes for Foles. After all, he barely had a better season statistically than Trubisky and played only four games. With an 84.6 passer rating and 6.3 yards per attempt, Foles figures to be at or below Trubisky's statistics if extended over a 15-game season like the Bears' starter last year played.
Those are numbers for individual players. Here's how the Bears will look as a team with a different quarterback.
1. Preseason Play
Matt Nagy will have to look at both quarterbacks in preseason. This won't be a case of dumping Tyler Bray out on the field to throw to players from Division III Iowa schools on 75% of the preseason plays. The Bears will have to put both quarterbacks in games for throws, if not to see who's better then to at least let Foles get reps in games with his new receivers. Considering how little Trubisky played in the past in preseason, it's still likely Bray will play at least half the snaps. At least the two main combatants will see some action and this means they'll also have to use their first-team offensive linemen to protect those quarterbacks, as well as the receivers and backs. The Bears should be ready to play on offense when the regular season begins instead of looking lost like they did against Green Bay in last season's opener.
2. Quicker, Correct Reads
Foles is better known for making the quick decision and getting the ball out in time to let receivers make yards after the catch. The Bears have been among the worst teams in the league at yards after the catch with Trubisky at quarterback.
During Philadelphia's playoff run to the Super Bowl, Foles was at his best doing this. Receivers averaged 6.7 yards after the catch. The last two years Trubisky completions have averaged 4.9 and 4.3 yards after the reception.
3. Long Pass Plays
With Foles passing, the Bears are no more likely to complete throws downfield in regular-season games. The passes are just more likely to look better. Foles has a better range of throws and shows more ability to put air under the ball to let receivers run to it.
Analytic sites like Pro Football Focus or Football Outsiders break down portions of the field and say Trubisky doesn't complete passes through the air of a certain length and Foles does.
The bottom-line truth is a far greater percentage of Trubisky's completions in his three years have gone for 20 yards or longer than Foles' completions have, regardless of whether they carried 20 yards in the air or went to the left or right side of the field.
In the regular season, 12% of Trubisky's completions (95 of 811) have gone for 20 yards or longer while over the same period of time just 8.6% (27 of 315) of Foles' completions have gone for 20 yards or longer. Over the course of almost 500 more throws than Foles, you'd expect Trubisky's percentage of gains for 20 yards or more to come down, but it's much higher.
4. Clutch Performances
Most numbers say Foles is a slightly more efficient quarterback and one who can manage an offense to slightly longer gains per pass. The differences shouldn't be enough to cause anyone to throw away a fourth-round draft pick to obtain him or cause the Bears to commit a significant portion of their 2020 salary cap to him.
However, Foles' ability to be a clutch performer does say such a move is worthwhile.
Foles has a higher percentage of late comebacks and game-winning drives to games played. In 58 total games played, Foles has eight fourth-quarterback comebacks and 10 game-winning drives while Trubisky in 41 games has four fourth-quarter comebacks and six game-winning drives.
In one playoff game the Bears saw how both can do this, Foles with the game-winning 60-yard drive to the winning fourth-down TD pass and Trubisky with what should have been the winning drive before Cody Parkey's double-doink field goal ruined it.
The ability to get bigger gains in the passing game for Foles is far greater in postseason when it counts most. It's like he turns on a switch or Eagles coach Doug Pederson did.
Remember, Foles completes only 8.6% of his passes for 20-yard gains in the regular season. But in five postseason games for the Eagles under Pederson and with new Bears quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo as his quarterbacks coach, Foles completed 14.1% of his postseason passes for 20 yards or longer (17 of 120).
Over the past two years, an often-repeated phrase has been how the Bears offense looks better when Chase Daniel is at quarterback than with Trubisky.
What this actually means is he knows the offense better and delivers the ball to the right place at the right time. He also goes through progressions quicker to determine if the second or third receivers is open when the first target isn't.
Too many of Trubisky's completions come after he's waited too long while trying unsuccessfully to read a defense and see secondary receivers.
With Foles at quarterback, it's going to look more like when Daniel played except he has a much bigger arm and better ability to sense the pass rush. He'll dump it off quicker to the receiver who has the best chance to gain yards.
The offense will look the way it's intended to look in the playbook.