In his weekly press conference at Halas Hall, Mitch Trubisky was asked to go walk through his thought process regrading a 3rd-and-1 RPO that went wrong.
After a brief pause, Trubisky offered this: “Nah. I was told not to talk about the last game. There’s a lot of decisions on each play. There’s like three or four plays built into one. Sometimes it’s the right decision. Sometimes it’s wrong. Sometimes I make the wrong decision, but I make it right with the way I execute it. But we’re moving onto this week.”
While I found it interesting that he was instructed not to talk about the Green Bay by someone who wasn’t his head coach, it was also intriguing for Trubisky to offer up a brief glimpse into what is happening during a given RPO. So let’s take some time to dig into Trubisky and the RPO issues.
Run-pass option plays are at the core of what Nagy’s offense does well. Those plays are designed to give quarterbacks the freedom to fully take advantage of what the defense is giving them after the snap. So in theory, RPOs give quarterbacks the option to run the ball against a defense guarding against the pass or throw when a defense is prepared to stuff the run. But on game day, Trubisky didn’t do well in reading defenses or making decisions in Week 1. Hence, the disjointed offensive effort and a lack of touchdowns.
To be clear RPOs aren’t new to the Bears. They were used sparingly in 2017 during Trubisky’s rookie season, but Chicago excelled when using them to run the football. Back in 2017, the Bears were the NFL’s best RPO run team, averaging 8.1 yards per rushing attempt on those plays. HOWEVER, they were also the league’s worst RPO passing team, averaging 3.4 yards per attempt.
In assessing what happened with his offense the day after the Bears’ Week 1 loss to the Packers, it was interesting that Bears Head Coach Matt Nagy suggested the wonky run-pass play-calling balance wasn’t necessarily because of his play calls.
Nagy’s explanation boils down to run-pass option plays that would have been runs had Trubisky not opted to pass. And while Nagy came short of throwing his quarterback under the bus, it was clear the head coach was coming through loud and clear like a disappointed father figure with a statement saying: “You misdiagnosed some of those RPOs, young man.”
When executed properly, RPOs can be virtually unguardable. But for them to get to that point, the quarterback needs to be on it when it comes to pre-snap reads and make quick, accurate decisions after the snap. If Trubisky can make good reads, the RPO element of this offense will take off and could conceivably open up other avenues. But if it doesn’t happen, the Bears might see more of the same of what they saw in Week 1. GULP.