Plenty of Coaching Eyes on Nick Foles, Mitch Trubisky
Both new Bears offensive coordinator Bill Lazor and new quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo have pasts working with Nick Foles.
Nevertheless, both stressed the word "open" when they talked about the coming quarterback competition between Foles and Mitchell Trubisky.
Anything can happen.
"Mitch is going to start out, it's been well documented, with the first-string when we go out there," DeFilippo said. "But, yeah, this is as open of a competition as I've been involved with, for sure."
Lazor actually met Trubisky as a high school player while he was coaching at Virginia and stressed Trubsiky has every right to feel like he can still succeed.
"I think everything is open as far as what is going to happen next and I feel very good about the talks that Mitch and I have had about the fact that his future and his career is in his hands," Lazor said. "I think that's the way he and I have agreed to look at it. And that’s a great thing about football."
The two offensive assistants spoke Wednesday with media for the first time since coming to Chicago and while Lazor hasn't worked yet on a field with Trubisky, he has been able to get to know him at Halas Hall. Prior to the pandemic when coaches were still in Halas Hall, Trubisky was going up there on a regular basis to rehab his surgically repaired left shoulder.
"I think he's got a lot of great football ahead of him and he gets to walk in the building the first day we're allowed—he'll probably have a mask on and get his forehead tested for fever—but then once he gets in there and gets going, let's let him determine the story," Lazor said. "So I'm not going to sit back and talk about his past. Im going to let Mitch determine the story.
"He and I have kind of come to that agreement and I think it's the right way to approach it. But his attitude has been fantastic. I can evaluate that. His communication skills are fantastic. I just look forward with all these guys of just being face-to-face."
What has to change is some of Trubisky's passing mechanics. It's DeFilippo who who will have the greatest impact on this. Trubisky's footwork has been a problem throughout his stay in Chicago.
"And he and I talked about this, and he's brought this up to me," DeFilippo said. "Early in the game he's pretty tight there and looks good. But as the game goes on, it seems to get away from him at times.
"We've talked about that. That's just part of the process of every play, you got to be mentally mental, mental, mental, mental, mental, mental. It's just a grind, man. OK. So, you go through a certain play of a game and keep your wits about you. We just got to keep practicing that. I'm going to be on him non-stop, in a positive way."
Working against Trubisky is his contract situation, after the Bears opted against picking up his fifth-year option.
"I can tell you for certain the decision on the contract has zero effect on my job or the way I approach it," Lazor said. "I'm sure that will come up. This is the NFL. That will be addressed in the future, whether it's through future negotiations -- whatever way, I know it will come up. I'm not saying we ignore it, but it doesn't affect how I approach Mitch. It doesn't affect the way we coach him. It doesn't affect the evaluations."
Of course, Foles' situation is much different since he worked with DeFilippo in Philadelphia for two years and Jacksonville on year, and with Lazor in St. Louis for one season.
DeFilippo was offensive coordinator for the Jaguars last year and even in a complete collapse he saw positive in Foles, who suffered a broken collarbone early in the season-opener with Kansas City.
"There's so many factors that go into everything, I mean things that you can control, the things you can't control like getting hurt on the 11th play of the game, 11th play of the season while throwing a 35-yard touchdown pass," DeFilippo said. "I mean those are things that are just out of our control and you know, I think the thing Nick needs to do is just come in here and embrace the situation he's in.
"I mean he's in a really good situation again with people that he knows. He's in a situation where he's battling with a guy that's a fantastic player and a fantastic person so it's not going to be one of those cut-throat competitions where it's going to be, you know, uncomfortable when we're back in the meeting room every day. I wouldn't allow that to happen ever even if it wasn't the case. But at the same time I think Nick just needs to play within himself and do what he does well and I think that will serve our team well."
Lazor's experience with Foles was quite a while back, under Chip Kelly in 2013 with the Eagles for one season. It was the year Foles had an NFL-best 119.2 passer rating and 9.1 yards per pass attempt, on 27 touchdowns and only two interceptions.
"I just had a chance to watch him grow," Lazor said. "I thought that year he had a fantastic year statistically and led us to a whole lot of victories. I saw him grow as a teammate.
"Of course, that was a long time. I think both of us in football years it was a lot of pass attempts for him, a lot of play calls and training camp for me. We'd both gone through wins and losses so I think we've probably both continued to go since then. But I'm excited."
Both coaches have been parts of quarterback competitions.
"I think, I dunno if it sounds like a cliché, but you just have to let the thing play out," Lazor said. "You've got to let guys earn it. Sometimes your gut tells you, sometimes it helps to look at the statistics every day, though it’s not a game situation but a practice. And you just take in all the information. I worked for a coach one time, and actually the battle—this was a very old, wise coach, won numerous Super Bowls—and the battle was for the backup quarterback job. And I just remember after one of the preseason games, he came up to me and said, 'You know, when that guy went in the huddle, I just watched how the team changed.' "
In a sense, Lazor thinks the possibility preseason could be shortened can hurt the assessment of his quarterbacks.
"So there's so many different factors that go into it," Lazor said. "Some of it is real statistical and some of it is watching a guy and how he presents himself, and hopefully we have plenty of preseason games because I think that's the most fair way, I think, for the guys, is to let them play on the game field. That’s the most fair. So hopefully they get an opportunity to do that."