Translating what the Bears are saying about their QB situation
Adam L. Jahns’ “Inside the Huddle” column runs in game-day editions of the Chicago Sun-Times.
The Bears know they have a quarterback controversy; they’re just not saying it.
What they are saying about their quarterback situation requires translation. Reading between the lines is a must in coach John Fox’s world of catchy quotes. It’s where the real answers about Mike Glennon, Mitch Trubisky and the most important position in sports can be found.
With Glennon scheduled to make his third start Sunday against the Steelers, here’s a look back at the week that was when it comes to the Bears’ quarterbacks:
Question: You’ve had two instances in your career where a change at quarterback has really helped your team, Carolina and Denver. How does that affect how you manage this situation not so much today but further ahead down the road?
Answer: ‘‘It’s something that, upstairs, we talk about every day. We had a pretty good feel of what we were doing to start with, and we still feel pretty good about that moving forward with Mike being the guy, and we’ll see where that takes us. I can’t predict the future. I don’t think anybody here can. If you did, you’d be in another line of work. Mike Glennon will be our starting quarterback against Pittsburgh, and we’re going to do everything we can to get him prepared. Not just Mike Glennon, our whole football team.’’
Translation: The Bears’ plan is flexible. Their preference is to be patient with Trubisky’s development, but they’re not opposed to playing him. They don’t want to be forced into playing him before they deem him ready. Trubisky’s not ready right now, though the general feeling is that he will play at some point this season. Of course, deciding when to play Trubisky involves input from general manager Ryan Pace. He’s the one ‘‘upstairs,’’ and his say is the strongest. It’s a misconception that Pace is afraid to play Trubisky, though. Drew Brees is Pace’s ultimate point of reference, and Brees didn’t start a game as a rookie in 2001. But Pace also knows every situation and every player is different. Situations and players also tend to change as seasons play out. The way this Bears season has started says Trubisky will play at some point.
Q: Why are you convinced you’re going to see overpopulated boxes and continue to see that?
A: ‘‘Just because we’re a run-first team, and we’re trying to stay committed to the run. With that, you have to have success and you have to have success on first down. You have to keep yourself in second-and-manageable, or all of that falls on Mike Glennon to make plays on second-and-long. You can’t have penalties, where it’s second-and-16, it’s second-and-17, and now you’ve got to throw it two more times to try and dig yourself out of a hole. And it messes up third down because instead of it being third-and-four, you’re at third-and-seven. And now it all comes down to him, and it comes down to a group of wideouts that haven’t played a lot. You’re missing your two starters, so now the stress becomes on Mike Glennon and pass protection. They can rush you differently because they know exactly where the spot’s going to be, and they’re attacking that way. You don’t get to play the game on your terms.’’
Translation: The Bears’ offense is limited by Glennon’s abilities. Opponents aren’t worried about him. It’s why the Bucs sold out to stop Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen, and the Steelers likely will follow suit. Teams will dare Glennon to beat them until he does. The Bears’ receivers and tight ends have been criticized, but any film review shows there have been open options in the first two weeks. Glennon is not finding them quickly enough or anticipating his receivers’ routes. Opponents will recognize that on film. Any little mistake can be damning for the Bears’ offense. Everything has to be manageable for Glennon so that he can function the way the Bears want him to. Judgment of Loggains should be withheld until Trubisky plays. He simply can do more for Loggains.
Q: How do you regain your confidence? It felt like after Week 1 that everybody was pretty confident despite the outcome.
A: ‘‘I think we still have a lot of confidence as an offense. We had a couple of turnovers that we have to eliminate, but other than that, I mean, we were moving the ball just fine. I don’t know how many times we punted, but it wasn’t many. It wasn’t for a lack of moving the ball. It was just turning the ball over, and we’ll focus on eliminating those and continue to build on the good things we did.’’
Translation: The Bears are doing their best to build up Glennon’s confidence, and he’s buying into their messages. The Bears emphasize completion percentage, and Glennon’s 67.1 percent is among the NFL’s best. But Glennon’s positive vibes haven’t amounted to much on the field. His completion percentage only goes so far. It’s also disconcerting that Glennon’s confidence has remained a storyline since camp. He comes off as even-keeled, but he doesn’t play like it. He struggles immensely when under pressure. Glennon also tends to lock in on his first read for far too long. His immobility and ability to scan defenses were predraft concerns.
Q: Dowell said that he wanted you to learn from the ups and downs that Mike is facing during the regular season. What have you come away with after two weeks?
A: ‘‘That’s the quarterback position. Across the league, you see the best quarterbacks respond to adversity and overcome it. They learn from it, put it behind them and come out and make the play the next time. That’s what it’s all about. There’s going to be ups and downs, but it’s all about how you handle it, go out and make plays for your team and do your job.’’
Translation: He’s ready to play. At least, he feels that way. Trubisky is being a good teammate. He fully supports Glennon. But the confidence he exudes is unmistakable. It’s why Fox says he has that ‘‘it’’ factor. Trubisky will change the complexion of the offense, and he knows it.
@Hainsfurther: Was [Tarik] Cohen’s Week 1 performance a fluke, or will his Week 2 showing prove to be the outlier this season?
A: Cohen’s production will fluctuate, but that’s not surprising. He’s a rookie and the Bears’ ‘‘joker’’ back, not their starter. That said, Cohen actually had more touches against the Bucs than against the Falcons (15-13). The big plays were lacking. The Bucs succeeded in stopping the Bears’ running game. And, as everyone knows, quarterback Mike Glennon had a bad day. Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains will continue to feature Cohen in creative ways. On some plays, that might mean him being a decoy. Opponents will be mindful of him on every snap. The Bears also want to establish Jordan Howard; it’s overdue. But Cohen always will get his share of touches. He’ll be on the field a lot because he’s their most versatile threat right now. Cohen played 62 percent of the Bears’ offensive snaps against the Bucs.
@chytown23: Why is [Ryan] Pace being overlooked for the inept team he put together?
A: Pace isn’t being overlooked. Some perspective is needed. His team might have been awful against the Bucs, but it also was one play away from upsetting the reigning NFC champion Falcons in Week 1. Everyone seemed to think the Bears would be a surprisingly good team after the opener. Of course, that changed because Glennon floundered against the Bucs. The ultimate evaluation of Pace will come down to how quarterback Mitch Trubisky develops. He’s the future; Glennon is a fill-in. Glennon might go down as a bad free-agent signing, but the Bears only guaranteed him one year.
Good to go
With the Steelers and their array of talented receivers coming Sunday to Soldier Field, it’s a good thing for the Bears that nickel back Bryce Callahan is no longer playing catch-up.
Callahan didn’t play in the last three preseason games because of a hamstring injury, but he still held on to his starting spot because of Cre’Von LeBlanc’s inconsistent play in his place.
The Bears continue to think highly of Callahan. Despite being only 5-9, he is an exceptional athlete. Some teammates have called him the best dunker on the team. He also has proved to be a physical tackler.
Callahan didn’t play well in the opener against the Falcons. He was beaten badly by receiver Mohamed Sanu in the slot on one play, but defensive lineman Roy Robertson-Harris bailed him out by batting down Matt Ryan’s throw.
Callahan, though, was considerably better against the Bucs. He nearly intercepted Jamies Winston twice.
‘‘I feel real comfortable,’’ Callahan said. ‘‘It’s my cardio. That was my main thing about Week 1; it was just my cardio and stuff. But now I feel in shape. I feel pretty good.’’
Receiver Markus Wheaton figures to get plenty of attention Sunday, considering his first game with the Bears is against his former team. But his ability to stretch the field, which the Bears are counting on him to do, might depend more on his hands than on his speed.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said Wheaton was able to gain separation from defensive backs through his hand-fighting techniques.
The problem is that Wheaton is returning from surgery for a broken pinkie. His hands might be less effective, whether it’s with catching or fighting through defensive backs. He’s ready to play, but he indicated he still has some pain.
‘‘It’s good enough,’’ Wheaton said when he was asked how his pinkie feels. ‘‘It’s definitely good enough.’’