Just throw us a bone, we begged. Throw us a football that semi-matters. That’s all we wanted. As long as Mitch Trubisky was doing the throwing and doing it in a halfway meaningful environment, we didn’t care.
It finally happened Thursday night, when after weeks and weeks of buildup, the new and hopefully improved Trubisky threw against a defense that wasn’t his own. Thanks to what feels like an already long training camp, a preseason game against the Bengals had more heft to it than any preseason game has a right to have.
Well, not much.
Trubisky overthrew Kevin White on a deep pass on the first snap of the game, but the key phrase there is “deep pass.’’ He was allowed to throw deep last season about as often as he was allowed to be king of England. So that was good.
If you’re looking for more in the way of good, Trubisky didn’t throw an interception in Cincinnati on Thursday, a definite step up from Bourbonnais, where he had completed a lot of training-camp passes to the Bears’ defense.
The rest of it? Meh. Trubisky completed two of four passes for four yards in two series against the Bengals, and, yeah, it was every bit that. The Bears didn’t use all their best players, and we’re assuming/praying they didn’t use their best plays.
The rest of the Bears’ first series was messy. Trubisky threw a nice third-down pass over the middle to White, who dropped the ball. A roughing-the-passer penalty saved White more embarrassment. A Bengals sack and a Bears holding penalty did in the drive.
The second drive ended when Trubisky was hit from behind while throwing a pass.
So we didn’t learn a whole lot. We already knew that new coach Matt Nagy wasn’t going to show much in this game. We now know we’re officially tired of watching backup quarterback Chase Daniel play.
What about all the football-y things the Bears said they were going to be looking for from Trubisky on Thursday? Command of the offense? Leadership? Poise? There wasn’t a whole lot of rhythm to the offense with him in charge. But there’s no point in putting much stock in that, not after just two series. If you’re looking for signs of progress from all involved, you’ll have to wait until next week.
Maybe if we knew more about what Trubisky actually is, these games wouldn’t have import. We’d be tapping our toes impatiently while waiting for the real games to begin. But we don’t know what he is yet. Even Trubisky’s biggest supporters, his truest believers, can’t say there has been anything in his short career that points to sure-thing status. There was no doubt that last year’s dearly departed coaching staff held him back. The game plans were remedial, and the talent around him was below average.
That’s why there was such massive attention on Trubisky heading into Thursday’s game.
Some of you might think I’m overstating the amount of hype that has been devoted to him. A Nexis search showed that since May 9, Cubs star Anthony Rizzo had been mentioned in the Sun-Times 99 times, Trubisky 94 times. Did I mention that the first-place Cubs were playing real games during that period and that all the Bears had to show for their existence were some minicamps and a few weeks of training camp?
(There were 21 Kardashian mentions in the same time span. I don’t know what that means, other than: not good.)
So all eyes were on Trubisky on Thursday night. It’s not that other players aren’t important. Of course they are. White’s latest comeback is important. New Bear Allen Robinson is important (though he didn’t play Thursday). So is Kyle Long and his health.
But without a quarterback, the Bears aren’t going anywhere. Former general manager Jerry Angelo understood that when he traded for Jay Cutler. Part of Angelo’s legacy is that he gambled on the wrong guy.
Twelve games as a rookie in 2017 and a small number of plays in one 2018 preseason game aren’t going to tell us if Trubisky is the right guy. But we should start to get a better picture as the snaps build up. There are three more preseason games, and he’ll play in the next two.
He didn’t play in the Hall of Fame Game because the Bears didn’t want to get him hurt in an exercise that means nothing. When a team gets an invitation to play in that game, it means an extra week of training camp, a fate no one should have to endure.
It’s why it seemed to take forever to get to Thursday night and Trubisky’s first “real’’ action of the exhibition season. Here’s hoping the next game brings more action. And more evidence.
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