The Chicago Bears have backed Zach Miller at every turn since suffering a career-altering leg injury in 2017. And even though Miller hasn’t contributed any catches, receiving yards, or touchdowns, he is re-paying the Bears in ways we’re not seeing in the box score.
SI.com’s Kalyn Kahler explores Miller’s life with the Bears nearly 12 months and nine surgeries after a gruesome leg injury ended his 2017 season and changed his football life. Kahler provides a behind-the-scenes look at what Miller does at Halas Hall since he isn’t on the field these days. And frankly, Miller has a busy schedule. On top of his rehab, you can find Miller breaking down film, sharing insight and analysis with teammates, and chopping it up with Head Coach Matt Nagy while feeling out the team’s vibe.
Miller has a lot on his plate these days, even if he isn’t suiting up every Sunday. But his most important role might be that of quarterback whisperer.
“He’s looked after me ever since I got here,” Trubisky said of Miller in an expansive piece by Kahler, who explores Miller’s new life and roles with the Bears. “I’m the oldest of four, so I don’t have an older brother. I definitely look at him as an older brother and someone I can talk to at any time about anything.”
This isn’t your run-of-the-mill bromance. Sure, Miller and Trubisky share the same barber and have been spotted hanging out together at Bulls games. But if you’ve been watching the Bears closely, you’ll see that wherever Trubisky goes, Miller isn’t that far behind. That kind of brotherly love in the confines of the Bears world is paying dividends in Trubisky’s growth.
Remember when Trubisky threw that awful interception against the Bills in Week 10? Yeah, I’d rather forget it, too. But when a clearly peeved Trubisky walked off the field, Miller was there for his bro to calm him down. Allow Kahler to paint the picture:
“Despite a 31-3 lead, Trubisky aggressively unsnapped his helmet strap and slapped his hands together in frustration as he walked off the field. He took a seat on the bench and shook his head as he reviewed photos of the play on a tablet. Miller approached from the far side of the bench, where the tight ends were congregated, and took a seat right next to Trubisky. Dude, forget about it. Are you kidding me? We’re smoking them right now and you’re doing your job. Just go out there and make plays like you always do. Trubisky nodded and relaxed.”
From there, Trubisky would rebound, lead the Bears on another scoring drive (one that ended with a Trey Burton touchdown) as the Bears cruised to victory. A week later, Trubisky had what might have been the greatest single-game performance for a Bears QB in team history.
This quote from Trubisky regarding Miller’s presence speaks volumes about what Miller has brought to the team: “Anytime it doesn’t look good, he immediately comes over and it’s like a calming presence,” Trubisky said. “He tells me exactly how it is . . . I forget about what happened and I try to make more good plays.”
I find myself hesitant to directly link Trubisky’s success to Miller’s soothing presence, but it’s worth pointing out that Miller was once a quarterback himself back in college. So if you’re keeping tabs on how the Bears front office has approached their attempt to get the most out of Trubisky, you’ll probably see a pattern in the people who are around him the most:
- Head Coach Matt Nagy (played quarterback in college and in the Arena League before becoming a QBs Coach and Offensive Coordinator)
- Offensive Coordinator Mark Helfrich (college QB at the NAIA level, college OC/QBs Coach)
- Quarterbacks Coach Dave Ragone (3-time honorable mention All-American QB at Louisville, 2005 NFL Europe Offensive MVP)
- Offensive Quality Control Coach Mike Snyder (Passing Game Coordinator/QBs Coach in high school; QBs Coach at collegiate level at Wingate)
- Zach Miller (QB at University of Nebraska-Omaha from 2005-09)
That’s a lot of quarterback coaching for a signal caller who needed it after a rough rookie season (but is straight-up killing it lately).
When Miller was healthy, he and Trubisky built a bit of a rapport on the field. Miller was something of a safety blanket during his developmental stages. Now, Miller provides that security net from the sidelines.
Reading through Kahler’s piece, it seems as if Miller has a knack for connecting with players and coaching them up. Perhaps if his playing career is truly over, Miller could find himself upgrading from player-coach-motivational-man-behind-the-curtain to full-time assistant. In any case, the team’s most important player seems to have taken to his big brother’s teachings. Proving once again that value isn’t always found in a number on a stat sheet.