The Bears have been conducting their virtual offseason program since April 20. But the open competition between Mitchell Trubisky and Nick Foles for the starting quarterback position won't truly begin until players can return to the practice field.
When that will happen, of course, is anybody's guess, given that all 32 NFL team facilities remain closed due to the coronavirus. For the time being, players and coaches will continue communicating remotely from their respective homes.
"There's no competition going on right now over Zoom," coach Matt Nagy said Friday during a 30-minute video conference with the media.
"There's no way to possibly say the competition has started right now. But when we do get onto the field—depending on when that is—that's where we are going to have to be really good as coaches in making sure that we provide the best way possible to make it as fair as possible, to where we can evaluate and they can go out and get the exact same reps in the exact same environment, so that we can hopefully make a decision off of that."
Nagy reiterated Friday what he said April 2 about his plans to play both Trubisky and Foles along with other starters in the preseason. It's a departure from how Nagy handled the preseason in his first two years as Bears coach when he kept most key players on the sideline.
The Bears on Friday announced the dates and times of their four preseason games. They'll host the Browns Saturday, Aug. 15 (noon CT), visit the Broncos in Denver Saturday, Aug. 22 (8:05 p.m.), host the 49ers Saturday, Aug. 29 (noon) and face the Titans in Tennessee Thursday, Sept. 3 (7 p.m.).
"That's the best time for us to be able to get the evaluation process going," Nagy said. "And so we need to get as many reps as we can to be able to see what they're doing when we do it.
"We're going to do everything we can, and if we need to have more competition-type levels, 11-on-11-type deals in practice, we'll do that too. And again, remember this isn't just for the quarterbacks, but it's a lot of positions across the board, which will be great."
Although the Bears have been unable to practice or even meet face-to-face, Nagy is pleased with what's being accomplished the virtual meetings coaches are conducting with Trubisky, Foles and third-stringer Tyler Bray. Assistants who regularly work with the trio include offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, pass game coordinator Dave Ragone and quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo.
"What those guys are doing right now is they personally, including Tyler, they're all building up their mental capacity within this offense as to what they like," Nagy said. "The beauty of what's going on right now is there is so much feedback back and forth, and discussions are interactive in what coaches like and what the players like.
"In that quarterback room, they're doing a really good job—all things considered—in really understanding some of the new things we're going to do, some of the old things we're going to keep, and then how we're building these relationships, too. That's just as important in this thing moving forward."
Trubisky is entering his fourth season. In his first year working with Nagy in 2018, he was named to the Pro Bowl after helping lead the Bears to the NFC North title with a 12-4 record, passing for 3,223 yards with 24 touchdowns, 12 interceptions and a 95.4 rating. Last season Trubisky threw for 3,138 yards with 17 TDs, 10 interceptions and an 83.0 rating.
"In the previous two years he's learning how to play the quarterback position," Nagy said. "That doesn't always mean on the field, that also means off the field—how do you watch tape, what notes do you take, what's your schedule going to be, how do you accept coaching, how do you give feedback? And all of that stuff right now has been going on in different ways. So what we'll do, when we're allowed, we'll get together and we'll talk through some of the summary of what we just talked about, with the details of plays, with his scheduling, etc. I can see he's starting to create his own way, his own habits.
"And now the biggest thing is none of that matters unless we all go out there and we do it on the field, and that's going to be the next challenge, is being able to take that onto the field and do it through a competition."
Foles, meanwhile, was acquired by the Bears in March in a trade with the Jaguars in exchange for a compensatory fourth-round draft pick. Foles has appeared in 58 NFL games with 48 starts over eight seasons with the Eagles (2012-14, 2017-18), Rams (2015), Chiefs (2016) and Jaguars (2019). The 6-6, 243-pounder has completed 61.8 percent of his passes for 11,901 yards with 71 touchdowns, 35 interceptions and an 88.2 passer rating.
Nagy worked with Foles as an offensive quality coach with the Eagles in 2012 and Chiefs offensive coordinator in 2016. Lazor was Eagles quarterbacks coach in 2013 when Foles passed for 27 TDs and two interceptions, while DeFilippo worked with Foles as Eagles quarterbacks coach in 2017 when Philadelphia won the Super Bowl and as Jaguars offensive coordinator last season.
Foles' familiarity with Nagy's offense has been evident during the offseason program.
"We always talk about it's like riding a bike," Nagy said. "He's been through some different offenses, even from the last time we were together in Kansas City. But what happens is once you present somebody like Nick the playbook and they start looking at it, all of a sudden it just clicks and you start remembering it and you just start retraining your brain from what you knew in the past year or couple years.
"Even though everyone always says [there are similarities with the offenses operated by] coach [Andy] Reid, Doug Pederson, Frank Reich—that family that we have of coaches that worked together at some place or another—there's still terminology differences between all of us. But that doesn't take much, and Nick's a smart guy."
Once the Bears will finally be able to get back onto the practice field, Nagy is confident that the competition between Trubisky and Foles will bring out the best in both players.
"In the end, what we want is for both those quarterbacks to be the best possible quarterbacks that they can be individually and then make it hard on us to make the decision on who the starter is, so that makes the Bears a better football team," Nagy said.
"When you have two good people like we do in Mitchell and Nick, it makes these types of decisions and conversations a lot easier to have because they're competitive as hell, they want the best for the Bears, and they're going to fight their tails off to do that—and I think that's the beauty of it."