Emma's Tailgater: Can Mitchell Trubisky Be Fixed?

The embattled Trubisky has underperformed and is drawing widespread criticism.

Chris Emma
November 08, 2019 - 1:08 pm
Categories: 

(670 The Score) When Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky mentioned earlier this week that he wanted the televisions turned off inside Halas Hall, he meant it as a joke. But his delivery was off target.

Listen to your team news NOW.

"Just me knowing him and knowing how he is, I'm assuming there was a little tongue in cheek there," coach Matt Nagy said.

Those who know the 25-year-old Trubisky understood the nature of his quip in his press conference Wednesday. Like Nagy, many inside Halas Hall have come to know him as an easygoing personality who's quick with a punch line. But that individual isn't there when standing at the lectern and in front of the microphone.

Trubisky hasn't been himself amid the struggles of this season, with the Bears 3-5 and his own personal play lacking. He has been tight, anxious and often overwhelmed. A kid who said he grew up dreaming of being an NFL quarterback has been buried under the burden that he was tasked with carrying for Chicago.

Trubisky understands the criticism he's facing.

"Trying to get some of these TVs in the building turned off," Trubisky said. "Because you've got too many people talking on TV about us and what they think about us, what we should do, what we are and what we're not."

If the Bears were winning and Trubisky was thriving, comments like that wouldn't matter. But that's not the case. For all the efforts made inside Halas Hall to support Trubisky, it seems the Bears lost him somewhere along the way.

The Bears surrounded Trubisky with a structure that includes Nagy, offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich, quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone, reserve quarterback Chase Daniel and more. The organization has been protective of his image, to the point that he was instructed earlier this season to not discuss a poor performance a week prior.

Trubisky arrived with the Bears as a rookie confident in his future and what he could bring to Chicago. Three years in, he appears to be a broken individual, and his team is wondering if he can be repaired.

Open field

Even during a Pro Bowl campaign in 2018, what Akiem Hicks was underappreciated in what he meant to the Bears defense.

Now, the Bears have been reminded of Hicks' importance as they continue to play without him. He was placed on injured reserve in October after suffering a gruesome elbow injury. Their identity as a dominant defense has suffered in his absence.

Hicks is a relentless presence at the point of attack. He's a multiplier on the front seven, a force capable of elevating his teammates. What are the Bears without him?

The Bears allowed 13.0 points and 313.6 yards in the three games in which Hicks was fully healthy this season. Their defense had six takeaways in those games, including five in a win at Washington on Sept. 23. They have five takeaways in the five games without Hicks, including three games without forcing a single turnover.

"His presence is really felt," Nagy said of Hicks. "He's a leader of our defense, you know? He's one of the leaders of our defense. And I think that when you lose somebody that has the size that he has, the personality that he has, that is a big loss."

The Bears played admirably in a win against the Vikings on Sept. 29 as Hicks was sidelined with a knee injury, but they haven't sustained their play since he hurt his elbow in a loss to the Raiders on Oct. 6.

The presence of Hicks has proved to be irreplaceable for the struggling Bears defense.

4-down territory

1.) More than Mitch?

Following the loss to the Eagles on Sunday, Nagy rehashed the game on film and once again came to the defense of Trubisky.

Nagy emphasized the poor offensive performance went beyond just Trubisky and his struggles. Nagy had a point.

Trubisky was 10-of-21 for 125 yards. Five of his completions came behind the line of scrimmage. He had a 47.6 completion percentage, but his expected completion percentage was 68.6, according to NFL Next Gen stats. The 21-percent differential was the greatest mark for any quarterback in a game this season (minimum 10 passes).

That indicates his teammates didn't help enough. The Bears had a number of catchable passes that were dropped, and the protection let Trubisky down by leaving him little time in the pocket.

Trubisky has a chance to quiet the skepticism against a Lions defense that's allowing 288.4 passing yards per game, which ranks 31st in the NFL.

2.) Tough deal for Davis

When the Bears signed veteran running back Mike Davis to a two-year, $6-million deal in March, general manager Ryan Pace set the expectations high.

"He's built to handle a lot of carries," Pace said in April. 

"We're excited to let it play out."

Davis has 11 carries for 25 yards in the Bears' first eight games, one of which he missed due to personal matters. He has just two carries in the last four games. Did Pace truly believe Davis would be a factor in the Bears' offense? Has Nagy simply not cared for his services?

Either way, the Bears seem best suited to release Davis by Saturday at 3 p.m., the deadline for calculating who receives compensatory draft picks in 2020. The Bears are expected to receive a fourth-round pick if they cut ties with Davis.

Davis deserves credit, as he's staying positive amid a disappointing season. The Bears owed him better.

3.) There for the taking

Bears defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano was complimentary in speaking about Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, but he was also honest.

Pagano pointed out that the film shows Stafford's gun-slinging could lead to interceptions for his Bears defense. While Stafford has thrown only five interceptions over eight games this season, the Bears expect there will be passes there for the taking.

"There's opportunities," Pagano told reporters Thursday. "He's thrown five this year. Guys have taken advantage of some throws. You know he's not afraid to take some chances, and he counts on his guys to make some plays. We have just as much right to that ball as they do. Our guys will be in position. We got to attack that thing at the high point and be aggressive on those things. I think he's going to give us some shots."

The Bears have five interceptions in eight games.

4.) Chicago suffering

The sports scene in Chicago is tracking to reach a low not seen in 15 years. Times are tough in our city.

If the Bears don't make the playoffs this season, it will mark the first time since 2004 that all five major professional teams in Chicago missed the playoffs in the same year.

The Bears are stuck at 3-5, and even the White Sox have won a game more recently than them. The Bulls are 3-6 after entering the season with playoff hopes. The Blackhawks are 5-7-3 and have regressed under coach Jeremy Colliton.

Eight games are left for the Bears to turn their season around. Otherwise, it's 139 days until the Cubs and White Sox open their seasons.

Quote to note

 "We feel like we’re certainly close.”

-- Nagy on his Bears offense

Injury report

DL Eddie Goldman (thigh) -- Goldman is in line to play Sunday, though it's worth wondering how effective he will be in drawing double-teams in the trenches.

OLB Isaiah Irving (quad) -- The Bears are still without Irving, who will likely be ruled out ahead of Sunday.

Prediction (4-4): Bears 21, Lions 20

The Bears say they can bounce back. A home game against the Lions offers that chance. But if they can't win this one...

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.