Matt Nagy isn’t just testing the waters with Nick Foles. This no longer is a week-long carousel spinning at Soldier Field. Barring injury, Foles is now locked in the driver’s seat as the Chicago Bears starting quarterback.
“As far as the quarterback, when I say the starter with Nick, he’s our starter moving forward,” Nagy said on Monday to reporters.
Another fourth-quarter comeback from Chicago has them sitting at 3-0. This time, it wasn’t the Jekyll and Hyde experiment known as Mitchell Trubisky leading the way down in Atlanta. Seemingly, Nagy has had enough of the roller coaster. Foles, who was set to push the former No.2 pick, certainly pushed him — to the bench — for what could be the remainder of his career.
Chicago’s comeback win was thanks to quality play from Foles, but also a complete implosion of a defense. Combine both each week and the stat lines should play in Chicago’s favor. Foles is going to get his umpteenth chance as a starter, but can he stick around as the starter for good this time?
Trubisky’s tumble a blessing for Foles
Nagy could have pulled Trusibky after missing Allen Robinson on the team’s opening drive. He had the chance after watching the fourth-year starter lead the Chicago offense to six plays for -3 yards. But, by the time Trubisky overshot a wide-open Anthony Miller before the half, Nagy knew ending the comeback tour was inevitable.
“Anthony was running down the middle, and we just missed it,” Nagy said. “That’s just…you’ve got to complete that ball. When you’re in those situations, and a defense presents a certain look to you, you have to capitalize.”
Trusbisky finished the first half 0-for-4 on third-down conversions. Following a nearly unwatchable pass to Jimmy Graham in the third quarter that led to an interception, Chicago was 1-for-7 on the afternoon. Enter Nick Foles, exit Mitchell Trubisky.
Foles showed similar struggles with completions on his first three drives, though two questionable recalled touchdowns fell against him. His final three outings are why he’ll remain the starter for Sunday. Despite the team’s lackluster third-down efficiency, Foles needed 17 plays to complete the comeback and remain undefeated while also adding three touchdowns to the stat box.
The tip of the iceberg was when Nagy went back to the same play designed for Mitch Trubisky, the one missed before halftime. Instead of a punt, it went 26 yards for ultimately the game-winning touchdown.
Unfortunately, Trubisky has been much too inconsistent since being drafted into the NFL. With Foles, there’s stability, and the team has the best chance to capitalize when Chuck Pagano’s defense forces a three-and-out or turnover.
The Falcons falconed themselves, adding to their struggles, but Foles’ ability to ad-lib plays shouldn’t go unnoticed. There’s also a stat line few will look at – pass protection. With Trusbisky, Chicago’s offensive line allowed two sacks. Foles, meanwhile, never took a hit.
How Foles works in the Bears’ system
History reunites Nagy and Foles in the Windy City. As the Chiefs backup, the journeyman learned an Andy Reid system that eventually led to a Super Bowl title in the play-calling of then offensive coordinator Doug Pederson. When Nagy took over the reins, little changed.
Nagy’s system is similar to the likes of what the pair saw in Kanas City. Nagy also stated postgame that the calls used for Trubisky weren’t changed when Foles entered. In a way, it was more of an advantage where most backups would struggle to make their first appearance in a wacky offseason.
There’s also a history with multiple Bears’ personnel. Offensive Coordinator Bill Lazor worked with Foles during his time in Philadelphia. The same goes for quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo, who brought the best out of the backup quarterback during Philly’s Super Bowl run in 2017.
When looking at Pro Football Network’s Offensive Share Metric, there’s little separation between the Bears quarterbacks. Foles, who threw seven more passes, graded out with a 21.66 for the afternoon while Trubisky finished a few points lower at 21.36. Neither player averaged more than seven yards per throw while the accuracy hovered between 51% and 55%.
Where Foles outshined Trubisky was in the offensive execution. In fewer plays, he capitalized on big moments, completing four passes over 20 yards. Even on both touchdowns, there was more confidence behind the throw with No.9 than ever with No.10.
Which Nick Foles will the Bears get on Sunday in Week 4?
There are two sides to Foles’ play, so while there’s a reason for Bears’ fans to rejoice, they’re not out of the woods. Keep in mind this is the same quarterback who has lost the starting job four times since his Pro Bowl season in 2013.
Nick Foles will go down in history as the man who replaced Carson Wentz and coined “Philly Philly” by out-dueling Tom Brady. Thanks to Wentz’s laundry list of trips to the injury report, he had a second postseason run to earn a fresh $88 million with the Jaguars in 2019.
Therein lies the problem. He barely played in Duval before Gardner Minshew Mania became a staple of Florida culture.
In nine years, Foles is yet to retain control of leading man status. Either he’s filled in long enough for someone on the IR, been on the IR himself, or flat out was benched due to poor play. With every burst of magic, there’s a slap of reality that brings the mighty Foles back to average play.
Foles’ career completion percentage hovers at 61.8%. His touchdown to interception ratio isn’t much better at 74 to 36. And outside of his one true great year in Philly circa 2017, he’s only surpassed the double-digit touchdown marker once (2014).
How long can Nick Foles’ tenure last in Chicago?
A change under center won’t guarantee Chicago going 16-0. How many times has a starter gone undefeated to begin the year only to be benched ten quarters into play? Foles figures to be the man for now, but could that be the case for good?
The Bears take on Indianapolis before a showdown with three NFC South squads and a red-hot Rams team. Over five weeks, Foles will take on pass defenses that have allowed an average of 6.9 yards per throw. Going 16-of-29 for 188 yards isn’t going to cut it long-term, even against sub-par defenses.
Nick Foles will always be the ultimate comeback story after hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. That’s it, nothing more. Trubisky will likely finish his career as winning record at 26-18 thanks to a pair of top-ten defenses. That’s the way Nagy will win again in 2020.
The Bears have the talent to be a team with inadequate quarterback play well into December. Both Foles and Trubisky fit that bill. It’s one play at a time mentality, which is how Foles works best. He’ll fit the bill because of the system, and that’s all Chicago needs to be playoff pretender moving into October.