Joniak: Bears' Pace, Nagy Want To Foster Competition, Even In QB Spot

Jeff Joniak
February 25, 2020 - 5:29 pm

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

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INDIANAPOLIS (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- WBBM Newsradio's Jeff Joniak is at the latest NFL Combine, in Indianapolis, where Bears GM Ryan Pace and Head Coach Matt Nagy talked with reporters. He filed these observations Tuesday:

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-Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky is expected to recover from left shoulder surgery in time to participate in the off-season program and be fully ready to go by training camp.

-In addition to Trubisky, General Manager Ryan Pace expects receiver Anthony Miller (shoulder), linebacker Roquan Smith (pectoral) and tight end Trey Burton (core) to follow the same timeline. 

-Pace is not ready to pick up Trubisky’s fifth-year option for 2021.  “Yeah, for us, that decision isn’t triggered until May, so our focus is on free agency and the combine,” he said. 

-Creating competition at every position registered as Pace’s theme for his annual combine interview. Asked specifically if he is creating competition for Trubisky, the GM chose a wider view of the roster: “It's not just one person. It's not just the quarterback. It's creating competition everywhere. That's creating competition at quarterback and throughout our entire roster.”

-There are a multitude of scenarios for free-agent movement of veteran quarterbacks, and it could be a rare migration. “Yeah I think it is rare,” Pace said. “Every year it's different with the draft and free agency -- the strengths. And I think there's a lot of quarterbacks out there. Yeah I would say rare is probably accurate.”

-For the second time, Pace is making it known he is a believer in Mitch Trubisky: “To be clear, yes it is. We believe in Mitch. Mitch knows he needs to be better. We need to be better around him. And that's our goal.”

-The source of Pace’s belief in Mitch centers on what he’s always felt about him. “I think he's accurate, he's athletic, he can process, his work ethic, how he is as a teammate, those are all things that come to mind.”

-Fixing the run game offensively is a clearly stated offseason goal for Pace and head coach Matt Nagy. “It’s going to be a collaborative effort,” he said. "I think Juan Castillo has a lot of strengths in that area.” Castillo is the Bears new offensive line coach.

-While Pace is prepared for multiple scenarios with the salary cap and structure, depending on the status of the Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations between the owners and players, he feels good about addressing roster needs. “We have a plan in place to kind of make sure we have the space we need to make the moves we need to make. We feel good about it. We might not have the cap space we’ve had in previous years but we don’t have as many holes throughout our roster as well, either.”

-Pace expects the Bears to be awarded a compensatory fourth-round draft pick for Green Bay signing safety Adrian Amos in 2019 free agency. That would give him eight selections, but only two in the top 100.  

-Nagy is in the process of defining roles for his new offensive assistants. “For us, we’re still kind of working through that,” the head coach said. “The one thing that I really like … people say is there too many cooks in the kitchen and all that. I couldn’t disagree with that more. For us, I think there’s a lot of great ideas.”

-The new offensive coordinator will oversee the operation, with run-game duties likely falling on the shoulders of offensive line coach Juan Castillo and tight ends coach Clancy Barone. Dave Ragone handles the passing game as coordinator, and John DeFilippo will be a vocal and passionate new voice as quarterback coach.

-“For me as a head coach, what I’m trying to do is, is I want to become the best possible head coach I could be. And by doing that, having guys around me that I can delegate and give things to is important so whether it’s … we don’t have the run-game coordinator title, but we have guys in Juan Castillo, Clancy Barone has a great background in that. Bill Lazor can oversee really everything. We’re all having great ideas. John DeFillippo was a coordinator. I’m just trying to use all of those and balance how that works together. I’m doing a lot of listening, and I think now is the time to do that so we can collaborate, figure out what went wrong last year and let’s fix it. Let’s be about solutions.”

-Nagy will continue to call the plays in 2020. “I’m at a point right now after two years in this role where I’m just so fired up and excited. I feel rejuvenated. And I’m refreshed in a lot of different ways.”

-The Bears' offense is in discovery mode right now. Nagy often talks about an identity forming five to six weeks into the season, but he now feels the “urgency” to find one now, before the season starts. “It needs to happen sooner.”

-To that end, Nagy is open to adjusting his system to benefit the needs and talents of his players. “Absolutely. Yeah. Whatever we need to do, you want to do that. It’s not fair to force them into something that I do. Now, if you can get some of it that you do well, let’s keep it going, but this is a clean slate and we want to make sure we give everybody the best opportunity.”

-Improving Trubisky’s ability to dissect and read coverages feels like the most important key to his future with Nagy. “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. Now, for him, I think the processing part is what ... it has to get to a point where you're so obsessed, no matter what you're doing, you're always watching film. We're at a point now where, hey, in these next several months before they get back in here, April 20th or whatever it is, he's a complete expert at knowing ... 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's in Year 2 of it — but I want him to make sure that's where he gets to in the future.”

-When asked if he wants Trubisky to feel like he’s challenged for the starting job, Nagy, like Pace, said: Yes. "I want everybody to feel that way. If you don't, you feel content and you play content, you don't have that chip. I think everybody on our team, and I had a lot of different individual talks with players and I'm not going to get into who they are or where they are at. But there are some guys and they know who they are that can play with 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."

Jeff Joniak is the play-by-play announcer for the Bears broadcasts on WBBM Newsradio 780 & 105.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter @JeffJoniak.