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ATM: Strong Finish Would Earn Trubisky Another Chance

| December 3rd, 2019


Thanksgiving

And just like that, another quarterback has thrown his hat in the ring to be the starting quarterback for the Chicago Bears in 2020: Mitch Trubisky.

It wasn’t perfect, but for the first time this year Trubisky looked like an actual NFL quarterback. It wasn’t just that he threw more great passes on Thanksgiving than he has all season. It’s that he looked composed. He went through his progressions and he made plays even after the defense took the initial look away. The head coach, who is clearly frustrated with the quarterback’s inability to run the offense, came away impressed.

“Today was Mitch’s day. It was his day.”

After noting that his last two touchdown passes were to players who weren’t the initial reads, Matt Nagy said, “That’s growth for Mitchell. Getting through progression one, progression two and making plays happen. I think that’s probably what I’m most proud about.”

For one day, Nagy had an NFL quarterback and the offense made plays when they needed to. And it wasn’t just about statistics, even though the statistics were terrific.

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Making Sense of Mitch Trubisky (in bullet points)

| November 13th, 2019


Mitch Trubisky’s last four performances are some of the strangest by a Bears quarterback in recent memory. Since hitting what I believe was his rock bottom against the Saints, he has strung together a series of bizarre decisions, errant throws, poor mechanics and occasional, yet all-too-infrequent, thrilling moments. Trubisky is no longer an enigma. He’s no longer difficult to evaluate. He’s a backup quarterback.

Other thoughts, based on observations and conversations…

  • The boys at the Tribune did a nice job breaking down this entire Trubisky saga in tireless detail. I’d be very surprised if Dave Ragone is on this coaching staff in 2020. And he shouldn’t be.
  • For those wondering why the Bears aren’t turning to Chase Daniel, it’s simple: they are hoping (and praying) something clicks in Trubisky and he turns this thing around. They’re no longer relying on that to occur but they know it’s the best possible outcome for the organization this season as the playoffs drift further and further from reality.
  • From a well-placed source within the organization: Matt Nagy has grown increasingly frustrated with Trubisky’s inability to process and execute the game plan. That game plan was significantly dialed back for Detroit and will continue to be down the stretch.
  • Is Trubisky playing hurt? He has to be. Otherwise there’s no explanation for his passing up countless first downs on the ground. Both the Eagles and Lions sold out to stop the run/rush the passer, leaving their corners on an island and acres of space in the middle of the field. When Trubisky has had opportunities to exploit that space with his legs, he’s passed. It makes no sense. Unless he’s hurt.
  • The same folks blaming the offensive line in Chicago out of the left side of their mouths are praising Deshaun Watson’s improvisational skills out of the right side of their mouths. If you watch Houston play, you’ll realize something: they have no offensive line. Watson, and the MVP front-runner Russell Wilson, extend drives and make plays with their athleticism. Trubisky does not. And that’s why he was drafted. The Bears never expected him to sit in the pocket like Eli Manning or Joe Flacco. They expected him to move and create. They expected football instincts. They expected excitement. They’re getting none.

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ATM: Welcome to the Hot Seat, Ryan Pace

| November 5th, 2019

It seems like a foregone conclusion that Ryan Pace’s job is safe. But should it be?

The 2019 Bears are looking at a 6-10 season, just one win better than the embarrassing, dysfunctional 2014 team Pace inherited. We haven’t gotten the consecutive embarrassing losses or locker room fights like we did in 2014, but there’s still time.

The talent levels of the teams aren’t all that different when you consider very few of the offensive starters from the 2019 version would start for the 2014 team and the gigantic difference at quarterback. This defense is a lot better than the 2014 unit but you could still argue a couple defenders from that squad — Jay Ratliff and Willie Young — would start on this year’s defense.

2019 will never reach 2014 in terms of dysfunction, but they may be well past them in terms of disappointment.

The Bears will be winning fewer than eight games for the fourth time in Pace’s five years as general manager and his decision to take Mitchell Trubisky over a sure thing in Deshaun Watson and a guy some already consider to be the best quarterback they’ve ever seen in Patrick Mahomes has become a joke. NFL owners don’t like when their team is a joke.

One can argue that Pace actually built a very strong and talented roster, but this is a quarterback’s league and is there’s any reason to think Pace can get that position right?

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I’m Not Going To Write the Same Column Every Week

| November 4th, 2019


These are not the numbers of an NFL quarterback.

NFL quarterbacks don’t require their receivers be ten yards clear of defenders to complete a pass.

NFL quarterbacks – even backups – don’t miss wide open targets at this rate.

NFL quarterbacks have pocket presence, understand where pressure is coming from, check into the right plays…etc.

Sunday, at Soldier Field, against the Detroit Lions, Chase Daniel should be the Bears starting quarterback. Not because he’s the future. He’s clearly not. But because Mitch Trubisky can’t play. He’s a bad football player. And the Bears should not force their fans to watch him any longer.

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ATM: Nagy Can’t Be Judged Until He Gets a QB

| October 29th, 2019

Matt Nagy’s decision to sit on the ball late Sunday, instead of trying to line up for a more manageable field goal, was further confirmation of what we already know: he needs a new quarterback. While Twitter experts go back-and-forth on who is to blame, the simple truth is that Nagy doesn’t trust Mitch Trubisky. As long as that’s the case, the Bears can’t win.

It wasn’t always the case.

In a similar situation in the playoff loss last year, the head coach let Trubisky throw deep. Had Trubisky thrown accurately there would have been no such thing as “the double doink”. Somewhere along the way (Week One, perhaps?) Trubisky lost his coach’s faith. And he isn’t doing anything to get it back. Week-by-week, the quarterback misses reads, misses throws and loses.

At this point, arguing for Trubisky is admitting bias. Even when the quarterback does good things, he also makes big mistakes and Sunday was a classic example. It could’ve been one of the best games of the young quarterback’s career. He made throws down the field. He thread the needle in a tight spot. For the first time all season, he made a play with his legs.

But he still lost the game.

He threw a horrendous, demoralizing interception.

He missed a wide open touchdown.

He then fumbled to set up the game-winning drive.

How could anybody ask Nagy to call a play in which the quarterback could lose the game when he was looking at an easy field goal? When it came down to trusting his young kicker or his young quarterback, Nagy chose the kicker.

Turns out there was no right choice.

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At 3-3, the 2019 Season is Not Lost With Ten Games Remaining

| October 23rd, 2019


The argument could be simply made.

“Hey, the Bears were 3-3 last season and look how that turned out!”

It’d be hard to argue against because it is factually correct. But all 3-3s are not created equal and the story of the first six games of this Chicago Bears season is not their record. It is the futility of the quarterback and the questions now surrounding the most important position in sports moving forward.

But even now that we know Mitch Trubisky is not the guy, that does not mean these final ten games of the 2019 campaign get discarded into the “playing out the string” bin. While the Bears are very, very unlikely to reach the lofty heights many of us expected, this season can still be a successful one.

How?


Win More Than You Lose

One of the most important elements to being a winning franchise is being a winning franchise. (Jeez, Jeff, thanks for the insight.) And if you think having back-to-back winning seasons is meaningless, here’s a piece of information for you: the Chicago Bears have only had back-to-back winning seasons TWICE since 1994. That’s two times, in 25 years. 1994-1995. 2005-2006.

(Side note: It is 100% pathetic that this franchise has not had three consecutive winning seasons since 1988.)

For Matt Nagy’s program, getting to at least nine wins is crucial towards building a winning culture.


Improve Offensively

The coach is still an offensive head coach.

A lot of the players on this offense are coming back in 2020. (At least I think they are.)

This group needs to find some production if for no other reason than to rebuild optimism for next season, even if the quarterback is changing. Find some rhythm. And find some damn points. If they don’t, it won’t take long for Matt Nagy to go from Coach of the Year to Hot Seat.


Get Something Out of the Quarterback

Mitch is not the guy. But barring odd developments in the next six months, he’s going to be one of the guys in Bourbonnais next summer. The Bears should be signing a veteran starter in March and drafting a potential starter in April. But if Trubisky is coming to camp, the Bears want him to at least arrive with the belief that he can win the job.

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ATM: These Eleven Games Will Define Mitch Trubisky

| October 16th, 2019


Reality came quickly for Marcus Mariota, as the former second pick overall was benched Sunday for Ryan Tannehill. His tenure as the starting quarterback of the Tennessee Titans seems to have come to an end after four seasons and change.

Mariota’s story should serve as a warning for Mitch Trubisky who, for better of worse, has eleven games to show the Chicago Bears if he’s the quarterback of their future. If the Bears are smart, they won’t wait any longer than that, or waste any more time, to make their judgment about the most position in all of sports.

Like Trubisky, Mariota was expected to make a big leap in his third season, after throwing 26 touchdowns in his second. He was expected to become the franchise quarterback nearly everyone – which included Ryan Pace – thought he was destined to be.

But Mariota never took off. His third season was a bust with (13 TDs/15 INTs). His fourth season showed some promise (11/8), but included numerous injuries and ultimately most of his success came running the football. The most complimentary way to describe his start to 2019 was ineffective.

Perhaps Mariota will rebound, most likely somewhere else? History tells us he won’t.

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Can the Bears Defense Make Quarterback “Just Another Position” & Other Questions at the Quarter Mark

| October 2nd, 2019

Four games are now in the books. Here are four questions for the Chicago Bears.


(1) Can the defense make quarterback “just another position”?

When Mitch Trubisky went off the field Sunday, for what looked like a significant period of time, there was a feeling of “uh oh, season over”. Then Chase Daniel stepped in and it just…wasn’t. Nobody would argue the Bears are better long-term with Daniel behind center. But there have been plenty of Super Bowl champion defenses – Dilfer’s Ravens, Big Ben’s first Steelers, Peyton’s Broncos – who have carried mediocrity at QB to a title. Normally backup quarterback = losing. But could the Bears defense be good enough to change that equation?


(2) Can they keep their starters on the field?

The Bears have suffered more injuries and weirdness in a month than they suffered all of 2018. Bobbie Massie vertigo? Roquan Smith personal reasons? Hicks, Trubisky, Nichols and Long hurt. Gabriel concussed. Eddy Pineiro hurt his knee doing what exactly in the weight room? It’s beyond cliched to write an NFL season is a war of attrition but there’s truly no better to state that obvious fact. Look at how narrow the gaps are at the top of the NFC. It’s very likely the team making it to Miami in February will be the team that stays healthiest.


(3) Where is the run game?

The Bears are bottom ten in both yards per carry and rushing yards per game. Not sustainable. Not when the roster is constructed the way it is in Chicago. The Bears have not been as good as expected in the middle of their offensive line but one can only expect a more comfortable Daniels and hopefully-healthy Long will improve as the season moves along. That coupled with a commitment to David Montgomery should get things going, right?

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Bears Beat Redskins, Move to 2-1: Rapid Fire

| September 24th, 2019


It was the kind of game it should be. The Bears were the far better team and they won with relative ease. Here are some thoughts.

  • Mitch Trubisky was not great. But this game was a serious positive. A few bad throws. A few terrific moments. But overall he just seemed far more comfortable operating the offense.
  • David Montgomery has to get more carries moving forward. He averaged 5.2 yards per carry on 13 attempts last night. That’s ten too few. Montgomery wears down defenses. The offense will be at its best when it moves through the rookie.
  • Don’t think I’ve ever seen a more negligent offensive game plan than Washington’s. Had they not heard of Khalil Mack? Did he catch them off guard? Singling him with a tight end? Mack is the second best defensive player in the entire sport. And on nights like last night, he’s second to none.
  • Injuries starting to mount. Pineiro. Hicks. Gabriel. Nichols already on the shelf. The Bears are playing a huge divisional game, on a short week, potentially short-handed.
  • HaHa Clinton-Dix looked like Eddie Jackson.
  • Two weeks ago, Danny Tevathan looked like he was on the decline. Last night he looked like the best player on the field at times.
  • What the hell was up with all the offsides penalties? The Bears have a brilliant defense but they better be more disciplined against better opponents.
  • Cordarrelle Patterson wants to make plays. But does he have to take the ball out of the end zone on every kickoff?

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ATM: Bears Season Begins Now, and Nagy Needs to Trust Trubisky

| September 18th, 2019

After two wonky games to officially open the NFL season, we’re soon to find out who the 2019 Bears are. That will only happen, however, if the coach starts trusting the QB.

A 1-1 start to the season always seemed likely since – as was well documented throughout last week – nobody wins in Denver in Week 2. (Of course nobody predicted what actually took place down the stretch.) The demise of the team’s defense was greatly exaggerated. Reports of an offensive regression, however, don’t appear to have been aggressively predicted enough.

One of the biggest things to emerge from the win over Denver was Matt Nagy flat out not trusting his quarterback. The Bears had third downs and between two and three yards SIX times in the game and chose to run the ball on four of them. Do coaches who trust their quarterbacks take the ball out of their hands this often? I don’t think so.

It’s not uncommon for teams to run in those situations, but it is odd for them to insist on running it like the Bears did. After the game, Nagy said he intentionally had a conservative game plan in order to keep his defense rested, in the heat and high altitude. Perhaps that helped prevent the collapse until late in the fourth quarter but scoring points would’ve made any incoming collapse less significant.

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