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Draft Busts and Sunk Costs

It looks like the Mitchell Trubinsky experiment is on shaky ground. The Bears are declaring a full on quarterback competition. Bears fans probably have mixed feelings - it's a trade-off between the backup being the most poplar guy in town and a feeling of dread that the team has missed on yet another "franchise QB".

Chicago general manager Ryan Pace said incumbent Bears starter Mitchell Trubisky would have to compete with Foles in order to keep his job. “With the addition of Nick Foles it’s exactly what we talked about from the start – we want to create competition,” Pace said. “We’ve talked to both players and it’s an open competition.”
Given what we’ve seen from Trubisky and Foles up to this point, that competition may not last long. The Bears were sold enough on Trubisky’s potential to be a franchise quarterback that they traded four future picks to move up and snatch him second overall in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Now entering his fourth season in the NFL, Trubisky has been largely inconsistent and regressed last year after having a fairly solid sophomore campaign. Foles hasn’t exactly been a model of consistency himself during his career but, thanks to a superb 2017 season that ended with him leading the Eagles to a Super Bowl win over the Patriots, the 31-year-old should have no problem gaining the confidence of his teammates and Chicago’s coaching staff.

An interesting aspect of these kind of stories is the behind the scenes struggle between "analytics" and the reality of how decisions are made. It's sunk costs versus dynamic optimization.

In this context, "analytics" just relates to the observed player performance. The data from last season doesn't seem to be good. But when it comes to top draft choices, player decisions are based on more than just performance. Top draft picks get special attention and become connected with executive and management performance. In these cases, while the data may say "move on," the executive may say lets give it some more time. In other words, executives are managing both the team and the executive's brand.

No one wants to be the guy that drafts Ryan Leaf or signs Albert Haynesworth.



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