The blog hasn’t been as active as I’d like lately. Part of it is that I’ve gotten to the point in my life where I don’t put up comments on night games. Instead, I just go to bed and watch the condensed version of the game on Game Pass the next day. It’s much easier to do that when the Bears can’t run a decent offense, as has certainly been the case (again) this season.
It’s also a busy time of the year and, though I love teaching my students, the fall courses that I run don’t allow for much time to write. It makes this blog a better read in the offseason.
In any case, I’m hoping that with the Thanksgiving break I can get a few posts up before things get super busy again.
At this point neither Nick Foles nor Mitch Trubisky has impressed me. Actually, Trubisky has a slightly higher passer rating. If you look at the Baltimore Ravens, Lamar Jackson is a running quarterback who passes when he needs to. I think he is a better athlete than Mitch and the Ravens have intelligently devised an offense to complement his skills. Matt Nagy has tried to make Trubisky into a pocket passer. He will never excel that way. His talents are more like Jackson’s, and Nagy has failed to devise an offense which helps Trubisky. I have a feeling that once Trubisky is released, another team and coach will figure out how best to use him. Perhaps he will become a premier quarterback; players go elsewhere and flourish. In any case, why not play him, giving him option plays. If he succeeds, no need to look for another QB, and if he fails, the Bears move up in the draft. In either case the Bears win. What do you think? — Peter B., Baltimore
You need to understand that high-level quarterback play has to include the ability to not just function but succeed as a pocket passer. That is the NFL. So any coach who has Trubisky would be working with him to improve that aspect of his game. I don’t look at Trubisky and Jackson as being real similar in terms of their skills. Trubisky is dangerous when he runs the ball, but he’s not going to threaten defenses like Jackson does on a weekly basis. The other issue you have is Trubisky has now had shoulder injuries in three consecutive seasons, so there is a bit of a durability concern when you talk about designed runs, which are a big part of the Ravens offense. We’ll see what the coaches aim to do if Trubisky gets back on the field
So there are a couple things to unpack here. Let’s start with the idea that Trubisky is primed to go somewhere else and succeed where he failed with the Bears.
I find this statement to be easy to believe for a couple reasons. First and foremost, I think Peter is right. Matt Nagy really believes in that Kansas City scheme and he didn’t want to have to cut his play book down to ask Trubisky to do less with greater success in his fourth year with the organization. Had he done so – again – I think Trubisky would have done better. He still wouldn’t have been good. But he would have been netter.
Having said that, I can hardly blame Nagy for replacing Trubisky with Foles. It was evident that Trubisky just wasn’t developing and he obviously wasn’t the future here if they were going to run any semblance of the offense Nagy eventually wants to run.
Could Trubisky go somewhere else and develop? I think its possible. One, there might be a better longer term scheme fit out there with simpler reads off of a play action run game. But even more than that, I’ve a sneaking suspicion that Trubisky is just slow to develop. It took him years behind a mediocre quarterback at North Carolina to finally get the starting job. There’s a reason for that. But once he got to the point where he was ready, he was really good. Perhaps that may happen with a new team if Trubisky is given time to develop with a good coaching staff.
Any debate about whether the Bears should actually bring Trubisky back to start should start with the obligatory comment that it all is predicated with the assumption that his shoulder will be healthy enough after the bye to allow him to play. You can consider this to be that statement.
The truth is that there that isn’t much reason for Trubisky to want to risk further injury playing for an offense that is unlikely to highlight his skills for future employers. But I’m sure, like most players, he chose this profession because he wants to play. So I’m guessing he’ll come back if he can.
I hate to advocate for Trubisky to start again because it feels like it’s taking a step back. Trubisky simply wasn’t very good and didn’t look significantly different in the first three games of the season than he had his previous three years as a starter. Bringing him back now seems an awful lot like simply giving up and accepting the fact that you won’t have quality quarterback play for the rest of the year.
However, as Peter pointed out above, it isn’t like Nick Foles has been any better. Foles hasn’t shown the ability to stand tall in the pocket against the pass rush and his mechanics have occasionally been atrocious as a result. True, to my eye he’s better throwing off of his back foot than Trubisky was. But the Bears are last in the league in yards after catch largely because of Foles’ inability to place the ball to a receiver in stride so that a run can result.
It may be necessary to bring Trubisky back. And having said the above, bringing him back might have one or two significant advantages.
I don’t put much stock in the suggestion that Trubisky’s superior mobility is going to bring a lot more production to the offense. Like Biggs above, I believe firmly that in order for a quarterback to be successful in any NFL offense, he has to be able to throw from the pocket. Good teams will contain Trubisky and keep him from burning them by running too often. True, it could provide a boost in isolated spots here and there, but it won’t bring sustained success to the offense over the course of an entire game, let alone all six of the games that are remaining in the season.
But there is one thing that I think might help the offense if Trubisky came back and became the starter again.
At the beginning of the year the coaching staff was putting Trubisky under center far more frequently than they had in the past years. I’m an old-school football fan, a child of the 70s and 80s, and I believe firmly in the sort of downhill running game that putting a quarterback under center can produce along with the kind of play action passing game off of it that can result.
When the Bears switched to Nick Foles to my eye they largely abandoned this philosophy and went more to the shotgun again, something that is more consistent with what Nagy was used to in Kansas City, and probably where Foles felt most comfortable running the offense.
Going back to an offense where the quarterback is under center could improve the run game in the same way it did for the first three games of the year (against inferior opponents, it must be said). That could improve the offense as a whole.
I don’t like it. But it seems evident to me that good quarterback play isn’t going to happen for the Bears this year. And if you accept that, bringing Trubisky back to start again might be the right thing to do.