MORRISSEY: John Fox’s conservatism is bringing down Mitch Trubisky
Here is a John Fox-led team in a drive-you-nutshell. Warning: This will test the limits of your sanity.
Trailing 13-0 on Saturday, the Bears recovered a fumble at the Lions’ 27 with 12 seconds left in the first half. A perfect chance for rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky to take a shot into the end zone. One shot to score a touchdown. If it didn’t work, then a field-goal attempt. Either way, another learning experience.
Instead, Trubisky threw a short pass to tight end Daniel Brown, who ran out of bounds after a four-yard gain. Then came a 41-yard field goal by Mike Nugent.
Given the choice between taking a ‘‘risk’’ or making the safe play, Fox’s teams always choose prudence. I think his first girlfriend was named Prudence. By the way, she just called and said, ‘‘Like I told him 40 years ago, make a pass!’’
‘‘You can do a lot of different things,’’ Fox said of the wimpy play-calling just before the half. ‘‘I think right there was pretty good. We got points on the board.’’
Saturday was the day to let Trubisky loose, to let him be an NFL quarterback. Instead, the Bears strapped him into his baby seat for most of a 20-10 loss. Ten games into his pro career, they still don’t let him throw downfield enough. They won’t let him use his lightsaber. They won’t let him develop.
It wasn’t until the latter part of the fourth quarter that he was allowed to throw the ball all over the field. Why not earlier and why not deeper?
When all is lost in a season, what’s there to lose?
There are two possibilities: Either the Bears don’t think Trubisky is good/trustworthy enough, or Fox is in the concussion protocol and can’t get out.
The assumption here is that offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains is doing Fox’s bidding. If I’m wrong about that and Loggains is similarly skittish, then shame on him, too.
The Bears’ purported lack of a downfield target is a bogus excuse for two reasons. One, we don’t know if it’s true. Trubisky rarely gets a chance to throw the ball more than 25 yards. Two, even if the Bears don’t have a receiver they trust, who cares? Let the kid throw the ball and see what happens.
Did I mention the Lions have a bad defense? The Lions have a bad defense. They came into the game ranked 27th against the pass and 20th against the run. Fox and Loggains acted as if the Lions were the second coming of the Steel Curtain. Frustrating, especially with Trubisky coming off his best game of the season.
Trubisky threw three interceptions that no one will remember three years from now. He had a bad pick in the end zone in the fourth quarter, and the world didn’t end. It’s a mistake he might not make so easily the next time, having seen it once. Learning is what this season is supposed to be about.
There has been nothing to suggest that Trubisky is fragile, that a mistake or two would send him to a dark place. He shouldn’t have to wait until the fourth quarter to play quarterback.
He’s doing what he can with what he’s allowed to do. The things he can control, he does. The TV cameras caught him rallying his offensive linemen on the sidelines after another stalled drive. Nice, especially from a rookie. Now how about letting him act like a leader on the field? How about allowing him to sling the ball and give the offense a chance to plant its flag?
‘‘I’ve been super-impressed with his growth,’’ Fox said after the game.
No thanks to you.
All of this is good news, in a way. The Bears lost, so their draft position for next year wasn’t negatively affected. And Fox’s safety-first approach to offense added one more nail to his coffin.
But it wasn’t fun. Not a bit of it.
Follow me on Twitter @MorrisseyCST.