Any Bears fans holding out hope that the team is still inside a Super Bowl window just might have jumped off that bandwagon on Sunday. The Bears’ 36-25 loss to the New Orleans Saints made at least two things abundantly clear to Bears fans.
The first is that the Super Bowl window of which we’ve so often spoken is likely closed. It was a small window with little margin of error to begin with. But it disappeared completely with two straight defensive collapses paired with even greater offensive ineptitude.
The other clarity provided from Sunday’s defeat was that Mitch Trubisky is not going to get a whole helluva lot better. Some Bears fans believed that much sooner than I. But now I’m finally off his bandwagon.
I was willing to let the season play out to see if his mechanics and accuracy improved over the course of this season. But I’ve seen enough now in 31 games of action to believe that’s not going to happen. In fact, not only does it seem he isn’t improving, but he may actually be regressing.
Trubisky’s accuracy is alarming
Just about the only thing going well for Trubisky and the Bears offense through six games is the play of Allen Robinson. And, frankly, that’s because Robinson is a Pro Bowl receiver with great ball skills.
If not for Robinson’s leaping or diving catches, or his great body control along the sidelines, it’s hard to say how bad Trubisky’s numbers would look. And he’s already among the most inaccurate starting quarterbacks as it stands.
It’s not as if Trubisky’s passes on deep and intermediate routes are just missing by inches. The ball doesn’t even come close sometimes! The ball isn’t deflecting off receivers’ fingertips or sailing just out of reach.
No, his passes are missing the mark by several feet. So much so that Trubisky’s receivers don’t even make an attempt at the ball because it’s nowhere within reach.
I hate to be so snarky. Really, I do. But when Trubisky sees a receiver open down the middle of the field, he throws it into Lake Michigan.
Trubisky isn’t likely to get better, and Ryan Pace needs to do something
It is not out of the realm of possibility that one day everything just “clicks” for Trubisky.
I’m not a football historian, but I’m sure in the annals of pro football history, someone somewhere learned to throw the ball with better touch later in his career.
That’s if a player was able to stick around the league long enough.
But I’m not going to pin my hopes on such a small sample size. And I don’t expect any Bears fan to hold out that kind of hope.
Why should we?
It’s perfectly reasonable for an NFL fan base to expect its quarterback to connect with receivers on intermediate-to-deep routes. And if that quarterback cannot, it’s rational to expect the general manager of the franchise to bring in someone else who can.
There is not going to be a magic fix in the middle of the season, though. So, any pipe dreams of the Bears pulling off a trade, or wishing for the team to bring in Colin Kaepernick to save the offense, just isn’t going to happen in the middle of the season.
General manager Ryan Pace is going to have to bring in competition next offseason, in either the form of a veteran or a mid-round draft pick. Or both.
Offensive line play a big reason the Super Bowl window is closed
While Trubisky’s performances leave a lot to be desired, he certainly isn’t getting much help from his offensive line.
You could take Patrick Mahomes or Deshaun Watson — the two quarterbacks selected after Trubisky in the 2017 NFL Draft — and this offense wouldn’t be much better.
Better? Yes. Super Bowl caliber? No chance.
The best quarterbacks in the league need protection. And the Bears’ offensive line is struggling to give Trubisky time to throw.
What’s worse: a quarterback’s best friend can be the run game. But the line can’t run block well, either.
Bears fans can be crabby at Matt Nagy for not committing to the run — and I hold him accountable for that, too. But even if he called 60% run plays, I’m not so sure that many holes would eventually break behind this line.
Bears defense proves Super Bowl window shut, too
The one reason the Bears were even mentioned in Super Bowl contention heading into 2019 was the play of their defense.
A great defense will keep every game close and require the offense to make fewer plays to win tight games. And the Bears defense did just that in 2018.
Of the five games the Bears lost last year — four in the regular season and one in the playoffs — they never lost by more than a touchdown.
They lost games by 1, 3, 7, 3, and 1 point, respectively.
(Nerd alert: I love palindromes. Such perfect symmetry.)
But in 2019, the defense is showing its cracks. Sunday against the Saints might have been the first game in the Nagy regime where his team lost by two possessions. But it’s not the first game this year that showed signs of difficulty.
For two straight games now — which alarmingly included a bye week in between — the Bears have been physically pushed around, particularly in the run game.
Championship defenses stop the run. This Bears team, without Akiem Hicks, looks susceptible to the run.
Where the Bears go from here
As I’ve said, I feel this Super Bowl window is closed, but not locked. But what does that mean, exactly?
It means I don’t feel they’re Super Bowl bound in 2019, and 2020 looks like a stretch, too. This team is still young enough, though, that as presently constructed, it at least has many of the necessary pieces in place to crack that window back open before a rebuild is required.
But what to make of 2019?
Many Bears fans and analysts will say: use this time to determine if Trubisky should get a contract extension. Or, allow Trubisky to “let loose” the rest of the season to see what you have in him.
I think a better strategy is to “see what they have in David Montgomery.” Perhaps look into what they have in some of their young offensive linemen.
The Bears are not in “tank mode,” so don’t go there, Bears fans. But they are indeed a mediocre football team at the moment, and I’d like to see them make incremental improvements for the rest of the season.