A game into the season, it looks as if the Bears are one player away from being a Super Bowl team. Unfortunately, that player is a quarterback.
If Mitch Trubisky had made a play — any play — Thursday night, we might not be having the same conversation we’ve been having for two-plus years. You know, the conversation about whether he’s — what’s the word? — good. But he didn’t make a play against the Packers. He looked worse than he did in the playoff loss to the Eagles in January. At least in that game he had a couple of nice fourth-quarter drives to keep the tease alive about his potential.
That’s what was so disappointing about Thursday’s debacle at Soldier Field. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers made two pass plays to win a game, because that’s what great players do when things aren’t going well. He was facing a talented, bloodthirsty Bears defense, and he found a way.
For the life of him, Trubisky couldn’t do that. Despite coach Matt Nagy’s protests to the contrary, Trubisky hasn’t been able to do that since the Bears took him with the second overall pick of the 2017 draft. Thursday’s game screamed for a quarterback to win a game — somehow, some way. Rodgers did. Trubisky was too busy overthrowing his receivers or throwing into coverage. He should have finished with three interceptions against the Packers instead of one.
This is not an overreaction to one game. It’s true that there was a huge amount of buildup to the opener. It was the first game of the NFL’s 100th year. The Bears were starting their 100th season, too, and they were doing it against their archrivals. But they could have been playing the Jaguars in November and the reaction to Trubisky’s performance would have been the same: How are the Bears, the defending NFC North champions, supposed to get to the Super Bowl with this guy?
Trubisky was not shedding rust in this 10-3 loss. Let’s stop with that nonsense. To say his lack of preseason snaps was the reason for his struggles against the Packers is to ignore how eerily similar his play was Thursday to other poor games he has had as a Bear. He looked a lot like . . . himself. The 2018 version had respectable numbers but wasn’t able to pick up his team when it was down. That Mitch couldn’t win a game by force of will. The early 2019 model hasn’t yet shown any upgrades.
On Thursday, I saw a quarterback whose best attribute is running the football and a coach who realizes his quarterback won’t survive if he continues to run. So Trubisky threw 45 passes, most of the short-to-intermediate variety, and had three points to show for it. When he stays in the pocket, he looks less athletic, more automated and short on quarterback instincts. This is not what you want out of an NFL quarterback.
Unless something changes dramatically, we can be sure of a few things. Nagy will continue to call plays that allow Trubisky to throw short passes that make his completion percentage more than respectable. And Nagy will continue to talk about all the peripheral things Trubisky does well. His attention to detail. His eagerness to learn. His leadership qualities.
Due to insufficient evidence, he will not be able to talk about Trubisky’s ability to make a play when needed.
When does a quarterback stop being young? When does he stop being inexperienced? At what point is his body of work sufficient to start drawing some conclusions?
Now sounds about right.
The Bears have a Super Bowl defense. That defense made Rodgers look very human for most of Thursday’s game. The Bears have a good offensive line and good enough skill position players. The running backs might be better if they get more than the 15 combined carries they received. When tight end Trey Burton returns from a groin injury that kept him out of the Packers game, he’ll be another offensive weapon for Nagy to use.
Everything is there for the Bears — everything except a quarterback. Too early for such a pronouncement, you say? It’s not too early to demand more from Trubisky. A special season is at stake.
The Bears don’t like when anybody brings up Patrick Mahomes as he relates to Trubisky.
He has had huge success, and he has had it fast. The Chiefs picked him eight spots after the Bears chose Trubisky. A cruel reminder, I know.
But here’s some good news: For the Bears to be the Super Bowl team they want to be, Trubisky doesn’t have to be Mahomes. He just has to be a lot better than the Mitch we’ve seen to date.
He can start by making a play in Week 2 in Denver. Just one.