Monday I was at the gym. (Humble brag.)
On the television set was a program called Get Up. As someone who never turns on ESPN for a non-sporting event, I had never heard of this program, nor did I recognize the individuals at the desk until I saw Mike Greenberg, the show’s host. The debate topic? Mitch Trubisky, of course. This segment was a response to the above video, Prince Amukamara’s passionate defense of the Bears quarterback. The debate was being framed as how the Bears should approach the position, not Trubisky specifically.
Being at the gym, I couldn’t hear any of it. But the panelists seemed fired up. Over the next three days we’ll take a big picture look at how the Bears will address the quarterback position this off-season.
Today: Possible approaches.
Tomorrow: Looking beyond the numbers.
Friday: DBB-endorsed path.
Truth is, the Bears do not have a lot of approach options at quarterback for 2020 because there are only three ways to attain a player in the league. Sign. Trade. Draft. And two aren’t very good for this coming season. Let’s take them in reverse order.
Will the Bears use one of their picks on a quarterback? It’s possible. But this is not an offense rookies pick up quickly. The best quarterback in the league needed a year on the bench behind Alex Smith to get comfortable. (And has admitted how important that year was.) Trubisky is a smart kid and was the second pick of the draft and he’s still struggling with it.
Drafting a quarterback is a smart move for the future of this franchise. But the likelihood it’ll help this team win in 2020 is minimal.
John DeFilippo wouldn’t have signed on to be the Chicago Bears quarterbacks coach if he didn’t know who his pupil would be and he didn’t think he could get that player to play at a high level.
Flip wouldn’t have had trouble finding a different job than the one he ended up taking and, according to Adam Jahns on the Hoge & Jahns Podcast, he did have other options.
But he didn’t take them. He signed on to coach Mitch Trubisky and any other quarterback they might add.
There were two schools of thought when Flip was announced as the team’s new quarterbacks coach.
1. The Bears were beefing up their coaching staff as much as possible for Mitch Trubisky
2. The Bears were going to use the knowledge of Flip and new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor to judge possible additions to the position.
While fans debated which thought process was right, both are probably true to an extent. But it certainly seems as if the Bears want to make Trubisky work before they go to the next option.
Perhaps the Chicago Bears offense failing to achieve the Version 2.0 Matt Nagy promised before the season was because he had too many people to teach.
Early in Nagy’s tenure, before the first training camp practice, he regularly brought up the fact that it wasn’t just the players who had to learn the offense, but the coaches. Now with Juan Castillo as his offensive line coach and (reportedly, by DBB) Pat Shurmur as the offensive coordinator, Nagy has filled his staff with some of this offense’s finest teachers.
Mark Helfrich and Harry Hiestand are probably very good coaches, but neither was well-versed in what’s commonly known as “The Andy Reid Philosophy”. More to the point, both were hired specifically to bring outside elements to the offense -Helfrich the RPO game and Hiestand the power running. Neither worked out.
For Nagy, the best thing to do was to get back to the offense, to the basics. Whether the team intends on running version 1.0, 2.0 or jumping to 3.0 next season, they now have an offensive coordinator and line coach who have proven track records in accomplishing whatever version is required.
The Bears are one game away from wrapping up this miserable bore of a campaign. Here are three questions facing them.
#1. Have they seen enough from the QB? He’s awful, plain and simple. If he’s the starter next September the ceiling for 2020 is 8/9 wins. Last night was his SEVENTH game this season with a rating of 70 or below. And when you’re checking down on 4th and 23, and throwing jump balls out of bounds into double coverage, do we really need to discuss your football IQ anymore? He can’t play.
#2. How many inside backers do they pay? Roquan, when mentally right, is a stud. Kwik and KPL can play. Trevathan is still beloved in the locker room and a veteran leader. Where will the Bears spend their resources at this position come the off-season? Is there really a wrong decision?
#3. Will they extend Allen Robinson? He’s an incredible player and he’s proven that true with some of the worst QBs in league history. Robinson should be back in Chicago, extended, and paid handsomely. The Bears have the structure of a terrific receiving corps. They just need someone capable of getting them the football,
If you want to make this week’s edition of Sunday Night Football interesting, here’s a potential drinking game. Every time a broadcaster mentions the fact that Mitch Trubisky was taken before Pat Mahomes in the 2017 NFL Draft, drink a full pint glass of Malört. Or bleach. Or motor oil. Or better yet, blow off the drinking game and just watch the game on mute.
If there was any thought that Sunday’s loss to the Green Bay Packers would take the steam out of the remainder of the 2019 season, this match-up immediately dispels that notion. Sure it’s primetime, national television, Soldier Field. But more than any of those things, it’s Mitch versus Mahomes, for the first time. To this point in their careers, the battle has been a hypothetical one. And Mitch has been hypothetically knocked unconscious in the first round.
But two seasons do not a career make. And don’t think for a second that Mitch doesn’t know it.
The beleaguered quarterback has been fiery of late, especially with the media. He’s playing with more anger, and more urgency, and more fight. Many of the NFL’s failed quarterbacks didn’t want to be great; didn’t put in the work required to achieve greatness. Mitch doesn’t have those problems. He wants it. He works for it. But he’s still nowhere near the top shelf of NFL quarterbacks, even while showing multiple flashes of the ability Ryan Pace expected on a week-to-week basis when he selected him second overall.
Green Bay felt like a litmus test game for Trubisky but was it? If Trubisky plays well over these final two games, will anybody remember the one time he struggled over the final month plus of the season? And more importantly, if he can out-play the man whose success haunts him like the ghost of Jacob Marley, it could send a shock wave of positive vibes through the Halls of Halas and inspire confidence in the teammates who until recently had been questioning their signal caller in DMs across the internet.
A follower on Twitter (@mosconml) put it best. Trubisky has upgraded from “needs to be replaced” to “needs competition”. That’s where things stand now. When the clock strikes Monday things could be significantly different. Because while they’ll never be on the field at the same time, Sunday Night Football is all about Mitch vs. Mahomes. The latter has proven he’s one of the best quarterbacks in the sports. The former has proven nothing.
Tomorrow: Volume II, including the Game Prediction!
Here is a story about two coaches, in identical circumstances.
Coach A has gone 4-20 and his pathetic offense averaged 19 points per game.
Coach B, however, has had a lot more success. His team has gone 17-5 and his offense has averaged nearly 31 points per game.
Coach B is clearly better than Coach A. Or, at least, he would be, if they weren’t the same person.
That is the story of Kyle Shanahan’s career with the 49ers when he’s had Jimmy Garoppolo and when he has not. Nobody is going to argue that Jimmy G. is a franchise quarterback or one of the best in the league. He’s solid. He’s consistent. He does his job.
The argument can be that every other quarterback Shanahan has had in San Francisco has been bad. It can also be argued that Shanahan’s offense is relatively simple and helps the quarterback out with the running game.
Those arguments are valid, but doesn’t change the simple fact that without adequate quarterback play, Shanahan doesn’t look like a genius and with it, he might be best play caller in the league. You can go throughout the young coach’s career and you’ll find that to be the case. In fact, you can go through most coach’s careers and find that to be the case.
New flash: The quarterback really matters.
Many fans, even yesterday, were still clinging to the 1.8% chance (or whatever it was) of the Bears making a late push to get into the postseason tournament. With another dismal offensive failure, those chances have now officially evaporated. So where do the Bears go from here? Here are four thoughts.
Thought #1. Start Kevin Toliver.
Prince Amukamara is not healthy and he’s playing like it. He’s also very unlikely in the team’s plans for next season. Kevin Toliver has looked the part of an NFL starter and the Bears should make sure he gets these valuable, real-game reps over the final two weeks, especially considering the next two opponents feature prolific passing attacks.
Thought #2. Put Akiem Hicks on IR.
Hicks is a warrior. There’s no denying that. But this is not a battle worth fighting. The most important thing for Hicks and the Bears is that one of their best players is healthy come opening day in September. Shut him down.
Thought #3. Trubisky is coming back, so…
…the team needs to use these final two games to evaluate him as best they can. He’s clearly improving. He’s clearly got the potential to be an NFL starter. But he’s nowhere near good enough to get this team – and specifically this defense – to the first Sunday in February. Does this club believe he can take “the leap” prior to the 2020 season? Will they bring in a veteran to actually challenge 10 or is a Marcus Mariota coming around to provide more support in the room? The Bears know they have an issue at quarterback. How are they gonna address it?
Thought #4. Have Some Damn Fun
Fans hate talking about sports as entertainment but man, so many of these Bears games this season have been horrible bores. Spend these final two games – both against playoff teams – emptying the playbook and giving the fans something to enjoy. Blitz a bunch. Go for it on fourth downs. Put a few trick plays into the plan. Do everything in your power to provide a good, solid product. It’s the least you can do.
(This column first ran after the Saints game. There’s no point in rewriting it.)
If you want to spend this Monday criticizing the defensive performance over the last two weeks, go right ahead. But I’m not going to join you. Sure they have struggled getting off the field but the Bears have a collection of terrific defensive players and they’ll be just fine in the long run.
If you want to question the vision and direction of the head coach over your morning coffee, go right ahead. Matt Nagy’s play-calling has been suspect (at best) and the offense lacks any semblance of coherence. But Nagy’s going to get time to right this ship because unlike his most recent predecessors, he has a 12-4 division title on his resume.
If you want to discuss the fumbling or the blocked punts or whatever other mistakes are on your mind before lunch, feel free to do just that. Those things shouldn’t happen to championship-caliber clubs and championship-caliber is what was expected from the 2019 Chicago Bears.
But those things aren’t the story today.
The story was picked number two and wears number ten.
The story plays the most important position in professional sports.
The story is Mitch Trubisky.
And the story is over.