Kyle Long isn’t giving up on Mitch Trubisky.
Nor is he giving up on Matt Nagy.
In fact, it sounds like the retired Bears offensive lineman believes the two can co-exist and bring winning ways back to Chicago.
“One thing that I can say about Mitch is that I know he has the skills to win. One thing I can say about Matt Nagy is I know that he has the football mind and the ability to lead men and win in this league,” Long said in a radio interview with the McNeil and Parkins Show on 670 the Score. “When those two find a way to blend their talents, their skill sets and their knowledge it’s going to be fun to watch coupled with that defense.”
To be fair to Long’s argument, Trubisky is one year removed from being a Pro Bowl quarterback (albeit as an alternate). And let’s not forget Nagy was named the NFL’s Coach of the Year in 2018. So it’s not as if these two haven’t worked together and brought success to the Bears in the past. That it has happened recently should provide a kernel of optimism.
So what needs to happen for it to get right? Well, Long has an answer for that:
"If they put successful people around him and they can run the damn ball he will have success in doing what he was brought here to do" – Kyle Long on Trubisky
— McNeil & Parkins dot com dot…mob (@McNeil_Parkins) February 12, 2020
Think about when Chicago’s offense as at its best back in 2018. It was late in the year and Jordan Howard was hitting his stride. In the final five games of the year, Howard ran the ball 88 times for 399 yards and four touchdowns. That comes out to nearly 18 rushes and almost 80 yards per game. Extrapolate those numbers over a full 16 game season, and we’re looking at 282 carries, 1,277 rushing yards, and 13 touchdowns. That type of stat line is the stuff dreams are made of when envisioning a successful ground game.
Trubisky played in just four of those games, one of which was that rusty-looking contest against the Rams. For the sake of this post, I’ll kick the clunker and highlight the the final three games of that season in which Trubisky completed 75.9 percent of his passes, averaged 7.76 yards per attempt, threw no interceptions, and posted a 109.7 passer rating. Let’s remove the gaudy passer rating from discussion to focus on the crux of the matter.
The Bears’ offense was best when the ground attack dictated the tempo and played to Trubisky’s strengths on play action off an establish run game. Trubisky averaged 27.7 pass attempts during that three-game stretch to end the year. He averaged 34.9 passes per game in 16 games (including the playoff loss to the Eagles) since that wonderful stretch of football. And frankly, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that an increased reliance on Trubisky passing the ball led to a decrease in offensive efficiency.
There might be line of thinking that the Bears lost their identity when they traded Howard, but it’s not like David Montgomery performed poorly. He did similar things as well as Howard did within the confines of the offense, such as break tackles and move the pile when given the opportunity. It’s just that he didn’t get enough opportunities to do so.
Montgomery was given at least 18 carries just five times last season. The Bears were 4-1 in those games — and would have been 5-0, had Eddy Piñeiro not misfired on a game-winning field goal against the Chargers. In the wins Trubisky started (and finished) he threw 37, 31, and 27 passes. The other win came with Chase Daniel throwing it 30 times. That 37 feels like a season-ending outlier, while the 31, 27, and 30 pass attempt games feel more on par with the scheme of things.
The irony of Bears fans thirsting to run the ball more after the predictability of the run-run-pass era that preceded it was a failure is not lost on me. So while no one in their right mind wants to go back to the football stone ages when it comes to offensive game-planning, I can see where some course correction could be favorable for Nagy, Trubisky, and the Bears’ offense as a whole.