Plenty of people had input in evaluating the Bears' quarterback competition. But ultimately, it was Matt Nagy – and only Nagy – making the final call on whether Mitch Trubisky or Nick Foles would start Week 1.
“This is strictly his decision,” general manager Ryan Pace said Monday.
Pace made it clear that he didn’t play the role of a meddlesome front office wonk telling his coach to do something he didn’t want to do, like Billy Beane did with Art Howe in “Moneyball” minus the emphasis on analytics. Nagy’s the one who has to call plays for Trubisky starting Sunday against the Detroit Lions; Pace is just the one who drafted the quarterback from North Carolina instead of the quarterback from Clemson or Texas Tech.
Pace, of course, had input for Nagy, but described himself mostly as a "sounding board." That Pace drafted Trubisky second overall in 2017 – nine months before Nagy arrived in Chicago – was not a factor, though.
“I can say this with complete honesty – it was easy for me to watch this unfold because all I wanted is what was best for the team,” Pace said. “Ultimately all that matters is that we win football games. That's all that matters. So what quarterback gives us the best chance to win football games? And everybody had a voice. Everybody had an opinion. But at the end of the day Matt need to go with his gut, with his heart, with his instincts and just let that whole thing play out naturally.”
Also, it's not like the Bears didn't commit anything to Foles – a fourth-round pick and $24 million guaranteed is a hefty investment. Foles is just as much Pace's guy as Trubisky is at this point, if not more so, given the financial commitments to Foles after 2020.
Pace’s job, by the way, is not as close to being on the line as some may assume. Colleague Adam Hoge laid out why before training camp started, and he was spot on with this in particular – the Bears are not going to be a disaster in 2020. As in: A three- or four-win disaster is not a realistic outcome for a team stacked with dudes on defense.
And barring a truly disastrous season, it’s difficult to see George McCaskey and Ted Phillips getting rid of Pace and searching for a third new general manager in the span of a decade. Pace is genuinely liked by the highest of higher-ups inside Halas Hall – the renovation/expansion of which, by the way, has his fingerprints all over it.
So there was no reason for Pace to influence Nagy into picking the guy he drafted in a last-ditch effort to save his job. Pace’s job is safe, for now, and so is Nagy’s (if it’s hard to see the Bears firing Pace after this year, it’s even harder to see them moving on from a coach who won 20 games in his first two years).
Nagy was able to name a starting quarterback without any nefarious meddling and without an agenda from the front office. He chose Trubisky.
And the only agenda the Bears have is trying to win football games with a potentially sub-optimal quarterback. That’s hard enough, after all.