INDIANAPOLIS – At his end-of-season press conference Dec. 31 at Halas Hall, general manager Ryan Pace stated that the Bears remained committed to Mitchell Trubisky as their starting quarterback in 2020.
Nearly two months later, Pace reaffirmed that stance when he met with reporters Tuesday morning at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.
"We believe in Mitch," Pace said. "Mitch knows he needs to be better. We need to be better around him. And that's our goal."
After winning the NFC North with a 12-4 record in 2018, the Bears entered 2019 with Super Bowl aspirations. But they failed to make the playoffs, finishing in third place in their division with an 8-8 mark.
A major reason for the lack of success was an offense that regressed across the board, ranking 29th in the NFL in both scoring (17.5 points per game) and total yards (296.8). It was a precipitous decline from 2018, when the Bears were 10th in scoring (25.6 points).
Trubisky, the second pick in the 2017 draft who was named to the Pro Bowl in 2018, completed 63.2 percent of his passes for 3,138 yards with 17 touchdowns, 10 interceptions and an 83.0 passer rating that ranked 28th in the NFL.
"We believe in him, we believe in the player, we believe in the person, we believe in the trajectory that he's on," Pace said. "We believe we need to be better around him, and that's what this time of year is all about. And that's through things we're doing with coaches, things we're doing with scheme, things we're doing with personnel we're adding and then his growth as a young player. They all grow at different rates and it's just projecting his growth."
With Trubisky currently the only Bears quarterback under contract for the 2020 season, the team seemingly will have to bolster the position during the offseason.
Asked if the Bears intend to acquire a quarterback who could compete with Trubisky for the starting job, Pace said: "Throughout our team, that's what we want. Everybody's fighting for starting jobs. That's what we want to create.
"The best teams we've been a part of, there's competition everywhere. That could be at corner and safety and outside linebacker and quarterback, and that's all things we're looking at. We'll see. We're sorting through it. There's a lot of different avenues to improve our team, whether it's free agency or the draft, and that includes that position. We'll see going forward."
Coach Matt Nagy wants Trubisky—and every other Bears starter—to feel like they're being challenged for their positions.
"I want everybody to feel that way," Nagy said. "If you don't, you feel content and you play content; you don't have that chip. I had a lot of different individual talks with players—and I'm not going to get into who they are or where they're at—but there are some guys and they know who they are that can play with more of a chip on their shoulder. And that's the part to me that going into this year, I want to see if they have that chip."
Pace is also in favor of creating competition.
"We believe in [Trubisky], we support him and we're going to be better around him," Pace said. "But I think competition brings out the best in everybody."
The Bears have not yet announced whether they will exercise Trubisky's fifth-year option for the 2021 season, something they must do by May 30.
"That decision isn't triggered until May," Pace said. "So right now our focus is on free agency and the Combine. We'll make that decision in May."
Trubisky underwent surgery earlier this offseason on his left (non-throwing) shoulder that he injured in a Week 4 win over the Vikings. He's expected to return during OTA workouts this spring and be able to practice without restrictions when training camp begins in late July.
Nagy said at the end-of-season press conference that Trubisky's No. 1 offseason priority will be to become "a master at understanding coverages." The coach reiterated that objective Tuesday at the Combine.
While Trubisky is not permitted to work with Bears coaches until the offseason program begins April 20, he is allowed to study tape on his computer.
"The one thing that he is able to do is get onto the film on his own and really hammer through what he's looking at," Nagy said. You have to get to a point to where you're so obsessed that no matter what you're doing, you're always watching film. He needs to know it better than me, and that's the goal. He'll tell you that that wasn't the case last year. That's not a slight on him—he [was] in Year 2 of it—but I want to make sure that that's where he gets to in the future."
Pace agrees that Trubisky can gain a better understanding of the Bears offense and opposing defenses before he steps back onto the practice field.
"I think every quarterback is growing in different areas, and a big growth for a quarterback is understanding coverages, mastering your offense, being comfortable with all the new things coordinators are throwing at you," Pace said. "That's Mitch's mindset right now; just being obsessed with learning NFL defenses and mastering our offense, and when you do those things it allows you to play faster and with better instincts."