Coming off a 3-13 season, not a whole lot was expected from the Chicago Bears in 2017. And not a lot is exactly what the Bears have delivered—after pitching and lurching their way to a 20-10 loss in Detroit on Saturday, Chicago is guaranteed its third straight season of double-digit losses.
There's plenty of blame to go around in the Windy City. Quite a bit of it will likely be directed toward head coach John Fox as a parting gift on his way out of town.
But after watching the Chicago offense sputter and stall again in Week 15, some of that blame also lies at the feet of rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky—the player who is supposed to lead the franchise for years to come.
As things stand, using the words "franchise," "quarterback" and "Trubisky" in the same sentence feels almost mean. In fact, after yet another lackluster performance in a season filled with them, it's fair to wonder if Trubisky's name belongs near the word "good" in a sentence.
To be fair, over the last few weeks it appeared that Trubisky turned a corner of sorts. In each of his last two games, Trubisky had posted a passer rating of over 100, and his performance in a blowout win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 14 was his best of the season—271 yards, a touchdown throw and a QB rating of 112.4.
"I'm proud of where we've come as a team," Trubisky said, "and you can look at the wins and losses. But I think there is different growth as far as chemistry and the positive vibe around the building and how we feel, the attitude in the locker room. That's probably what I feel best about—where the mindset is at."
That progress came to a screeching halt in Detroit.
Against a Detroit team that came into Week 15 27th in the NFL in total defense, the Bears did nothing offensively for most of the game. Yes, the Bears out-gained Detroit 349 to 293, and Trubisky posted the first 300-yard passing effort of his career.
|Mitchell Trubisky Week 15|
But to call those stats misleading is an understatement. Most of Chicago's offensive production came late in a game that was already settled—including the Bears' lone touchdown.
Early on, the Lions were aggressive defensively, stacking the box in an effort to shut down Jordan Howard and the Bears run game. It worked, too. After gashing the Lions for 222 yards on the ground in Week 11, Howard and the Bears had 43 in the rematch—including just 19 in the first half.
The Bears only had 86 yards as a team in the first 30 minutes. Had Detroit tailback Theo Riddick not gifted the Bears a fumble that led to a field goal just before intermission, the Bears would have been shut out through the first three quarters—by a defense that ranked 28th in the league in points allowed heading into the game.
The Lions dared Trubisky to beat them, and he had no answer. When the game was still a game, he struggled mightily. Trubisky missed open receivers on several occasions, and even if you write off his third interception as pushing it down 10 late, the first two were killers.
No. 1 was a badly overthrown pass (unless Trubisky was targeting Darius Slay) that set up Detroit with a short field the Lions converted into a touchdown (and 20-3 lead) early in the second half.
The second was a bad throw in the end zone when the Bears had a chance to make it a game.
Now, before Bears fans storm off to wish a stocking full of coal (or something else) upon me, all this isn't to say Trubisky is a bum who is forever doomed to a career of mediocrity and status as the biggest bust of the 2017 draft.
The Chicago receiving corps is arguably the weakest in the NFL. There are moments (including Saturday) when Trubisky looks the part—when he sets his feet, follows through and fires a seed that leaves you nodding as the chains move.
And ask Jared Goff about the positive impact a coaching change can have on a quarterback's development—provided you find the right coach.
But the moments have been interspersed with too many poor decisions that lead to punts and turnovers. Too much Iffy mechanics that lead to inaccurate throws—the same mechanical issues that were criticized by some leading up to this year's draft.
|Mitchell Trubisky Season Stats|
|3-7 as Bears starter|
And lots of losses—the only thing that matters in the results-driven business that is the NFL. Preach patience all you want. Or point out that Trubisky and Deshaun Watson are vastly different players as quarterbacks.
But fair or not, the two are forever going to be compared—especially since the Bears traded up to select Trubisky 10 slots before the Houston Texans took Watson.
Saturday night was an opportunity for Trubisky. A chance to crush the playoff hopes of a division rival on its field—a feat that would have pleased fans in Chicago to no end, because misery loves company.
A chance to show that his recent upward trajectory was just the beginning of a trend. That the lightbulb had come on and was staying on.
Instead, Chicago and its supposed franchise quarterback fell flat.
And we're all left wondering how much longer the Bears will be stumbling around in the dark.