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Looking Ahead to Trubisky’s Final 10 Games (Through Paul Simon’s Eyes)

| October 24th, 2018

This column comes not to defend the quarterback of the Chicago Bears because the quarterback of the Chicago Bears requires no defense. This column comes to defend three elements missing from modern sports discourse: patience, perspective and rational thought.

Mitch Trubisky is an inexperienced signal caller in his second year. Sunday was his 18th start – his sixth in a new, complicated offensive system. Through this period there have been plenty of good and plenty of bad to evaluate in the kid’s performances. And that puts Trubisky in the same category as just about every other young quarterback to come through the ranks of the NFL; a fact seemingly lost on the many social media football fans who believe Sean is the patriarch of the McVay Football Family.

Aaron Rodgers and Steve McNair were non-existent at this point in their NFL careers. Troy Aikman and Peyton Manning were throwing the ball to the other team far more than their own. Drew Brees, the league’s all-time passing leader, was so mediocre his team took a quarterback number one overall after his third season.

But fans are in a panic. Why? Because Patrick Mahomes has been an exception to this general rule. But the pre-professional experience of Mahomes/Trubisky should not be discounted. Mahomes threw 1,349 passes at Texas Tech. Trubisky threw 572 at North Carolina. The difference? Roughly Sam Darnold’s career at USC. As a current NFL GM texted me Monday, “You couldn’t draw up a better developmental path for a young QB than what Mahomes got.” Trubisky got a year of hand it off, hand it off, dodge a sack on third-and-long.

Nobody is arguing Trubisky is going to be better than Mahomes. But, honestly, who gives a shit? It’s not like Mahomes is in Detroit! Barring the two clubs both ending up in the Super Bowl, these two quarterbacks will be on the same field in their careers what, three times if both stick in the league for a decade plus?

(Side note: Notice nobody is yelling about taking Trubisky over Deshaun Watson anymore? That’s because Watson doesn’t look like he’s even going to physically make it to the end of his rookie contract. Sadly, many of us predicted this due to his frame and playing style. The league needs more Watsons, not less. But Watson should be a warning: the first seven games of one’s career do not a career make.)

Trubisky has work to do over the final ten games of 2018 because (a) he needs to get better, (b) the Bears can still achieve things this season and (c) the organization is building massive momentum for next season. And since I’m in a Paul Simon mood these days, I’m using the music legend to frame the discussion.


A Mile Out of Memphis

Accuracy has been Trubisky’s biggest issue through the first six games of the 2018 season and it’s been two routes in particular that have given him issues: the quick, mid-range out and the deep vertical, specifically over the middle.

Here’s the fact, though: Trubisky is not an inaccurate passer. He’s completing 65.9% of his passes, which is a higher rate than Ben Roethlisberger, Pat Mahomes, Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson. And Trubisky is not tossing screens or easy dump-offs, even though he probably should be throwing more of both. He’s throwing the ball down the field. Just as he’s 15th in completion percentage, he’s 15th in yards-per-attempt.

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Not Quite Ready For Primetime Players: Bears Fall to 3-3 After Losing to Patriots

| October 22nd, 2018

Staff Photo By Nancy Lane/Boston Herald


Not a particularly difficult game to diagnose. So here comes the diagnosis:

  • Two special teams touchdowns. Nobody is beating the New England Patriots if they allow them 14 points on specials. Cody Parkey had been consistently knocking kickoffs through the end zone until Sunday and his failure to do so again cost the Bears dearly. Punt blocks simply can’t happen.
  • But that punt block and the Mitch Trubisky interceptions shared a theme: want to. The Patriots played with more heat, more fire, more passion. They wanted the fifty-fifty throws. They went after the punt. I wrote last week that the Bears needed to match the fever pitch of their fans in the building. They did not.
  • Trubisky had a truly strange game that will be difficult to evaluate until coach tape becomes available. He was harassed in the pocket and that harassment definitely caused accuracy issues. But without his ability to improvise and run, the Bears would have likely been blown out of this game. His scrambling touchdown run is one of the best plays by a Bears QB in decades.
  • The running game is broken. This has been coming all season long but yesterday, officially, it broke. Matt Nagy is still suffering through growing pains as the team’s play caller and utilizing his rushing attack is the biggest pain. Because Jordan Howard is never going to thrive on 12 carries a game. That’s not who he is as a player. Howard wears down the defense with his physicality. He’s a bruiser. And the Bears are using him like he’s T.J. Duckett.
  • Khalil Mack is hurt. And the team needs to sit him down and get him right. Using him as a decoy is not effective.

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ATM: Sunday’s Offensive Explosion Was Not a Fluke

| October 2nd, 2018

While there almost certainly won’t be another game quite like it, Sunday’s performance by the Bears offense was far from a fluke.

After falling behind Arizona by 14 points, Mitch Trubisky started to look more comfortable. Suddenly the pressure was off and it looked like the Bears had an actual offense. Here’s how the Bears did in that second half:

  • Punt
  • Touchdown
  • Field goal
  • Field goal
  • Punt — after trying to kill the clock.

From halftime in Arizona, the Bears scored on 11 of their next 16 drives. One of the non-scoring drives was a single play before halftime. Another was simply an attempt to run out the clock.

The Arizona game should’ve been a sign that something better was coming. They scored 13 points in the second half of that game, a good half for any team. And against Tampa Bay, it all clicked.

That isn’t a coincidence. Nagy and Trubisky got together and figured out how to turn three into seven, according to what the Bears coach told Peter King in his Football Morning in American column:

“Our lessons this week was let’s just sit together and let’s figure out why we’re struggling on our offense and see if we can find some answers,” Nagy said. “We on offense had by far our best week of practice all week long. More specifically, in the red zone, because that’s where we’ve been struggling.”

Here’s how the Bears opened against Tampa Bay:

  • Touchdown
  • Punt
  • Touchdown
  • Touchdown
  • Touchdown
  • Touchdown
  • Field goal

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Monday Musings: A Few Final Thoughts Ahead of Tonight’s Game vs Seattle

| September 17th, 2018

Photo by Otto Greule Jr of Getty Images


The Bears host the Seattle Seahawks tonight and, since I’m DBB’s resident Pacific Northwest dweller, who better to share some last minute pregame thoughts? So here it goes:

I’m still stinging from last week’s loss (and you probably are, too) but let’s hope the Bears have moved on…

There’s no way to get around it: Last week hurt. No team should blow a 20-point lead, even if they’re facing one of the greatest QBs of all time. It was a missed opportunity to start the season with a statement win, but in the end Green Bay just found a different way to break our collective hearts. That being said, Week One needs to be the last thing on the Bears’ mind when they run out onto Soldier Field tonight. I’ve mentioned my love of tennis and Roger Federer before, and one of the things that makes him great is his fantastic ability to erase painful losses from his memory. He learns, but he doesn’t dwell. Let’s hope the Bears take the same approach.


Ah, memories…

The last time the Bears played the Seahawks was 2015 in Seattle. It was the 3rd game of John Fox’s tenure, and Jimmy Clausen was starting in place of an injured Jay Cutler. The Bears lost 26-0. (I don’t care enough to check, but I’m pretty sure the Bears only managed one first down the entire game.) I watched with a handful of Seahawks fans, and honestly it was so pathetic they couldn’t even muster the energy to make fun of me. Regardless of how disappointing last week’s loss was, it doesn’t hurt to remember that things used to be much, much worse.


This game feels about as “must win” for the Bears as any Week 2 game could…

The Bears have the more talented roster going into tonight’s game, and that was true even before Bobby Wagner, Doug Baldwin, and KJ Wright were declared out, with several other key Seahawks players listed as doubtful. If the Bears can’t manage a win at home against a rebuilding and busted up Seattle team, then we might be in for a much rougher season than any of us were expecting.

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On Greatness, Desire, Tennis, and Trubisky

| July 23rd, 2018

We’re almost there, guys.

The Chicago Bears have started training camp, and the first preseason game follows in a few weeks! It’s great news for all of us at DBB, considering the most exciting thing that’s happened in the Bears’ universe over the last two months is Jay Cutler killing it on his wife’s new reality show.

Data and Andrew have done a fantastic job breaking down players, stats, and expectations for the 2018 season, and frankly my attention has been focused on other sports. And since at the exact moment of writing this article we’re still left with not much more than anticipation for the upcoming season, I’m going to spend a little bit of time reflecting on my other favorite sport: tennis.



Right now I imagine some of you would prefer I’d just write about politics again, but fear not, this is still DBB, and I promise to work the Bears in…eventually! Just indulge me for a bit. It’s summer, the days are long, and we still have time to meander.

While I fell in love with football as a small kid, I didn’t come to follow tennis until much later. It was 2008, and I was sick at home in the middle of a boring September afternoon, flipping through the channels. I came across the US Open. I figured I’d give it a try.

Tennis isn’t the most intuitive of sports, so I spent the first few hours bemused as to how a score could possibly go from 15 to 30 to 40 to game over, and just how many games do they have to play, anyways, and also what the fuck is a “let”?

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Data Entry: Self-Scouting Chicago’s 2017 Offense

| February 6th, 2018

Chicago’s offense was generally bad in 2017. We all know this. They finished 30th in the NFL in yards per game and 29th in points scored.

Those types of basic stats are easy for anybody to look up, and they can help paint an overall picture of how effective a unit performed. They do not. however, tell a complete tale. It can be useful to look deeper and see in what areas the Bears might have struggled, as well as where they might have done well. This can be useful to help identify specific areas of strength to build on going forward, as well as areas that need to be addressed through personnel and/or scheme improvements.

In an effort to do this, I used the NFL Game Statistics Information System to look at Chicago’s offensive stats in a bit more detail. I broke down rushing and passing attempts by areas of the field to see where they target the most and how successful they are. Let’s have a look.

Rushing Attack

Chicago’s overall run game was solid in 2017; they finished 16th in rushing yards, 11th in yards per carry, and 11th in touchdowns. Now let’s break it down by different areas of the field.

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Data Entry: Searching for Stats to Contextualize Trubisky’s Rookie Season

| January 30th, 2018

I recently looked at Trubisky’s rookie performance in “quarters” – four-game sets – and found that he showed continual growth in both usage and efficiency (in all areas but throwing touchdowns) as the season progressed.

Now I want to look at how that growth compares to other recent quarterbacks in their rookie seasons. Do quarterbacks who are going to be good show more growth during their rookie season? Do those who stay the same, or get worse, tend to bust?

The Set-Up

I looked at all QBs drafted in the 1st round who played at least twelve games of their rookie season within the last 10 years and tracked their progress in four-game samples. All data was compiled using the Pro Football Reference game play finder. Allow me a brief explanation of my 3 limits:

  • 1st Round Picks. I wanted players similar to Trubisky, who were drafted with the expectation of playing early. Later round picks often have to earn the job so I didn’t want to include them and skew the data.
  • In the Last 10 years. The NFL passing game continues to evolve, as does the college passing game that prepares them for the NFL. Comparing rookie QBs now to rookie QBs from 20 years ago just isn’t reasonable. Heck, even comparing now to 10 years ago isn’t great, but cutting it much shorter than that really limits the sample size, which is already pretty small.
  • Who Played Twelve Games as Rookies. I’m tracking growth in four-game samples, and two sets of data isn’t really enough, so twelve games gives some sort of growth trend through at least 3 sets.

These stipulations gave me a sample size of 16 quarterbacks: Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Mark Sanchez, Sam Bradford, Cam Newton, Blaine Gabbert, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannehill, Brandon Weeden, Andrew Luck, Teddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles, Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, Carson Wentz, and Mitch Trubisky.

Before doing this study, it seemed fairly logical to me that most rookie QBs would naturally improve as the season wore on. After all, they’re brand new at this and facing a steep growth curve. And you usually get better at your job within the first few months, right?

Also, take into consideration that most of these quarterbacks were starters from day one of training camp, let alone the regular season. Trubisky faced the unique scenario of not seeing first-team reps until after the first quarter, as the Bears prepared to face what was then the league’s best defense.

Nevertheless, we look at the numbers.

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Week 17: NYE Bears at Vikings Game Preview

| December 28th, 2017

Why Do I Like the Chicago Bears This Week?

I always like the Chicago Bears. And I like them even more after seeing their young nucleus live. This week I’m peppering the preview with a couple of my favorite finales in musical theatre history. Why? Because I run things around here and realistically can do whatever the hell I want.


Poem

Enter twenty-eighteen.

Never has the calendar been more desperate for change.

Daylight approaches, I promise.


Fiddler

As great as Fiddler on the Roof is, and I think it’s the greatest musical ever written, it is never quite given enough credit for how bold it is in its storytelling. Fiddler is not a tragedy but it ends tragically, with the Jewish citizens of a Russian village forced to leave their home, Anatevka. The song is a funeral dirge, a self-deprecating requiem for a way of life these people know they’ll never find again. But there is optimism in this dour ballad, even if it’s difficult to find. Because these people are going to a new world, a new frontier, creating a new America.


Some Thoughts on the Actual Game

  • There is a scenario wherein the Vikings are not the second seed in the NFC playoffs. Far-fetched but it exists. And that should be enough to motivate them all week. And if they’re motivated, the game is over. At halftime Sunday the Bears led the Browns 6-3 in one of the more lifeless halves of football ever played. If the Bears play a similar half in Minneapolis they’ll be down two or three touchdowns because the Vikings are simply not the Browns. They’re quite good.

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Merry Christmas: Bears Win AFC North

| December 25th, 2017

All thoughts from inside the building. If you could see same thing on TV, well fine then. Some of this was shared on Twitter yesterday.

  • Mitch does something very weird. When the window is tight he sets his feet and throws darts. When he has time and an open man, he loses concentration a bit. Passes sail. Very fixable.
  • Biggest thing I saw: my god this team loves their quarterback. Every guy on the roster is clearly rooting for him. When he makes a good play, 20 guys wanna celebrate with him.
  • Two things on Akiem Hicks. First, I’ve never seen a larger ass. It’s got to be 3 feet wide. Second, he’s spent. There’s no way he should suit up next week against Minnesota.
  • Eddie Goldman is way faster in the building than he is on television. And hustles on every single play.
  • Kyle Fuller is playing with so much confidence right now. Kizer continually throwing at him was nonsensical. 
  • Before the start of the second half, the two things receiving the loudest in-building reaction were: (a) the announcement that halftime’s frisbee golf competition was canceled and (b) the playing of Bon Jovi’s Livin’ on a Prayer
  • Mitch got bailed out on his horrible screen pass/pick 6 but came back and executed the screen game to perfection after that play. Once again, he doesn’t run from his mistakes. He embraces them and improves.

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Week 15: Bears at Lions Game Preview

| December 14th, 2017

Why Do I Like the Chicago Bears This Week?

I always like the Chicago Bears. And yes, they may have fooled me last week. Again.


Poem

once more unto the breach, dear friends, he wrote

and so i do commit myself to battle

many know not to trust these capricious lads

many, like i, are merely cattle

so unto the breach i go, once more

believing, yes always believing

and surely you know, come saturday night

i shall, once again, be grieving


Five Thoughts on The Actual Game

  • Don’t look now but Jordan Howard is only 73 yards behind Le’Veon Bell in the race for the NFL rushing title. In their first meeting this season, Howard put 125 yards on the board and the Lions defense has actually gotten worse at stopping the run since. Just last week they allowed the Bucs, one of the league’s worst running teams, to average nearly 5 yards a carry. Could be a big Saturday afternoon for the unheralded Bears superstar.

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