Well, there’s certainly no denying it anymore: the Chicago Bears offense is in a big-time funk.
The good news is that Head Coach Matt Nagy is doing everything in his power to break quarterback Mitch Trubisky out of what’s been a season-long lull:
The #Bears are preparing to ride with Mitch Trubisky for the rest of the season. Does he have enough time to change his story? Matt Nagy is doing everything and anything to help him. My story. https://t.co/tXbGFZF7CQ
— Adam Jahns (@adamjahns) November 7, 2019
The bad news is that these efforts should have come sooner.
Chicago’s offense looks a lot different today than it did at this time last year – specifically, Trubisky isn’t running as often as he used to – and I believe that’s been one part of his downfall. But while a portion of the reduction in runs can be blamed on scheme and opposing defenses simply doing a better job at containing Trubisky in the pocket, Nagy should wear some of the blame too.
For example …
Mitchell Trubisky on Sunday
2 passes outside pocket
1 designed rush attempt
Strikes me as a curious strategy, considering his extraordinary mobility.
— Paul Hembekides (@PaulHembo) November 4, 2019
Trubisky’s greatest strength – undeniably – is his ability to create plays with his legs. And even though it isn’t awesome that your quarterback’s best skill isn’t throwing, Trubisky has shown an ability to make throws on the run while playing a school-yard, free-for-all type of football in each of his first two seasons (and at times in Year 3).
So why take that away from him? Sprints, roll-outs, and bootlegs should be incorporated into Nagy’s offense weekly for as long as Trubisky is his quarterback. Playing with tempo clearly worked for Trubisky in Washington, but we haven’t seen it since then. What gives?
Well, quarterback-turned-analyst at ESPN Dan Orlovsky made an astute observation during Sunday’s game against the Eagles and it sent chills down my spine:
The Bears coach and play from such a position of fear/failure it is startling to see in comparison to last year…
— Dan Orlovsky (@danorlovsky7) November 3, 2019
There’s no denying Trubisky’s limitations at this point of his career. But those are becoming more evident with each snap in which Trubisky is asked to be something he isn’t. To drive home that point, Orlovsky jumped on ESPN’s “Get Up” program to illustrate how the Baltimore Ravens have properly designed an offense to highlight Lamar Jackson’s strengths as an athlete.
Watch and listen:
— Get Up (@GetUpESPN) November 5, 2019
To be clear, Lamar Jackson is a Heisman Trophy winner whose athletic ability is a tier above Trubisky’s. But let’s not act as if Trubisky is some statue. The guy put up great numbers at the NFL Scouting Combine, and his plays on the run allow him to display those abilities. But there simply haven’t been enough of those called to this point. Maybe we’ll see more of over the next eight games.
One thing I don’t want to see more of this this:
So, of course, the Bears ran the ball for a loss of a yard. pic.twitter.com/jnrRI8ktmf
— Sage Rosenfels (@SageRosenfels18) November 5, 2019
I mean, come on! What are we even doing here?
Running the smallest guy on the team … into the teeth of a stacked box … on a play where he needs to jump over the line to get into the end zone … IS NOT THE IDEAL GOAL-LINE PLAY. Even if it worked (it didn’t) the play’s designs were flawed from the time they lined up. Where is the audible? Where is the counter? Some of it is on Trubisky, for sure. But Trubisky isn’t the designer of a play that spreads out this many receivers in a goal-line setting or asks for the smallest back to be lined up deep in the backfield. Those are coaching decisions.
Speaking of which, this one takes the cake:
CHI decided to punt to PHI from the PHI 44 on 4th & 6 with 2:46 remaining in the 3rd while losing 7 to 19.
With a Surrender Index of 19.45, this punt ranks at the 98th percentile of cowardly punts of the 2019 season, and the 97th percentile of all punts since 2009.
— Surrender Index 90 (@surrender_idx90) November 3, 2019
The coach who said he was going to be more aggressive than conservative went against his word. Punting on a 4th-and-manageable situation on the plus side of the field while trailing by 12 points is borderline cowardly. The #PuntToWin hashtag is used in jest and is not supposed to be taken as a serious suggestion. Nagy was supposed to be more like Doug Pederson and less like John Fox.
Indeed, we wrote as much after he was hired.
He also said it, too:
Nagy on his play calling: "Aggressive. That’s my nature. But it’s gotta be calculated."
— Adam Hoge (@AdamHoge) January 9, 2018
“Calculated” … and yet:
I asked Matt Nagy a question about analytics this week in our conference call with him. He said, "Yeah, we're not much into analytics like some other teams."
— Jimmy Kempski (@JimmyKempski) November 3, 2019
EEK! Not quite what I wanted to hear from a widely renowned offensive guru who worked under two coaches whose decisions to go for it are rooted in analytics.
Chicago’s offense shouldn’t have regressed in this manner Not with a highly-regarded offensive line that was set to return in full force and with a clean bill of health, a group of skill position players led by a healthy Allen Robinson (who we last saw torching the Eagles defense in what was the greatest postseason performance by a Bears receiver in team history), and a collection of running backs who were supposed to provide an upgrade. It was all supposed to add up to Mitch Trubisky taking another step forward in his third year as a pro and second in Nagy’s offense. But it hasn’t.
No, Trubisky hasn’t held up his end of the bargain. But Nagy himself is often quick to point out it’s not all the quarterback’s fault. That means issues elsewhere have popped up, which suggests the coach should probably look in the mirror when he starts searching for reasons as to why things aren’t as good as they should be.