On Sunday afternoon, Mitch Trubisky took the field with 1:31 left in regulation and his eyes set on a game-winning (or, at least, game-tying) drive against the Detroit Lions. But to do so, he would have to do it without two of his most productive offensive assets.
Tight end Adam Shaheen (who was Pro Football Focus’ top-rated tight end in Week 11) and running back Tarik Cohen (who scored a game-tying touchdown earlier in the fourth quarter) were not on the field in crunch time. Instead, backup tight end Daniel Brown was lined up in the slot and third-string running back Benny Cunningham was in the backfield next to Trubisky with the game in the balance. Head Coach John Fox explained his rationale behind sitting Shaheen and Cohen after the game, citing each player’s inexperience in the team’s two-minute offense.
On Monday, Fox doubled down on why he sided with experience over upside.
“The fact that you don’t huddle and they have to know what’s going on, regardless of what position they play, I think most of the guys out there are veteran guys, and there’s a lot to know when you don’t huddle. There’s a lot of football to understand,” Fox said, via Chris Emma of CBS Chicago. “That’s not the first time it’s been that way. It’s been that way all the way back to Atlanta, which was our opener, even with a different quarterback. I don’t really know much else how to answer that, other than it takes a lot of understanding to execute that.”
Leaving Cohen and Shaheen on the sideline during the team’s final offensive possession wasn’t the only curious decision Fox made in Week 11.
Wide receiver Dontrelle Inman didn’t play on each of the final 11 offensive snaps either, which is a bit of a head-scratcher considering his ability to stretch the field vertically and his early connection with Trubisky. Inman has nine catches and has averaged 14.9 yards per reception in two games since joining the Bears. Markus Wheaton (who is just two weeks removed from returning to the active roster after missing time with a groin injury) and Tre McBride III (who played 19 total snaps in Week 11) saw snaps on the final drive while Cohen and Shaheen could only watch.
In any case, this is worth repeating: Without Trubisky’s ridiculously crazy scramble, the Bears’ final offensive drive would have ended without their best personnel on the field. And if it’s a matter of certain guys learning the offense, then that work needs to be put in (especially with the team’s best players). The Bears are putting Trubisky on the field in the most important time of the game without his best playmakers, and if the goal is to win games and develop the rookie at the same time, this is unacceptable.