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Training Camp Diary: Fields Needs to Stay Dominant

| August 17th, 2021


The calls for the young quarterback eventually got too loud to ignore; the coach finally opened the door and let the youngster get his run with the starters.

The result was underwhelming.

Rookie Mitch Trubisky ran out onto the field with the starters to begin the third quarter against the Tennessee Titans in the third preseason game of the 2017 season. The result was two incomplete passes, a negative-four yard run and a punt.


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The next series had promise before a sack put them behind the chains. They faced a fourth-and-one, but the young quarterback couldn’t get the snap off in time. A delay of game forced a punt.

And there died the argument that Trubisky should start the season over Mike Glennon — who went 11/18 for 134 yards and a touchdown in the game. Trubisky didn’t take advantage of what could’ve been his opportunity to overtake Glennon before the season began. Instead we had to sit through four weeks of Glennon struggling even to hand the ball off. For what it’s worth, if that rookie season proved anything, it’s that Trubisky wasn’t ready.

But Andy Dalton isn’t Mike Glennon and Justin Fields isn’t Mitch Trubisky. Unlike Glennon, Dalton has played reasonably well in camp and has been an established quarterback in the league for a decade. Unlike Trubisky, Fields has the physical tools to excel even if he isn’t quite NFL ready.

But the crossroads are the same.


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Justin Fields is said to be getting his opportunity with the starters and he needs to take advantage of it. He needs to show the coaching staff that he can make throws down the field in a messy pocket. He needs to show Allen Robinson that he can trust him. He needs to be efficient and explosive. More succinctly stated, Fields needs to win the job convincingly.

Because there was buzz for Trubisky his first summer too. Terrific camp and preseason performances turned what wasn’t supposed to be an open competition into one. The Bears hoped Trubisky would take the job and run with it, but he couldn’t.  If they needed evidence that he wasn’t ready, they found it. Now it’s up to Fields to give the current coaching staff the confidence that he can do the job.

This week will surely determine who the starting quarterback entering the 2021 season will be.

The ball is in Fields’ court.

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ATM: Fields & Mahomes Situations Not Comparable

| June 15th, 2021

As tempting as it may be, Chicago Bears fans should resist comparing the team’s current situation at quarterback with past examples from around the league, especially what transpired in Kansas City with Patrick Mahomes. Justin Fields is neither Mahomes, nor Mitch Trubisky. Andy Dalton neither Alex Smith, nor Mike Glennon. The situations are simply not comparable.

First, the veterans.

When Mahomes was drafted Smith had been the starting quarterback in KC for four years, leading the team to the playoffs three times. He had the locker room’s respect and knew the playbook cold. The Chiefs were HIS team, and he’d earned that. But Smith had physical limitations. Hence, Mahomes was drafted.

Glennon came to the Bears with 30 career touchdown passes to 15 interceptions. He had a career rating of 84.6 in 18 starts. He was no Smith. Dalton is more Smith, coming to Chicago with 142 starts under his belt and leading numerous playoff teams. Dalton, like Smith, has success when everything around him is perfect. But their situations are completely different. The Bears are not Dalton’s team. He’s been slightly longer than his surefire replacement, Justin Fields.

Then there are the contracts.

The Chiefs hoped Smith would play well and they could trade him for draft capital. It worked.

The Bears had hoped the same for Glennon. It did not.

No matter what Dalton does in 2021, he will be a free agent in 2022. (The Bears could, in theory, tag and trade him if he balls out, but let’s not cross that bridge until it comes.) There was significant prospective value in playing Smith and Glennon. There is little-to-none when it comes to Dalton.

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Short: Get a New Quarterback

| January 11th, 2021


The Bears were not good enough yesterday in New Orleans.

But no matter what organizational changes they are pondering – and those conversations are all fair – the club must concretely decide today not to bring Mitch Trubisky back to Chicago next season. No more running out of bounds instead of barreling ahead for the first down. No more absurd check downs with the game on the line. No more errant throws into traffic from the pocket.

The Bears need instincts at quarterback. (Look at how Lamar Jackson turned the Ravens game around with his legs.) They need guts. (Look at how Taylor Heinecke inspired Washington.)  They need a gamer. (Look at the way Josh Allen feels a game.) Trubisky has, and is, none of those things. And he never will.”

Mitch said he feels he has “unfinished business” here. He does not. His story is written in Chicago. Might Mitch find a career for himself in this league? Maybe. Blake Bortles had far more success in Jacksonville than Mitch has had in Chicago and Bortles can’t find a roster spot these days. The Mitch asset teams would find most valuable – his legs – are rendered useless by his refusal to use them productively.

The Gathering Horde: But what are your better options then for 2021, Jeff?

Jeff: Who cares?

Maybe the 20th pick starts at quarterback next season. Maybe it’s a second round pick. Maybe it’s Matthew Stafford or Matt Ryan seeing out their careers. It doesn’t really matter. Who the quarterback is for 2021 is important. Ending the Trubisky drama, the Trubisky debate, the Trubisky era, is just as important. And that should happen today.

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A Small Player in the Big Moment: Trubisky Blows Chance to Change His Narrative

| January 4th, 2021

(If you know why I chose this picture, I give you much credit.)


In the end, Mitch Trubisky was Sunday what he has been throughout his Bears career: a small player in the big moment. With a chance to change his narrative, a chance to pay off his achievements of the last month against a terrific opponent, Trubisky again failed against the Green Bay Packers. Inaccurate throws all over the field. Another nightmare toss into the end zone that somehow was not intercepted. More poor decisions from the pocket. More refusing to use his legs, this time to the dismay of color analyst Daryl Johnston.

It wasn’t about the play calling. It wasn’t about the limitations of the quarterback.



But folks, this isn’t much of a story.

This was the expectation.

Forget the final score at Soldier Field. The Bears had every opportunity to make this contest with their oldest rivals an old fashioned shootout. They kept the ball. They moved the chains. Their tough-to-tackle weapons were once against tough to tackle. Even the defense did its job in the third quarter, with the help of an awful drop. There was an exciting game waiting to be played. But it required two quarterbacks. And like so many other Sundays in the modern history of Bears vs. Packers, only one showed up.

As has been stated by most of the sane folks writing about this franchise, Trubisky had done nothing recently to prove he was the long-term answer at the quarterback position. Nobody is going to pay starting quarterback money to a player that can’t be trusted to throw the football into the end zone and right now Mitch can’t be trusted to do that.

But Trubisky, with the assistance of his head coach and offensive coordinator, had done enough over the last month to show this offense could be productive with him under center. Even historically productive! Sunday he had a chance to cement himself as the front runner to be the team’s starter in September. If, as was argued in this space last week, he simply played to his mean and pitched that mid-90s quarterback rating, the Bears would have had a chance to beat the Packers late and the Trubisky improvement argument would have had some supporting data. He failed.

The Bears have a playoff game next Sunday in New Orleans. Trubisky will be the starter. Against one of the best rush defenses in the league, and a coaching staff that will do everything they can to stop David Montgomery, the Bears will need their quarterback to make plays down the field if they hope to advance. Does anybody believe he can do that?

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Week 17: Packers at Bears Game Preview

| December 31st, 2020


Why Do I Like the Chicago Bears This Week?

I always like the Chicago Bears. And…


Three Things the Bears Must Do To Win

  • Pressure Rodgers. Yes, this seems like an obvious point but it’s even more important with the injuries in the secondary. Rodgers is a master at identifying the weakness in the opposing defense and exploiting it until the score is out of hand. Mike Glennon, with a clean pocket, was able to attack Vildor and Shelley successfully. If Jaylon Johnson doesn’t return, what will Rodgers do to them?
  • Trubisky Plays to His Non-Packers Norm. No, Trubisky is not a great quarterback. But he’s also not the AWFUL player he has been against the Packers.
    • He completes 63.65% of his passes overall. He’s sub-60% against the Packers.
    • His career passer rating is 87.4. It’s 79 – a massive drop – against the Packers.
    • He’s been sacked 110 times overall. 21 of those sacks have come against the Packers. (Detroit got him 13 times, Minnesota 8.)
  • Pound the Ball. 
    • Bucs beat the Packers with 158 yards rushing. Colts beat the Packers with 140 yards rushing. Vikings beat the Packers with 173 yards rushing. Jaguars took the Packers to the wire with 109 yards rushing. The Bears have to know, right now, that anything south of 100 yards rushing won’t get it done against Rodgers and the Packers. This has to be a David Montgomery game.

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The Roquan Smith Game: Rapid Fire Reaction to Bears 41, Jags 17

| December 28th, 2020


Playoff scenario is clear. If the Bears win Sunday, they are in. If the Rams beat the Cardinals, the Bears are in. Simple as that. Somehow the team that many of us left for dead after an absurd collapse against the Detroit Lions is alive and well and living in January.

Some thoughts on Bears 41, Jaguars 17.

  • Yes, Trubisky is going to have several moments in almost every game that leave the world scratching their collective heads. But Mitch’s stat line for the season is now 1,803 yards, 16 TDs, 7 INTs, 95.3 rating. His 2018 stat line was 3,223 yards, 24 TDs, 12 INTs, 95.4 rating. This is what he is as a player and the Bears can win with that.
    • Until yesterday, I had never seen a quarterback attempt a Hail Mary from the 10 yard line. But that’s exactly what Trubisky did. How do you coach this out of a player? Is it even possible?
    • But it’s difficult not to be impressed with his bounce back drive coming out of the half. He had one incomplete pass, was pinpoint accurate and used his legs to get six. His short memory is becoming a real asset.
    • So is his hard count.
  • Was Roquan Smith motivated by his Pro Bowl snub? After a slow start from the defense, Roquan delivered his most dominant performance as a Bear. It will never make any sense that this franchise – which hasn’t had a franchise QB in sixty years – consistently churns out Hall of Fame inside linebackers. Oh and hey, I have a crazy idea! Maybe we should wait to choose who makes the Pro Bowl until after the season is actually over? If voting started today, Smith walks onto the Pro Bowl roster.

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  • The Bears’ identity on offense is quickly becoming clear: they are tough to tackle. David Montgomery. Cole Kmet. Even Darnell Mooney. These guys almost never go down on first contact. This has become a physical group.

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The Spinach Paradigm: Changing Opinions, Based on Circumstances, is Normal.

| December 23rd, 2020


Monday I wrote a piece endorsing the return of Ryan Pace, Matt Nagy and Mitch Trubisky in 2021. The piece in no way insinuated any of these individuals be given ferry boats of cash or long-term extensions. It simply suggested that the offense’s long-awaited improvement, which is now historic for this organization, warranted another look. Players, coaches and systems all develop on their own unique timelines and perhaps this player (Mitch), this coach (Matt) and this system (Matt by way of Bill Lazor) took this long.

“But Jeff, didn’t you say…”

“Jeff, weren’t you the one who suggested…”

“Jeff, after Detroit, you wanted to…”

Yes, I did.

Yes, I was.

Yes, I would have.

But I chose to headline Monday’s column with the words “I Was Wrong” for a reason. Why are we so afraid to be wrong when it comes to sports? What does it matter? We have opinions on things in life every day and circumstances often change those opinions. Hell, there were 782,000 divorces in the United States last year alone.

But a better example…

Jim doesn’t like spinach for the first 32 years of his life. Whenever his wife cooks it, he complains about the smell, complains about the look, tells stories about his mother forcing it on him as a child.

Then he goes to Gene & Georgetti, tries it sautéed with garlic and lemon, and discovers, “Yea, this is good.” Now Jim likes spinach. Does Jim keep telling his wife he doesn’t like it? Does he stay beholden to his previous opinion because he held it for so long he believes it to be part of his culinary identity? No. Of course not. Because he’s not insane. (Unless he is insane, and in that case he would continue to endlessly bash spinach on Twitter while consuming it at levels that would make Popeye blush.)

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I Was Wrong: Tectonic Shift Proves Pace, Nagy and Trubisky Should All Return in 2021

| December 21st, 2020


The Bears scored 30 points again.

The Bears gained 400 yards again.

The quarterback, with the exception of a couple throws, pitched another stellar rating and looked a different player.

There has been a tectonic shift at the crust of the Chicago Bears organization. Matt Nagy, Bill Lazor and Mitch Trubisky have figured it out. Don’t ask me how, but they have. Suddenly the offensive line is a cohesive, powerful unit. David Montgomery is one of the best running backs in the league. Allen Robinson is a bona fide number one. Cole Kmet and Darnell Mooney are two of the more exciting rookie skill guys in the sport. This scattered collection of puzzle pieces has been put together and the picture is a thing of beauty.

Perhaps most importantly, the Bears are playing an exciting, entertaining brand of football. They are a threat to score every single time they get possession. They are a joy to watch.

And guess what? I was wrong.

Yep, someone in sports “media” is saying it.

I was wrong.

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Bears at Vikings Game Preview Volume II: The Stakehouse.

| December 18th, 2020


Why Do I Like the Chicago Bears This Week?

I always like the Chicago Bears…

…and after a few weeks in the darkness of Quitsville, I’m back!


The Stakes

The Bears are 6-7. And this might be the most important game ever played by a 6-7 team.

If the Bears win Sunday, they’ll be 7-7, with Jacksonville on deck. (8-7) That’ll bring the Packers to town, with Tim Boyle likely starting, and a playoff spot likely on the line. If the Bears win Sunday they will be playing meaningful football for 17 weeks at a minimum. That’s how the late Giants owner Wellington Mara defined a successful season. And knew a bit about football.

But winning, especially with another superior offensive effort, would also continue to change the narrative around the head coach. Nobody is firing a head coach who is eight games over (minimum) in his first three years. And if the quarterback pitches another triple-digit quarterback rating? How could the narrative around him not alter slightly as well? Wouldn’t the Bears have to start considering a 2021 prove it deal?

Now if the Bears lose Sunday, their season ends. If they lose Sunday and deliver another lackluster offensive effort against the Vikings, Matt Nagy and Mitch Trubisky go back under the bright interrogative lamps of media and fans. (Hard to imagine Ted Phillips and Ryan Pace won’t be there regardless of these final games.) A loss flips the fourteen-day hourglass and the sand shuffles through on January 4th. That’s when we’ll find out who among the leadership is coming back in 2021.

It’s all at stake Sunday.

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ATM: Can Trubisky Make the 2021 Quarterback Decision Interesting? Yes, He Can.

| December 16th, 2020

As the Chicago Bears offense had roared back to life with Mitch Trubisky under center, some Bears fans are getting excited about what his play can mean for his future and the future of the franchise.

The numbers over the past two weeks have been promising.

  • Two straight games with a passer rating over 100.
  • Averaging eight yards per attempt.
  • Completing about 75% of his passes.

Trubisky is finally playing the way the Bears hoped he would entering the season. But it’s still not good enough. And the most likely scenario remains that Trubisky becomes a compensatory pick for the Bears this off-season.

Lost in the hype of his three-game surge have been four catastrophic turnovers. They could’ve at least been in a shootout against the Packers if not for two horrendous interceptions and a lost fumble. Who knows what would’ve happened without Trubisky’s fumble against the Lions, but when he lost the ball, he made it very difficult for his team to win.

While Trubisky is nearing a 3-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio and playing the best football of his career, the totality of what we have seen isn’t enough for the Bears to even consider investing in him long term.

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