On Sunday, John Fox made it clear that QB Mike Glennon – and not No. 2 overall pick Mitch Trubisky – would start Week 3 against the Steelers, and he’s re-iterated that fact throughout the week.
Still, Trubisky waits in the wings.
And while the Bears would have been fine using 2017 as a redshirt season for the rookie, Trubisky’s impressive play in the preseason – as well as his constant growth and development – seems to have impressed the club enough to change their plans. In other words, it’s probably not a matter of “if” but “when” Trubisky will finally start a game.
So, let’s go over some of the most likely possibilities:
Week 4 – Sept. 28 at Packers
There is inherent risk in starting a rookie on a short week, against a long-time division rival on the road, and on a primetime nationally televised stage, but it could be one the Bears might (should? could?) be willing to make.
The Houston Texans made a similar move when they started Deshaun Watson against the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday Night Football in Week 2. Then again, Watson played in relief of starter Tom Savage in Week 1 and performed admirably as he got his first feel for the pro game in a meaningful contest. And yet, the Texans still started Watson in Week 2 on a quick turnaround, operated with what looked to be a dialed-down playbook, and defeated the Bengals – thanks in part to Watson’s touchdown run.
With that said, I wouldn’t suggest debuting Trubisky against Packers. BUT, I would go as far to say that a simplified, run-first game plan against a team that has nothing but preseason tape on a player could result in a competitive, closer-than-expected matchup.
Week 5 – Oct. 9 vs. Vikings
Eleven days will pass between the Bears’ Thursday Night Football game against the Packers and their Monday Night tilt against the Vikings. And that’s precisely the kind of schedule quirk that could provide Trubisky enough time to get up to speed with the first-team offense, should the Bears go this route.
Traditionally, Fox’s teams have played well after bye weeks and extended breaks. And it’s that kind of edge that could allow the Bears to coach up Trubisky with extra reps and film study in preparation to face a Vikings team looking for its footing.
Week 8 – Oct. 29 at Saints
If it doesn’t happen in either of the next two weeks, there is an argument that a Week 8 matchup against the Saints provides an ideal opportunity to break in a rookie quarterback.
Through two games, the Saints defense has allowed 1,025 total yards and 65 points (no team has allowed more yards and only the New York Jets have allowed more points). Meanwhile, Sam Bradford and Tom Brady have torched the Saints to the tune of a 141.4 passer rating.
New Orleans’ defensive struggles are nothing new and the SuperDome isn’t the house of horrors it once was during the Saints’ prime. There was a time you might have never considered pitting a rookie quarterback against a Drew-Brees-led Saints team on the road. But now? The banged up Bears offense should be licking their chops.
Week 10 – Nov. 12 vs. Packers
The first half of the Bears’ schedule features four quarterbacks who have won Super Bowls, two others who have played in them, and four teams with winning records in 2016. Things don’t get much easier after the bye with the Packers coming to town, but the extra prep time is something that could come in handy if the Bears wanted to start their rookie quarterback.
On top of that, eight regular season games will have given us enough of a sample size to know what Glennon brings (or doesn’t bring) to the table. And while the Bears could still be looking to build some potential trade value, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the team go in a different direction starting in Week 10 at home.
Week 13 – Dec. 3 vs. 49ers
A quarterback’s debut in December at Soldier Field doesn’t sound all that appealing, but the 49ers are the kind of opponent a team like the Bears might choose to unleash their top prospect. This isn’t to say the rebuilding 49ers are an awful team, they’ve been quite competitive two games into the Kyle Shanahan era. However, San Francisco’s defense has allowed 247 rushing yards in two games – which ranks 24th in the NFL.
The 49ers’ rush defense could hypothetically allow the Bears to build a run-heavy game plan for Trubisky’s first start in what could be a cold winter day along the lake.
Week 15 – Dec. 24 vs. Browns
If Trubisky hasn’t debuted before, what better time than Christmas Eve? Trubisky’s presence would be a present for fans who dare brave the cold to watch two teams that combined to finish 4-28 in 2016. The preseason Week 4 rematch of two rebuilding teams could feature a pair of rookie quarterbacks facing defenses playing out the string and teams jockeying for draft position.