In many ways it’s a great time to be a Bears fan, but a lot of us aren’t feeling entirely joyful. Through three games I find myself filled with a mix of optimism and frustration. I’m also annoyed by my own frustration because last year I would’ve killed for the Bears to be where they are now.
So what’s my problem?
Chicago is 2-1 and in first place in the NFC North. That’s great! They have an elite, lights out, game-changing, championship-winning caliber defense. That’s great, too!
They also have an offense that is struggling, and no one is struggling more than the future of the franchise, Mitch Trubisky. Or as Adam Hoge said on the latest Hoge & Jahns podcast while recapping Sunday’s game, “the defense looked like it could win a Super Bowl, the offense looked like it didn’t belong in the NFL.”
That’s… not so great.
Shortly after the Bears 16-14 win I got on Twitter and posted five initial thoughts about the game and where the team is at this point in the season:
- Without this defense they are 0-3.
- Trubisky had a bad game.
- So did Matt Nagy.
- A win is still a win.
- I’m gonna ignore points 1-3 for now and celebrate the fact that the Bears are 2-1 and leading the NFC North for the first time in years!
Three days later, and I feel the same way. The Bears are in a good position, regardless of how the offense has struggled, and I still believe that Trubisky will get better as the season progresses. And yet, the frustration lingers for two main reasons:
- I expected Trubisky to be better at this stage
- I had no idea the defense would be *this* good
You watch this defense and it’s hard not to think, “If Trubisky was just playing at an average level, just like a middle of the pack NFL caliber QB, this team would be almost impossible to beat.”
That it seems as though Trubisky would have to do so little to help his team out so much is an incredibly frustrating feeling as a fan, regardless of whether or not it’s an entirely fair assessment. Either way, it is completely fair to be disappointed with the quality of play Trubisky has shown so far. Through the first three games he has 2 TDs, 3 interceptions and a passer rating of 77.8. Not impressive.
He also has:
- Thrown several other near (and would-be costly) interceptions.
- Frequently thrown the ball when his feet weren’t set, and occasionally across his body.
- Regularly missed on deep balls where he’s had an open receiver.
More than anything he just looks lost out there. A lot of things could be causing this, and right now it’s hard to say what is having most of an impact. It could be:
- The amount of new information he’s trying to process versus what he’s trying to unlearn from Fox’s tenure.
- Nagy’s play calling hasn’t always put him in the best positions. (This isn’t a constant problem. Nagy’s put him in some good positions over three games, but there were definitely some calls versus Arizona that I didn’t understand, and that did Mitch no favors.)
- The weight of increased attention and expectations.
One thing I still feel pretty sure about is that I don’t think the problems with Trubisky have to do with a lack of ability. Even in his limited experience last year he showed that he can be accurate, read through his progressions, and be smart with the football. I don’t think he suddenly up and lost those skills, but when you’re not feeling very confident it’s very easy to get out of rhythm and make mistakes.
I’m not one for reading too much into body language on the sideline. I think we all got more than enough of that during the whole, “Jay Cutler is a bad leader and teammate and person because……his face” era. Yet after Chicago’s first drive against Seattle last Monday the camera panned to Trubisky on the sideline and I immediately noticed that he looked tense, which surprised me considering that opening drive ended in a touchdown.
Whether or not he was actually tense at that exact moment, he’s undoubtedly been carrying a lot of tension throughout the last few weeks, and even though he’s had moments of looking more comfortable on field, by no means is he playing with the confidence he needs to succeed.
The defense is going to be the star of this show for a while, there’s no denying that, and honestly, that’s fine. Trubisky doesn’t need to be the reason we win, yet. He doesn’t need to be throwing 5 touchdowns a game like Patrick Mahomes. (Do I wish he was? Of course! But he’s not Mahomes and the Bears aren’t the Chiefs, and it’ll save us all a lot of time and mental energy if we stop making those comparisons.)
He needs to be better though, and he needs to start right now.
If he has another bad game against Tampa, I’m going to be bothered by it. If he comes out of the bye week still regularly missing the deep ball and throwing without his feet being set, I’m going to be concerned. If in Week 10 he still looks as nervous as he has in weeks 1-3, my anxiety is going to be pretty high, as well. If by the end of this season Trubisky is still struggling with all the same problems, well, the Bears will have a much, much bigger problem on their hands.
For right now though, I’m pretty happy, a little frustrated, and repeating the mantra: “The Bears are 2-1.”