Ranking the QBs Who Could Back Up Mitchell Trubisky

Gene Chamberlain

The quarterback scenario put out for public consumption by Bears general manager Ryan Pace places Mitchell Trubisky at the top.

There has to be a second quarterback, and in this case it has to be someone with specific abilities.

Here are the job qualifications being sought.

The quarterback has to blend Chase Daniel's willingness to accept being a backup with an idea about how to play in an RPO offense, a good arm and much greater playing experience. And he has to be affordable.

In short, he has to work cheap, know the offense, his place in the pecking order and accept it but be talented enough to challenge and push Trubisky while guiding him with the other hand.

It sounds complcated, and the number of quarterbacks available in the free agent market or for trade who can count these as character traits is extremely small.

Here's how all the potential backups to Trubisky fit on this Chase Daniel Replacement Scale. If they're not on the list, they do not fit the need. They might be good replacements for Trubisky, but not a backup. And it's a backup to Trubisky the Bears are looking for, not a replacement.

Tom Brady, Cam Newton, Dak Prescott, Philip Rivers and Teddy Bridgewater are not coming in as backups so they fail to meet the qualification. They would all be coming in as replacements, and this isn't what Pace is trying to find.

1. Case Keenum

He's been a backup quarterback in the past as well as a starter. His experience in this type of offense started in college at Houston and he's gained experience in other types of offenses, as well. At age 32, he's not prime age for a starter but is not so old he's thinking about how he can get into someone's broadcast booth in a year or two.

He started half or more of his team's games in five of his last seven seasons, but started out the backup with three of his five teams and wound up the backup in Washington last year. So he'd understand how to walk the fine line between challenging the starter and supporting him. His statistics have been comparable to Trubisky's. His passer rating of 85.3 is just below Trubisky's (85.8). He has a slightly better yards per attempt (6.9-6.7) and interception percentage (2.2 to 2.3), and slighly lower touchdown percentage (3.6 to 3.8). He's not immobile, but definitely isn't Fran Tarkenton. Finally, he played for $3.5 million last year so he's not shattering anyone's salary cap structure.

2. Marcus Mariota

As the backup to Ryan Tannehill most of last year, Mariota can draw upon that humbling experience of being benched to go with the experience of going through what Trubisky has to deal with as the franchise quarterback who bears the weight of the franchise on his shoulders. He's only 26, and mobile, and ran an RPO offense extensively in college. He wouldn't be expensive, since his career hasn't exactly been a glorious one. Yet, he's played well enough to indicate he could be the starter if Trubisky failed. He has a better passer rating (89.6-85.8), better yards per attempt (7.5-6.7) a better touchdown percentage (4.3-3.8) and his interception percentage hasn't shot off the roof (2.5). This would be a much more competitive situation with Trubisky because he's only 26 years old.

3. Andy Dalton

Whether Dalton could actually settle in as a backup and understand the role has to be a question because he really has never done this. He's always been the starter until late in his Cincinnati career. And that's nine seasons. The biggest drawback for Dalton is he is not actually a free agent. It's possible he'll get there, but isn't. So the Bears would have to trade something for him while coming up with the cash to pay a veteran who has always been a starter and is supposed to get $17.5 million in salary this year. He's had limited experience in an RPO attack, but has had some. His passer rating (87.5), yards per attempt (7.1) and touchdown percentage (4.6) are better than Trubisky's and encompass almost four times as many throws, which make them all the more impressive. He hasn't been a winner for several years.

4. Nick Foles

No backup could be better for a young quarterback than Foles, which is why the Jaguars should keep him. Bringing in a quarterback on a four-year $88 million deal and then trading him or releasing him after a year should be grounds for kicking a team out of the country. Uh, that could happen to the Jaguars anyway, sorry. Put it another way, it will cost the Jaguars way too much cash to cut or trade Foles and the Bears way too much in cash to sign Foles and way too much for trade compensation. If the price and obstacles weren't there, he'd be ideal as a backup who dutifully performed the role, then delivered like few other backups ever have by taking a team to the Lombardi Trophy. And he knows the Bears offense while also working in Philadelphia under Bears quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo.

5. Chase Daniel

While looking for the new Chase Daniel, how about the real thing? Well, that defeats the purpose of finding someone who can pick up the ball and play like a starter while pushing Trubisky. Daniel still has thrown only 218 passes in 10 years and made five starts. He hasn't shown an ability to play for an extended period or improvise at all if necessary due to a lack of speed. And in October he'll be 34 years old. Still, no one knows the offense better. If the Bears decided to draft a quarterback, he'd be a reasonable choice as the backup behind Trubisky until the backup was on solid enough footing to step up from third string to be the backup. The Bears overpaid him but he's older now and might be open to a "hometown" discount.

6. Jeff Driskel

A young passer who is mobile, could run the RPO offense and has made eight NFL starts for two bad teams, winning just once. He played under current Bears offensive coordinator Bill Lazor in 2018 with Cincinnati. He has run for 281 yards in eight starts, a huge amount for a reserve quarterback. One of his better games has to be the 20-13 game he lost to the Bears at Soldier Field last season, when he responded on short notice and took the Lions straight down the field to a lead before losing.

7. Blake Bortles

Trubisky frequently gets called a newer version of Bortles. So why not get them together on the same team? Bortles actually might be better than he was in Jacksonville. He got to finally sit for a season and take it all in as a Rams backup, and he wouldn't be the first to benefit from watching. He has a much worse passer rating, a worse interception percentage and the same yards per attempt as Trubisky. He's very inaccurate on downfield passes⁠—so inaccurate he makes Trubisky look like a sniper. He is a big guy who can move. He averaged 355 yards rushing a year for the Jaguars, and was humbled by taking just $1 million backup money last year.

8. A.J. McCarron

Cheap and experienced as the perennial next guy in line, he's rapidly becoming the young man's Daniel. McCarron is looking for his fourth team in seven years and has thrown only 173 passes while making just four starts. When he does play, his stats are similar in many ways to Trubisky's.

9. Matt Moore

Moore knows the Bears offense because he started two games for Andy Reid's Chiefs last year. You could call him an old man version of Daniel. He's been around forever as an NFL backup at age 36 when the season starts. He's made 32 starts in 11 seasons with a 16-16 record and has had a relatively high 3.4% of his passes intercepted. Like Daniel, he'd be a good choice to bring in paired up with a developing rookie third-team passer.

10. Chad Henne

A less successful version of Moore, an older player who has been around the league almost entirely as a backup. He did start in Miami two years and one year in Jacksonville and his career 18-35 record speaks for why he's a backup. He does know the Chiefs offense after a year in Kansas City and he got a ring last year. His passer rating, interception percentage and yards per attempt all indicate a quarterback who is challenged. He hasn't played in a game since 2014.

Twitter: BearDigest@BearsOnMaven

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