Matt Nagy did what any breathing football coach would do. He tried to talk an idea into being. He should probably stop that. Talking, I mean. Not breathing.
He cast Nick Foles’ hip injury as Mitch Trubisky’s chance to rebrand himself, to change the storyline, to take all the hurt and disappointment of being benched two months ago and turn it into a success story. Nagy gushed so much about Trubisky’s character in the days leading up to the game Sunday night against the Packers that you wondered if this was the official start of the beatification process.
But a quarterback’s character matters only when it’s attached to a good arm, a court reporter’s accuracy and an ability to read NFL defenses. Without that, you’re left with a Boy Scout helping a senior citizen across the street. You might win points, but you won’t score many.
So it shouldn’t have come as any surprise that Trubisky’s quarterbacking abilities weren’t enough to help the Bears or his football cred in a brutal 41-25 loss to the Packers.
He averaged a measly 5.3 yards per attempt. We’d seen that before. We never wanted to see it again.
Trubisky had been benched during the Bears’ third game for a reason. He wasn’t very good. Foles was pushed into the starting lineup for a reason: He had to be better than Trubisky, right? Well, no, he didn’t have to be. And he wasn’t.
This game didn’t turn out to be a rebirth for Trubisky. That’s the way Nagy tried to shape it beforehand. It was a grand idea. But it’s hard to have a rebirth when you’re born again as the same guy. Trubisky threw a bad interception on the Bears’ second possession and lost a fumble that was run in for a touchdown on the next. He would add another interception early in the third quarter, this one thrown into triple coverage. And there was the usual diet of off-target passes Bears fans have come to expect from him.
Much of Trubisky’s success came when the game was out of hand and the Packers were in a prevent defense.
“I don’t want to make any predictions, but I like the way that he’s practiced all week,’’ Nagy had said Friday.
How many times have we heard Nagy say that about the quarterback in their two-plus years together? Ten? To reiterate, Coach: Talking, not a good thing.
Realistically, what was supposed to happen to Trubisky during Foles’ seven starts? Was his accuracy expected to miraculously improve? Was the talent level around him going to rise? Was the play-calling suddenly going to find its calling?
What you see is what you get with the Bears and Trubisky. A lot of talk, not much action. Before the game, the team tweeted video of him trying to fire up teammates at Lambeau Field.
“It’s about what you’ve got in here!’’ he said, slapping his chest. “Bring a little heart with you tonight! Bring a little heart! This game’s about will!’’
If it were, Trubisky and the Bears would be 11-0 instead of 5-6. But the game is mostly about talent, which is why Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers shredded the Bears’ defense in the first half, giving his team a 27-10 lead. He’s so physically gifted and so smart that he could have the will of an inchworm and still throw three touchdown passes.
By the way: The Bears’ defense without Akiem Hicks? Very not good.
Most everybody likes Trubisky. Teammates. Fans. Media. Few think ill of the kid. It’s not his fault he was put into a bad situation by getting drafted second overall in 2017. But it was asking a lot for him to come back after being benched, not to mention injuring his shoulder as a runner, and be a big success Sunday night. He wasn’t.
“The turnovers for us, I can’t have,’’ Nagy said afterward.
Trubisky had at least one built-in excuse — the fact that almost everyone involved in the offense this season has been bad. But it all starts with the quarterback. That’s the way it works in football. It’s called the most important position in sports because it is. An excellent quarterback can make the people around him better. Rodgers can. Trubisky and Foles can’t.
Some Bears fans were giddy at the prospect of Trubisky’s return. They pointed to his 3-0 record as a starter this season as proof that his benching was an injustice, forgetting that the victories were against the Lions, Giants and Falcons. They wanted the feel-good story of a good guy finally finishing first. But it was a ridiculous concept, seeing that it was coming against the Packers, who have had the Bears’ number for years.
The Broncos played without a true quarterback Sunday because of COVID-19 issues, and you knew the joke was coming the minute the news broke Saturday: Big deal. The Bears have been playing without a quarterback all season.
But there’s nothing funny about the Bears and that particular position. There hasn’t been for decades.