I’d rather see the Bears go 5-11 with Mitch Trubisky learning on the job and making mistakes than go 8-8 with a dominant defense and an offense curled up in the fetal position.
Winning is good. I’m thinking of trademarking that. But it’s worth asking whether winning now at all costs is a good thing for Trubisky’s development. Judging by the team’s 17-3 victory Sunday against the Panthers, the answer would appear to be, ‘‘If that’s a passing offense by the Bears, then I’m Brad Pitt.’’
The rookie quarterback threw seven passes against the Panthers, completing four. Even Woody Hayes was rolling his eyes somewhere. But coach John Fox smelled victory after defensive back Eddie Jackson returned two Panthers turnovers for touchdowns. He wasn’t going to let something as inconvenient as Trubisky’s progress get in the way of a victory. Whether that’s a coach who doesn’t trust his quarterback or a coach who is trying to keep his job is open for debate.
To see how the climate has changed around here, let’s go back to early September. Which of the following best described the purpose of the Bears’ season heading into Week 1:
A) Rebuilding a franchise that hadn’t put together a winning season since 2012.
B) Tanking to get the highest pick possible in the 2018 draft.
C) Giving Trubisky as much experience in an NFL offense as he could handle.
D) Holding opponents without a touchdown for nine consecutive quarters and, seven weeks into the season, winning as many games (three) as all of last season and . . . is there any other purpose besides victories?!
I don’t think D) would have had a chance in hell before the opener. The city was on board for the kind of rebuild and pain the Cubs and Theo Epstein had made so fashionable. But now?
This city will cheer its pro football team at the first ray of sunshine, even if a tornado is barreling down upon it. So when the Bears trotted out a nasty, opportunistic defense, all bets were off. You can’t stop progress or fan enthusiasm, and the Bears now seem intent on this whole winning thing.
But Mike Glennon could have done what Trubisky did Sunday. Lots of quarterbacks could have handed the ball off 26 times, the way Trubisky did against the Panthers. Lots of quarterbacks could have hit a wide-open Tarik Cohen for a 70-yard completion, and plenty could have been sacked four times.
If the Bears go 8-8 playing like this, it’s not forward progress for the organization. It can’t be if Trubisky isn’t allowed to improve and, perhaps more important, to make mistakes. If the Bears don’t put him in tough spots where he has to make plays this season, then it will carry over into next season. That’s not development; that’s sheltering. I wouldn’t be surprised if they keep a security camera in Trubisky’s room to make sure he’s breathing while he sleeps.
Watching the Bears’ defense play is a blast. The pass rush, with Leonard Floyd, Akiem Hicks, Danny Trevathan and Pernell McPhee, is relentless. Cornerback Kyle Fuller, a disappointment in his first three seasons, was everywhere Sunday. And Jackson? Jeez. Who thought him up?
But just because the defense is so good, it doesn’t follow that the passing offense has to be so invisible. Trubisky has shown enough potential that it’s OK to take some chances with him. He’s going to do the wrong thing now and then. He’s supposed to; he’s a rookie. Denying that only delays it.
Noses up, the Bears have detected a whiff of the playoffs. They’re still in last place in the NFC North at 3-4, but the Lions (3-3) and Packers (4-3) have lost back-to-back games. The Packers are without Aaron Rodgers, who had surgery last week on his broken collarbone. The Vikings are 5-2 and don’t scare a soul. If you’re keeping score at home — and I know you are — the Bears have won consecutive games for the first time since 2015.
There is nothing wrong with combining a strong defense and a strong running game. Jordan Howard certainly can carry the ball, the load and a few pesky defenders on his way to the end zone. But what’s the point of using the second pick overall in the draft on a quarterback, as the Bears did with Trubisky, and then not letting him — what’s the word? — throw?
There is no point to it, other than keeping a certain coach employed.
Quarterback is, by far, the most important position in the NFL. If the Bears think they’ve found their boy king, then let him rule. Mistakes be damned.
Follow me on Twitter @MorrisseyCST.