By Robert Zeglinski
BOURBONNAIS — Crisp hope for the future is now ringing through, but the Bears’ time at Olivet Nazarene University this year has come to an end. The team has three remaining preseason games but the foundation has been laid down. Here are some final thoughts from a wild three weeks in Bourbonnais.
It’s Glennon’s year… until it isn’t
The expected top story of camp – the Bears’ quarterback battle between Mike Glennon and Mitch Trubisky – was one that played out with more drama than originally predicted.
Glennon was to be the starter this year. In fact, as he enthusiastically espoused during spring organized team activities, it was “his year.” General manager Ryan Pace emphatically maintained in the opening press conference of camp, “Mike Glennon is our starter.” The plan to have Glennon start this year and Trubisky redshirt or not appear until the end, seemed wise a little under a month ago.
Now, as Trubisky’s gained ground on the veteran Glennon, Pace’s words instead compare to former Bears head coach Lovie Smith saying “Rex (Grossman) is our quarterback.” A bad omen for the latter and a sign that the future in Trubisky could much farther along than anyone would believe.
That’s because outside of “leadership” which every person associated with the Bears praised Glennon for throughout camp, he didn’t do enough to separate himself from a rookie with 13 college starts. “Leadership” was the only aspect of Glennon’s game the Bears could point to in offering praise of the current starter until he lit it up.
To be fair, much like Trubisky, Glennon is also new to this offense in Chicago. He only has 18 career starts in the NFL and has a lot to learn as the sheriff under center. Therein lies the problem for the 27-year-old as it has in his previous pro stop with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and even in college at NC State: if he’s proven not to be demonstratively better than the future, than what’s the point in giving him an opportunity?
Why delay the inevitable from Trubisky if he’s already better than Glennon (he is) who’s only supposed to keep the seat warm?
Glennon’s poor Bears preseason debut against the Denver Broncos where he went 2-8 for 20 yards, along with an interception that was returned for a touchdown and a 0.0 passer rating, couldn’t have gone any worse. For context, if you throw one incomplete pass and do nothing else as a quarterback, you end up with a 39.6 rating.
Glennon’s play wasn’t necessarily as bad that would indicate. It just didn’t help him that the hotshot Trubisky stole the show – albeit against third stringers – in leading three long scoring drives with a sparkling 107.3 passer rating and showcasing athleticism that made the Bears invest in him.
In one half, Trubisky took a more firm hold of the reins of this Bears team as his team more than Glennon could dream of. Glennon has to earn his role as Chicago’s franchise leader just as much as Trubisky and now that the cloud of doubt has been cast over with the more talented player ascending rapidly, it might be too late.
The Bears would never directly allude to changing their development plan for Trubisky. Yet if they were attempting to protect Glennon’s sensibilities, the top men in charge have done anything but.
When asked if Trubisky would be the second quarterback for the Bears’ preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals, all head John Fox did was smile and vaguely add, “We’ll keep you posted.”
When asked about how he felt about Trubisky’s stellar debut and his thoughts on an ongoing quarterback “controversy,” Pace left matters quite open too. “Mike is our starter and we’re rolling that way, but, hey, having competition (at) all positions is important,” he told WGN.
Translated: Glennon is our starter. But if Trubisky continues rolling and outplays him, then he’s the guy.
Even these notoriously stubborn Bears are beginning to relent on holding back their long-term face of the franchise, provided Trubisky earns it. The events of camp simply opened a window for Glennon’s short-lived time and “leadership” as Bears quarterback that he likely won’t be able to close fast enough.
Long frustrations may run deep
Uncharacteristically, and not that this is a bad thing, it was a quiet Bears camp in terms of inner-team skirmishes. Maybe a looser practice schedule and generally mild weather contributed, but tensions never arose high enough on a for frustrations to boil over.
That is until Kyle Long had an interesting episode on Monday’s move-out day from Bourbonnais. The 28-year-old guard, who is still easing his way back into action from off-season ankle surgery, was involved in two fights with teammates, most notably with college friend and teammate at Oregon, Hroniss Grasu. The veteran Long was sent off from practice and Fox maintained the Bears will “handle it internally.”
It begs the question as to what could be wrong with one of the Bears’ most recognizable players. After all, Long is an integral part of Chicago’s interior offensive line and an understated leader. No one’s sure what happened or what was said on Monday, but it’s strange to have a player of Long’s standing burst out like that.
Could Long be frustrated in injury recovery? Potentially. On several occasions throughout camp, he had said he was “chomping at the bit” to practice full-go while the Bears held him in line. The goal is obviously Week 1 of the regular season, but Long is a competitor so not going to battle with teammates day in and day out could be eating away at him.
There’s also the matter of underlying discomfort for the Virginia native following a violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia this past weekend – right in the Long family’s backyard. Long felt the need to speak out about the horrific events on Monday and he was clearly shaken.
“Regardless of where it happened, injustice against humanity is injustice against everyone,” said Long.
Perhaps a mix of tensions near home and a stretched injury recovery has gotten to Long. He’s a human being with real emotions, not only a football player, so it’s understandable. The Bears need him right and if he needs any kind of assistance, now would be the time to lift him up.
Linebacker Jerrell Freeman said it best of Long, creating a sense of family.
“I have a brother, things happen.” R.
Robert is your guy for all things Bears this season. Find him on Twitter: @RobertZeglinski.