Bears coach Matt Nagy is a glass-half-full kind of guy, even when that glass is only a quarter-full.
So after three quarters of the same disheartening decision-making and erratic throws that everyone saw from quarterback Mitch Trubisky last season, Nagy did the most predictable thing possible and held up Trubisky’s heroic fourth quarter in the opener against the Lions as the reason to keep hope.
Trubisky got a hearty pat on the back for frantically cleaning up the mess he spent all afternoon making.
The Bears still want to believe Trubisky, a 26-year-old with 42 career starts, can play like that all the time and become the franchise quarterback they dreamed of when general manager Ryan Pace chose him ahead of Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson in the 2017 draft.
‘‘For him to play as well as he did in that fourth quarter, that’s special,’’ Nagy said. ‘‘He played at another level in that fourth quarter. Man, if we could get four quarters of that, you can see what could happen.’’
Well, sure, but who’s still waiting on that at this point?
Nagy’s wishful thinking only further emphasizes the reality that Trubisky’s final quarter was the outlier and the first three were the norm. That’s not a reliable formula for victory, and, the truth is, Trubisky was one dropped touchdown pass by Lions rookie D’Andre Swift away from everyone spending the week talking about backup Nick Foles.
In fairness to Nagy, he didn’t completely close his eyes to the ugly side of Trubisky’s performance. He’s an optimist, but he’s not a fool. And he’s still weighing, as he will be for the foreseeable future, whether the Bears are better off with Trubisky or Foles.
‘‘That’s the consistency part that we’re trying to really evaluate right now, and that’s what sometimes can make it hard,’’ Nagy said. ‘‘There can be times throughout the first three quarters where it can be frustrating for all of us, everybody on the sideline, but then you get to that fourth quarter, and you see how great it can be.
‘‘We don’t get too high about the fourth quarter, and we don’t get too low about the first three.’’
That would be reasonable, but he seems to skew it toward the part he liked.
Trubisky does, too, though it’s a little more understandable coming from a player.
‘‘It gave myself and the offense confidence that we could put up points in a hurry,’’ he said. ‘‘We’d like to do it throughout the first three quarters, as well, not just all in the fourth quarter . . . but I think scoring three touchdowns in the fourth quarter gives your offense and myself a lot of confidence.’’
Trubisky was 12-for-26 for 153 yards after three quarters, which comes out to a pitiful 5.9 yards per attempt and a 65.1 passer rating. Eleven of his throws were inaccurate. The Bears trailed 23-6.
Ask Nagy whether he wants to try winning that way again. Ask him how comfortable he would feel going into the fourth quarter of any game, let alone one against a good opponent, betting that Trubisky will pull out of that nosedive with three touchdown passes and a 143.3 rating, like he did against the Lions.
That sounds crazy, but it’s the illusion the Bears have fallen for with Trubisky for three-plus seasons.
In his supposed 2018 breakout, they overlooked that his six-touchdown game against the wayward Buccaneers inflated his season passer rating from 89 to 95.4. That meant the difference between ranking 16th and 26th.
Last season, they wanted to believe in Trubisky’s uptick during a stretch of four victories in five games — in which he averaged 244.6 yards and threw 11 touchdown passes against five interceptions — forgetting that the victories came against the Giants, Lions (twice) and Cowboys. He had a 95.4 passer rating in those five games and a 76.5 otherwise.
Trubisky has posted a triple-digit passer rating in one-third of his career starts (four against the Lions). Mahomes has topped 100 in 66 percent of his starts, Watson in half of his and Lamar Jackson in 52 percent of his.
Those glasses actually are half-full — or more.
The sooner the Bears stop seeing only what they want to see and start taking a hard look at whether Trubisky really should be the starting quarterback this season, the better. They can’t afford to waste time, and they certainly can’t afford to lose any of their first four games, all of which are against teams that were not only sub-.500 last season but also had dreadful pass defenses.
That urgency is necessary beyond this season, too. The worst thing for the Bears would be to go another year without being able to decide whether Trubisky is good and stick with him on the franchise tag or a contract extension. That prolonged, misguided hope that he still can turn into a star will keep them stuck in mediocrity.