Haugh: Bears' Season Nothing But Shameful

The Bears sit at 4-6 after entering the season with championship hopes.

David Haugh
November 17, 2019 - 11:31 pm

(670 The Score) We in Chicago will parse coach Matt Nagy’s words and question his motives after Bears backup quarterback Chase Daniel replaced Mitchell Trubisky for the final three minutes of a devastating 17-7 defeat to the Rams on Sunday night at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

We will study the videotape like the Zapruder film to see if Trubisky really injured his hip badly enough to come out of the game with 3 minutes, 24 seconds left. We will examine the short- and long-term implications on Trubisky’s psyche, his head a much bigger concern than his hip.

An NFL head coach benching a young franchise quarterback on national television makes big headlines in any market, even if the Bears’ official explanation blamed a hip injury.

But perhaps the saddest part about all the skepticism that will follow the move that raised so many eyebrows across America is that whatever happens next barely matters in the big picture for the Bears. This isn’t a team headed anywhere but south regardless of who takes the snaps. The only mystery surrounds Nagy’s timing in pulling Trubisky, not his intentions. Nobody who has watched the first 10 games would dare to defend Trubisky’s play or suggest a bad offense couldn’t use a boost from Daniel. And, frankly, nothing about the final six games means enough after the loss to the Rams to quibble over who plays quarterback now or why Nagy did what he did.

"It was all based on he wasn’t feeling right," Nagy told reporters postgame. "His hip wasn’t feeling right. I had to pull him aside and talk to him. We needed him to be honest. It was affecting how he was able to throw. He landed on it and was playing through it."

Related: Bernstein: Amid Bears' spiral, Ryan Pace needs to lead

Maybe, maybe not. But everyone can agree what a shame 2019 has become for the Bears. In many ways, Sunday served as a microcosm to 2019 in that the Bears lost the game as much as the Rams won it, another clunker in which the play-calling deserved as much criticism as the players. Had Bears kicker Eddy Pineiro converted two makeable field-goal attempts in the first half, it could've changed the complexion of the fourth quarter. It likely would've affected how the Bears offense played with a lead. It might have given us Monday to debate the possibility of the playoffs instead of a controversy at quarterback.

Now, we’ll never know. Now, we're left to sift through the frustration and confusion that the Bears created for themselves. A city known for its broad shoulders shrugs, duped again by its beloved football team that can’t be trusted. Ask Bears fans whether they have lost more faith in A) Pineiro B) Trubisky or C) Nagy and the only right answer is D) All of the above.

Pineiro prevented the Bears from establishing any early momentum by missing a 48-yard field-goal attempt under ideal conditions in Southern California. He pulled it wide left. That stuck in Nagy’s head later in the quarter when he decided to go for it on fourth-and-9 rather than try a 49-yard field-goal attempt, the equivalent of walking over to Pineiro on the sidelines, making eye contact and announcing to everyone that nobody believed in him. No wonder Pineiro missed another makeable field-goal attempt later in the half, this one from 47 yards; his confidence was as bad as his accuracy.

"Just missed it, got to do better," Pineiro told reporters postgame.

Welcome back to the kicking crisis, everyone. General manager Ryan Pace only would be providing more fodder for the ongoing conversation on his professional negligence if the Bears neglect to audition potential Pineiro replacements this week at Halas Hall.

Unfortunately for the Bears, Trubisky’s arm was as unreliable in the first half as Pineiro’s leg. Trubisky underthrew Anthony Miller on a seam route by inches, allowing the ball to be tipped away at the last moment by Rams safety Marqui Christian. He missed tight end Ben Braunecker for a big gain. He threw to the wrong side of the body for Tarik Cohen, who had a mismatch. Ironically, the interception Trubisky threw wasn’t his fault as much as it was Anthony Miller’s, as he let the pass bounce off his hand and Rams cornerback Troy Hill plucked it out of the air. What made the sequence worse was Miller getting flagged for offensive pass interference and immaturely taunting Hill on his way off the field.

To think that everything started so well. When Eddie Jackson ripped the ball out of Todd Gurley’s grip to give Chicago a first-quarter takeaway, it looked like the Bears defense that the Rams remembered from 2018. When Roquan Smith intercepted Jared Goff, who threw the ball into traffic, it gave a defense desperate for takeaways two in the first quarter. The offense failed to take advantage. The Bears ran 41 plays in the first half yet still were shut out. That’s the sign of a team that can’t get out of its own way. That’s what 4-6 teams do.

That’s also what happens when you can’t trust your kicker.

Hope returned on the opening series of the second half, when the offense responded to the 10-0 deficit with its best drive in weeks, a balanced, 80-yard march that ate up 5:51. It culminated with a 14-yard pass to Cohen, who made a back-shoulder adjustment and deftly kept both feet inbounds before kicking the pylon for the touchdown. It exposed a mismatch the Bears liked, Cohen on Rams linebacker Cory Littleton. It restored some belief in the offense. Miller even got more involved in a positive way, finding openings inside as Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey limited the targets for No. 1 option Allen Robinson. This was the way it always was supposed to work.

The familiar futility soon reared its ugly head, and consistently baffling decisions on third down backfired. Third-and-1 situations particularly bring out the worst in Nagy. On one, the Bears lined up in the Pistol formation and tried an option into the short side of the field. On another, back in the shotgun, Trubisky threw to nobody in particular. One third-down pass intended for Robinson was so far off the mark that NBC analyst Cris Collinsworth remarked, "That just wasn’t ... whatever."

Meanwhile, the Rams responded well to their own limitations. Playing without three starting offensive linemen and two top wide receivers, Rams coach Sean McVay did what Bears fans have been clamoring for Nagy to do: He simplified. The Rams put the ball in the hands of their most dangerous offensive player, running back Todd Gurley, and let him find room behind offensive linemen moving the pile. Gurley carried 25 times for 97 yards. McVay successfully traded innovation for execution, an approach that also eased the burden on struggling quarterback Jared Goff. It was 11 months ago that McVay underused Gurley in the 15-6 loss at Soldier Field, and he called plays Sunday night as if he learned from that mistake. Goff completed 11 of 18 passes for 173 yards for one touchdown and an interception yet still won because his coach called a smarter game.

A makeshift offensive line opened holes against a Bears defense that was far different than the one the Rams saw in 2018. Consider that Gurley’s touchdown plunge came over linemen Roy Robertson-Harris and Nick Williams and linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski – backups pressed into starting roles this year. Goff never developed a rhythm, because McVay seldom gave him a chance. Goff’s prettiest throw of the night came on a 51-yarder to receiver Cooper Kupp, who got behind nickel cornerback Buster Skrine and safety Eddie Jackson. Despite that coverage breakdown, the Bears defense played well enough to win. You give up 17 points to a McVay offense on the road, and that’s good enough.

That the Rams gave the Bears so many chances to get back in the game only made it worse. They lined up in the neutral zone when the Bears punted, giving them a first down. They committed a defensive holding penalty on third down to move the chains. They lined up in an illegal formation to negate a 51-yard touchdown pass. Alas, no matter how often the Rams invited the Bears to take the lead, they refused to RSVP.

Now, a team that reported to Bourbonnais talking Super Bowl returned home from California staring at a losing season and already forced to think about next year -- when who starts at quarterback will matter much more than it does right now.

David Haugh is the co-host of the Mully & Haugh Show on 670 The Score weekdays from 5-9 a.m. Listen to the show here. You can follow him on Twitter @DavidHaugh and email him at david.haugh@entercom.com.