1st-and-10: Why Mitch Trubisky is good for 2020

Changing just the quarterback is unlikely to ignite Matt Nagy’s offense — and it’s just too soon for a full-blown upheaval at Halas Hall. Wait till next year.

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Bears coach Matt Nagy stands with Tarik Cohen, Mitch Trubisky, Kyle Fuller and Ted Larsen during the national anthem before the Chiefs game.

Even after a disappointing non-playoff season, Bears coach Matt Nagy (center) and Mitch Trubisky (10) are linked in the Bears’ current drive toward the Super Bowl. But 2020 could be telltale for both of them, and general manager Ryan Pace as well.

AP

Dump Mitch Trubisky? For whom?

Deciding to move on from Trubisky is the easy part. In his third season in the NFL and his second season in Matt Nagy’s offense, Trubisky ranks 28th in the NFL in passer rating (82.9). After back-to-back impressive games against the Lions (118.1) and Cowboys (115.5), in which he threw six touchdown passes and two interceptions, he has had clunkers against the Packers (64.5) and Chiefs (65.4).

When the season started, the question was whether Trubisky would follow the career path of Jared Goff or Blake Bortles. As it turns out, the answer — surprisingly — is both. Bortles was dumped by the Jaguars after last season. But Goff has hit the skids, as well. His passer rating has plummeted from 101.4 to 84.8 this season — 25th in the NFL.

But if the Bears dump Trubisky, where do they go from there? What quarterback will be out there who unquestionably will be better in an offense that’s so clearly broken under Nagy?

Just look at the Jaguars, the template the Bears unwittingly are following under general manager Ryan Pace and Nagy. After cutting Bortles, they turned to Nick Foles, the available quarterback with the best credentials. Foles, in fact, twice has had a spate of success that exceeds any Bears quarterback since Jim McMahon. In 2013, he led the NFL in passer rating (119.2, 27 touchdowns, two interceptions) as a replacement for Michael Vick. In 2017, Foles had a 115.1 rating (six touchdowns, one interception) to lead the Eagles to a Super Bowl victory in place of the injured Carson Wentz.

But after signing a four-year, $88 million contract with the Jaguars, Foles was injured in Week 1 and flopped when he returned, losing his job to Gardner Minshew after three starts. Maybe Foles will win the job next season and work out after all, but right now he’s a cautionary tale for those who want the Bears to find the best available quarterback to replace Trubisky.

The Bears need a better quarterback, but “anybody but Trubisky” is not the right answer. Let’s face it, Pace, Nagy and Trubisky are joined at the hip. Firing one of them at this point carries as much risk of inviting dysfunction as it does achieving success. The Bears’ best hope is to ride with all three in 2020 and make the big decision on the troika when it’s over. A year ago, Pace was the Executive of the Year, Nagy was the Coach of the Year and Trubisky was in the Pro Bowl as an alternate. It’s not like there’s zero chance they can succeed if the team dynamics change for the better.

2. Switching quarterbacks re-starts the clock on Nagy’s offense. If you sign a Marcus Mariota or Teddy Bridgewater and he struggles in Nagy’s offense in 2020, the excuse will be, “He’s only in the first year of the offense.” With Nagy and Trubisky next season, there are no excuses.

And sure, it’s possible a Mariota or Bridgewater ignites Nagy’s offense and you’re off and running. But what’s the likelihood of that? And even if that happens, there likely would be factors in his success — like a better running game, better tight ends, better offensive line — that would benefit Trubisky, as well. It comes down to one question: How certain are you that Trubisky is a drag on Nagy’s offense? Right now, Nagy and Trubisky are dragging each other down.

3. So why not make a change at both positions? Because Nagy — especially after guiding the Bears to the playoffs in 2018 — deserves more than one bad year. And then you’d have Pace, who hired John Fox and Nagy, signed Mike Glennon and traded up to draft Trubisky, hiring a new coach and acquiring a new quarterback.

4. So why not go for the clean sweep and fire Pace and Nagy and dump Trubisky now and start over while this defense is still in its prime? Because Pace and Nagy have three years left on their contracts, and the Bears aren’t going to eat those. And you don’t have a No. 1 draft pick to acquire a quarterback. And continuity on the defensive side would be in question, as well.

5. For What It’s Worth Dept.: Patrick Mahomes’ long pass play of 19 yards against the Bears on Sunday night was his shortest long play in two seasons as a starter — by a lot.

Mahomes, in fact, had a pass play of 30 or more yards in all 30 of his starts the last two seasons — including 40-plus yards in 20 of them and 50-plus yards in 11 of them.

His 7.6 yards per attempt ranks eighth among 13 starts this season, so other defenses have done a better job overall.

6. For those keeping score, the Bears have missed the playoffs in eight of the last nine years and 11 of 13 since reaching the Super Bowl after the 2006 season under Lovie Smith.

In fact, the Bears have made the playoffs just six times in the 27 years since Mike Ditka was fired after the 1992 season. Only four other NFL teams have fewer playoff appearances in that span: the Redskins (five), Raiders (five), Cardinals (five) and Texans (five), who didn’t enter the league until 2002.

6a. Did you know? The Bears have not been a wild-card team since 1994. Their only playoff appearances since then are as a division champion.

7. The Bears’ game against the Vikings on Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium has to be one of the most meaningless season finales in recent memory. Both teams have nothing to play for. And it will have no impact on the Bears’ first-round draft pick because they don’t have one.

All eyes will be at right guard, where Nagy has a decision to make, with Rashaad Coward likely out: Does he start veteran Ted Larsen or look to the future with rookie Alex Bars, who figures to battle Coward for the starting job next season?

8. Josh McCown Ex-Bears Player of the Week Award: Niners kicker Robbie Gould kicked a 33-yard field goal as time expired to give the 49ers a 34-31 victory over the Rams. It eliminated the defending NFC champion Rams from playoff contention and put the 49ers in position to win the No. 1 seed in the NFC.

9. Bear-ometer: 7-9 — at Vikings (L).

10. Former Bears coach Dave Wannstedt seemed to revel in his image as a football-consumed coach. But with his job on the line after another difficult season in 1998, he showed his softer side as Christmas Day approached. And it was a heart-warming sentiment during a difficult time.

“I’d be lying if I said everything going on doesn’t affect me. It does,” Wannstedt said on Christmas Eve that season, with the Bears 4-11 after a 4-12 season in 1997. “But if you really stop, and if you really look at what you have and how good life really is, and how fortunate we are when we think things are tough . . . the key is taking enough time to see the big picture.

“I don’t do that very often. But I will do it tonight and tomorrow. The priority will be Christmas and time with my family.”

Merry Christmas to all.

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