I’d like to sit here and pontificate to you via my keyboard about every problem plaguing the Bears’ offense, and offer surefire solutions how to fix it.
But alas, I’m just a fan and an analyst who has thoughts and opinions. If I had solutions — yes, solutions, Jerry Angelo — I’d be hired by the Bears and all would be right for our boys in blue.
Regardless, I’m going to speculate despite my outsider opinion. It’s Wednesday, I’m bored, and the Bears don’t play until Monday this week.
So, here we go.
Problem 1: Mitch Trubisky isn’t seeing the field well enough just yet
Let’s start with the obvious. It’s painfully clear to all those with a TV and a set of eyes that quarterback Mitch Trubisky just hasn’t improved his field vision from Year 2 to 3. At least, not by noticeable standards.
Head coach Matt Nagy has told us that our eyes sometimes deceive us. That what we see on TV belies what was called in the huddle. He’ll suggest that what looks like a poor throw is sometimes caused by a receiver not being where he is supposed to be on a given play.
Yes, this is sometimes true, but there is more evidence of Trubisky not recognizing the open man — or worse, seeing the correct read and electing to “take a shot” down the field instead.
By his third year in the league, the hope is that a quarterback can read defenses — both pre- and post-snap. Some of the best to have ever played the game are able to read alignments and know exactly where the defense is most vulnerable before the snap is even made. Defensive coordinators will try to disguise coverages, show blitz, or otherwise confuse the quarterback before the snap. The best ones still beat this.
I’m not asking for Trubisky to be a pre-snap guru because I’m not expecting him to be an all-time great. What I do want to see is better post-snap recognition from him. I’d like to see Trubisky look off defenders before throwing to his desired target. If a play is designed to go one place but is bottled up by the defense, I’d like to see Trubisky spot the better read and deliver it with confidence and precision.
Can Trubisky recognize this with more consistency? That’s the $100-million question on everybody’s minds.
Problem 2: Bears offense is missing Trey Burton’s versatility
It’d be naive to suggest that the absence of one player — a tight end at that — is the only reason for an offense’s inadequacies. But Burton’s health and availability over the past three games (two this season plus last year’s playoff game) is at least one reason for the offense’s struggles.
Burton is a niche tight end. He’ll never be confused with a Zach Ertz or Travis Kelce. He’s not the best inline blocker. But he’s versatile and can be used in many creative ways. He causes mismatches, and that is a play-caller’s best friend.
When the Bears offense was at its best last year — snide comments aside — Burton was being deployed effectively. Burton had a 39-yard touchdown against the Buccaneers last year. He led the team in receiving yards with 126 against the Patriots. He can line up in the backfield or split out wide.
In short, having a player of Burton’s versatility allows Nagy to read a defense, position his chess piece, and strike with another. Not having Burton at his disposal has limited his arsenal.
Problem 3: Bears offense hasn’t established the run game yet
Everyone and their mother shouted from the mountaintops after the Packers game that the Bears did not utilize their run game enough — specifically rookie David Montgomery.
Nagy either heard their complaints — or just recognized it himself while watching game film (or “tape” as we still refer to it, for some reason). Against the Broncos, the Bears ran the ball 29 times compared to 27 pass attempts from Trubisky.
Now, whether it was Nagy trying to neutralize the Broncos’ pass rush or him wanting to keep the ball out of Trubisky’s hands … I don’t know. But one way or another, the run game was more established and that is a good thing.
Here’s the problem: it wasn’t quite as effective as it could or should be.
Outside Cordarrelle Patterson’s 46-yard scamper, the Bears averaged 3.8 yards per carry. That’s not going to get it done.
I believe the Bears’ offensive line is better at run blocking than they showed in Denver. And if they continue to improve, and Nagy remains committed to establishing the run, the Bears’ offense is going to open up.
“Setting up the pass with the run” is not a new or innovative concept. It’s commonsense practice that has been true for decades.
What did Packers cornerback Tramon Williams say after they beat the Bears in Week 1?
“We wanted to make Mitch play quarterback. We knew they had a lot of weapons, we knew they were dangerous, we knew all of those things. But we knew if we could make Mitch play quarterback, that we’d have a chance.”
This mentality is not exclusive to the Packers’ locker room. It’s league-wide by now. Every defense will attempt to force Trubisky to beat them. If the Bears can establish their run game, suddenly the field opens up a little more for the passing game.
Problem 4: Trubisky isn’t taking what the defense is giving him
I have little doubt that Bears coaches were in Trubisky’s ear all offseason, telling him to remain poised in the pocket and complete his progression.
Last year, Trubisky was fifth in quarterback rushing yards because when his first or second read wasn’t open, he took off running. The Bears obviously want to change this. They want to preserve his health, yes, but they want to get the bigger play, too.
That’s a fine concept and it’s one with which I agree. But that’s better suited for quarterbacks who do read defenses well.
In the meantime, until Trubisky gets more confidence and sees the field better, why not let him play on instincts? Why not let him use his legs, something that sets him apart from a lot of other quarterbacks? It’s something that he’s actually quite good at, that which earned him a spot as a Pro Bowl alternate last season.
When Trubisky is on the move, he can get defenders to break off their coverage and he can hit receivers on the move. The caveat: obviously his accuracy has to improve. He underthrew Tarik Cohen in Denver while on the move.
Trubisky made a good read; he just has to deliver that pass better.
Additionally, Trubisky can’t be afraid to throw underneath. No fan likes dink-and-dunk offenses (I shudder at the name John Shoop), but I find interceptions and errant throws a lot more distasteful than completions in the flat.
If Nagy has to keep more checkdown options available to Trubisky, so be it. I’ll take two straight 3-yard completions to set up 3rd-and-4 before I stomach two downfield incompletions that set up 3rd-and-long.
Problem 5: Matt Nagy hasn’t been able to call the Bears offense he wants to call
This actually isn’t a standalone problem. It’s a byproduct of the previous four. The Bears offense lacks a certain spark, that which was shown in glimpses a season ago.
Matt Nagy is the mad scientist with an innovative offensive mind. But right now, all his good elixirs are under lock and key in a laboratory vault in an underground bunker. Mitch Trubisky’s progress is the last remaining ingredient from a magical potion that makes him — and all Bears fans — shout, “Eureka!”
A lot of skeptics claim that NFL defensive coaches have “caught up” with Nagy’s offense.
While it’s true that defenses adjust to new offensive schemes, I don’t think this renders a coach incompetent. Nagy is running a similar offense to what Chiefs coach Andy Reid and Eagles coach Doug Pederson are operating. Except, those two teams have better quarterbacks. And having a better quarterback allows each coach to get more creative with their play calls (having good offensive lines and versatile playmakers matters, too).
When the Bears figure out the Trubisky dilemma, Nagy’s scope of limited plays will be resolved as well.