"We believe in Mitch," Pace said. "Mitch knows he needs to be better. We need to be better around him. And that’s our goal."
But what's Pace saying privately? That answer lies within the capital city of Indiana, which is playing host to the NFL Combine and the formation of offseason plans. Indianapolis is where Pace and the Bears have been preparing to bring in true competition for Trubisky, sources indicated.
The Bears remain hopeful that the 25-year-old Trubisky can still be salvaged as an NFL starting quarterback, and Pace is fair in saying the offense can be better around him. But the Bears are also intent on bringing in a competitor at quarterback.
With Trubisky entering his fourth NFL season, the Bears hope he will respond well to being pressed.
"If you don’t (feel competition), you feel content, then you play content," coach Matt Nagy said. "You don’t feel that chip."
Pace offered his public backing of Trubisky during the Bears' season-ending press conference on Dec. 31, stating the second overall pick in 2017 would remain Chicago's starting quarterback. But Pace rarely tips his hand during five-plus years as Bears general manager. What followed from there was a thorough evaluation into the team's struggles on offense, with the conversation centered around Nagy's system and Trubisky's inconsistency.
League executives and player representatives, the gatekeepers to the quarterback market, have been left wondering what Pace and the Bears will do. Chicago could make an aggressive move for an accomplished veteran or choose the upside of a younger quarterback. There are options both in free agency and the trade market.
It remains unclear what the Bears covet in a quarterback competitor for Trubisky, and their plans could be affected by the fate of the proposed new collective bargaining agreement. If the players' union ratifies the CBA with a majority vote by the start of the legal tampering period on March 16, the Bears will have added salary cap space that could bolster their offering for a quarterback. Chicago has just more than $26 million in cap space under the current collective bargaining agreement, according to Spotrac. That number would rise if the new CBA is soon passed, as expected.
The quarterback market is deep this offseason. Future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady leads the list of options. Eight-time Pro Bowler Philip Rivers is also slated to hit the open market. Beyond them are younger options in Ryan Tannehill, Teddy Bridgewater, Taysom Hill, Marcus Mariota and Case Keenum.
The Bengals are motivated to move Andy Dalton to make room for expected No. 1 draft pick Joe Burrow. The Raiders could deal Derek Carr, which would add yet another interesting option for the Bears and other quarterback-needy teams.
Trubisky is the Bears' lone quarterback under contract for 2020, and the Bears plan to decide on his fifth-year option in May, Pace has said. If the team doesn't exercise the option that's projected to be around $24 million, Trubisky will become a free agent after the 2020 season. Pace and the Bears could also consider a team-friendly contract extension.
The Bears appear intent on giving Trubisky one last chance at proving himself, but he will need to emerge out of an earnest quarterback competition.