Chicago Bears: Addressing the Elephant in the Room

Coming off their bye week, the Chicago Bears elephant in the room was the poor offense. Matt Nagy’s crew has watched as their three-game winning streak has turned into a two-game skid. What’s worse is even the coaching staff appears to be at a loss for answers. That’s not what you expect from the 2018 NFL Coach of the Year.

The expectations for this team were laid out well before the season and so far they have largely been a disappointment. While we were all so preoccupied with the turnover on defense, the offense became stale and wholly predictable. But most damning is that it seems everyone’s worst fears about the quarterback position have become reality. So, what now?

Chicago’s offense entered Week 7 ranked 23rd in DVOA and 30th in yards per game. We could separate the two facets, running and passing, but the bottom line is this offense has been nothing short of putrid so far. Injuries have afflicted the defense just as much as the offense but they have been just as spectacular as one could hope to start.

So the poor showing in Week 7 was not so much surprising as it was disappointing. The problems seem obvious but the fixes not so much. There is plenty of blame to go around but that shouldn’t be the only focus. Identifying the mistakes being made and adjusting accordingly will be paramount going forward. Let’s look at what that all might mean.

Addressing the Chicago Bears Elephant in the Room

Current Situation

It would be easy (and not entirely incorrect) to just heap blame on the right arm of Mitchell Trubisky. After all, he has looked lost in his third NFL season and second with Nagy. There is enough game footage out there to draw the conclusion that Trubisky is what his numbers say he is: an athletic but inconsistent passer.

The performance of the quarterbacks taken after him has only served to highlight the shortcomings of Trubisky. But coming into the year the talk was that this offense was ready to take the next step. They sat him in the preseason and the questions began but there was still optimism. Then they came out and fell flat on their faces against the Green Bay Packers.

Trubisky has even stopped running which was his greatest asset and made him a usable passer. Last season he averaged nearly five rushing attempts and over 30 rushing yards per game. This season he has five total runs and 21 rushing yards. There was even a play against the Saints where there was an opening in front of him but he froze, did nothing, and got sacked.

It’s no coincidence they’ve struggled against the two best teams they have faced. But Chicago has had their worst two offensive performances coming off their longest layoffs. It’s a reversal from 2018 when they came out firing in Week 1 and coming off the bye, though they still lost in both instances.

 

Who’s to Blame

Put simply: everyone. Yes, Trubisky is the low-hanging fruit in this situation but there’s plenty of blame to go around. Nagy’s playcalling has been extremely predictable and when he does try to get creative it hasn’t worked; Anthony Miller’s fumble on an end-around is just the latest example. It’s great when they are hitting but the whiffs amid the offense’s struggles amplify the hurt.

Despite the efforts put into revamping the running game, Nagy won’t commit to it consistently. In his presser, he spoke of the run not clicking early on and shifting to the pass. That shouldn’t mean ending the game with a franchise-low seven rushes. Also, the game was 12-10 Saints at the half, but that was thanks to Cordarrelle Patterson.

Nagy’s brief offensive coordinator stint with the Kansas City Chiefs ended with a questionable game plan that saw the Chiefs blow a 21-3 lead to the Tennessee Titans. Of the Bears five losses last season, they had a lead going into the half in three of them. The others? They tied early in the third quarter of one and took the lead in the same situation in the other.

The lack of an answer from the head coach in very concerning. He was brought in to modernize the offense (which he has) and to coach up Trubisky (which if he has, it isn’t sticking). Perhaps his initial sentiments about the Bears passer have proven true and manifested themselves as an inability to call a game around a player he no longer truly trusts.

It Starts at the Top

Of course, there are questions about nearly every coach and player. But the ones about both Trubisky and Nagy have been so spot-on that it leads you to the person responsible for both being in Chicago. That is general manager Ryan Pace and it brings his entire resume with the Bears into question.

His first draft selection, Kevin White (7th overall in 2015), appeared in 14 career games before being cut this past offseason. Pace’s next selection Leonard Floyd (9th overall in 2016) has seen his sack totals fall every year. Trubisky (traded up to select 2nd overall) is why we are going through this exercise. Roquan Smith has promise but even he has warts.

Pace has routinely found serviceable (and even standout) talent later in drafts. But he has also whiffed on almost every first-round pick, including the most important one: quarterback. It took him four years (and countless injuries) to rid himself of White. That cannot be the case with Trubisky. This defense, even with the disappointing Floyd, is championship-ready.

He also has the Jacksonville Jaguars as a reference point. They went through the full gambit of emotions with Blake Bortles at the helm. Five inconsistent years led the Jags to sign Nick Foles to a lucrative deal to take them to the next level. He got hurt, but they had Gardner Minshew at the ready. Pace cannot afford to wait and further waste this talented defense.

Finding a Solution

So what do the Bears do, assuming they have realized this just as much of the fanbase has that he isn’t the answer? That part is complicated and likely won’t be answered this season. Trubisky will remain the starter assuming he is healthy. That is, barring an in-season trade, which seems unlikely given their lack of cap space and draft capital.

After the year, if the campaign continues on its current trajectory, all bets should be off. They should look to add competition for Trubisky at a minimum. But they should probably look to add a proven starter to keep that contention window open and draft a true developmental prospect. That is something they have seemed to avoid since taking Trubisky.

One veteran name that comes to mind is Foles, who might be available with how Minshew has performed. He has a Super Bowl victory from playing in a similar style offense with the Philadelphia Eagles. Foles also led the Eagles in that comeback victory over the Bears in the 2018 NFC Wild Card, a game better known for the double doink.

The other name should be Teddy Bridgewater. He is currently on a one-year deal in the bayou so no trade is necessary like in Foles’ case. Bridgewater has first-round pedigree, protects the football and makes enough plays to win the game. He was even so kind as to showcase his wares on the Bears defense. This assumes he leaves New Orleans, of course.

Chicago Bears Elephant in the Room

At 3-3 the season is far from over. But a solution coming this season feels unlikely beyond them “figuring it out”. The improved competition in the division compound the struggles this team is having. Man, how accurate those comparisons to the 2018 Jaguars are proving to be.

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