B/R Staff NFL Week 10 Report Card: Trubisky's Turnaround Performance for Bears
NFL coaches and players don't operate in bubbles.
Oh sure, they try to make everyone outside of the locker room believe they're concentrating on one game at a time and not listening to what anyone else has to say.
Case in point: The seat for New York Giants head coach Pat Shurmur continues to get hotter with each passing week. But as he told reporters, "My concern is putting a team on the field that's going to win a football game. ... It's a one week concern."
Don't let them fool you.
Chicago Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky blew this supposed league-wide approach to smithereens when reports surfaced that he asked his teammates to turn off the televisions in the locker room so the team didn't hear or discuss potential criticisms.
As each week passes, these critiques grow louder. Head coaches' careers are in jeopardy. A player's long-term future isn't set like it was once believed.
In Atlanta, head coach Dan Quinn's seat may not be nearly as hot as it was last week. Trubisky had a bounce-back performance Sunday, too. On the flip side, the Buffalo Bills no longer look like a lock for the playoffs, as they did earlier this season.
Bleacher Report's team of NFL writers graded and discussed these topics and more from Week 10's slate. The group adds to the noise league insiders say they don't hear but definitely do.
Mitchell Trubisky Turning a Corner?
Trubisky looked like a lost cause. His plea to shut out the outside world came across as weak. But the approach must have worked to a certain degree.
The 25-year-old signal-caller struggled through the first half of the season and didn't look comfortable in head coach Matt Nagy's system. Yet he provided a three-touchdown performance Sunday in a 20-13 victory over the Detroit Lions.
"Winning always does," Trubisky told reporters about whether the performance could serve as a confidence-builder. " ... We just got to build off it and keep getting better."
How well did the Bears quarterback really play? And could his latest effort lead to a potential turnaround?
Mike Freeman: F
They played the Lions. They played the Lions without Matthew Stafford. Trubisky is still who he is: the Midwest Jared Goff.
Mike Tanier: F
Watch the first quarter-and-a-half of that game, as well as the fourth quarter. Then get back to me.
Brent Sobleski: D
The bar for quality quarterback play is set so low in Chicago that 173 passing yards while being sacked five times is supposed to be good enough for everyone to get off Trubisky's back. That ain't happening. More is expected from the position.
Brad Gagnon: D
Look, he's still a No. 2 overall pick with the talent to light it up. A quarterback with that skill set is going to have his moments, but it's about consistency. Until he can string together several strong performances in a row, I'm not ready to view this as a corner turn.
Gary Davenport: F
That this question is even being asked after a game in which Trubisky didn't throw for 175 yards shows just how far he has fallen. If Trubisky did turn a corner in Week 10, it was from Youstink Boulevard onto Mediocrity Avenue. Yippee.
Dan Quinn Still on the Hot Seat?
Quinn remains on the hot seat, but an impressive 26-9 victory over the rival New Orleans Saints on Sunday will provide a short reprieve.
According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, Falcons owner Arthur Blank wanted "to get through the Saints game to help make a determination on what he is going to do with the leadership of his team."
The Falcons responded with arguably their best performance over the last two seasons. Atlanta's much-maligned defense sacked Drew Brees six times after managing only seven sacks through the first eight contests.
What's the likelihood Quinn will be fired between now and the end of the regular season?
Mike Freeman: A
It was a great win, but one win, even one as impressive as this, doesn't change much. It also makes you wonder where this type of performance was from the defense all season.
Mike Tanier: A
The Saints played like they were looking past their one-time division foe. Sunday's win was a sign of how far the Falcons have fallen under the current coaching staff, not of the team turning things around.
Brent Sobleski: B+
NFL owners hate to admit they're wrong. They're billionaires who spent years and years proving to everyone how right they are. A normal person can easily argue the Falcons should have moved on from Quinn already, but Blank is giving his coach every opportunity to keep his job. Quinn's firing is the most likely scenario, but it's not a foregone conclusion.
Brad Gagnon: A
There are aberrational results every week in this wacky league. Atlanta beating the Saints by 17 points in New Orleans is almost certainly an outlier, and until the Falcons prove otherwise, Quinn should remain a dead coach walking.
Gary Davenport: A
Sunday's big win over the Saints was a feel-good moment, but it was a fleeting one. The Falcons are still a 2-7 team that's been headed in the wrong direction ever since its heart was ripped out by the Patriots in the Super Bowl. I'll be shocked if Quinn is the head coach past this season.
Patrick Mahomes' First Game Back
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes returned to the lineup three weeks after suffering a dislocated kneecap against the Denver Broncos.
The reigning MVP looked pretty much like he did before the injury: a potential back-to-back MVP winner. Mahomes threw for 446 yards and three touchdowns—including an awesome jump-pass—in a surprising 35-32 loss to the Tennessee Titans.
Mahomes might be disappointed by the loss, but he's feeling good despite his recent injury.
"The knee is doing fine," he told reporters. "Just how we expected going into the game. Give credit to the trainers and the training staff for getting me ready to play. The knee feels fine, and I'm glad to get through another game."
How did the superstar signal-caller look in his return?
Mike Freeman: A
Kansas City lost to the Titans (and the transformation of Ryan Tannehill is one of the best stories of the year), but Mahomes' performance still has to be encouraging. He looked like the version of Mahomes from before he injured his knee. He's still deadly.
Mike Tanier: C
Mahomes gets an A. The rest of the Chiefs get a D-minus with their special teams gaffes, fumbles, lack of run defense, penalties to negate touchdowns and so on.
Brent Sobleski: A
Even Superman needs the Justice League for a little help. Mahomes' superhuman performances are now commonplace. He's the league's most must-see performer. Unfortunately, his teammates let him down from time to time.
Brad Gagnon: A-
The Titans hadn't surrendered more than 30 points in a game all season. Mahomes likely wasn't 100 percent, but he was still magnificent in Nashville. He was a little rusty when going deep, but he was remarkably effective under pressure in a tough loss.
Gary Davenport: B+
So Mahomes threw for almost 450 yards and three scores without a pick and posted a passer rating of almost 120. Big whoop. I'm not giving an A for that since he didn't even play defense against the Titans. In his defense, neither did anyone else for the Chiefs.
Buffalo Bills as a Legit Playoff Team
The Buffalo Bills own a 6-3 record, which makes them the AFC's third-best squad.
Records don't always tell the whole story, despite what Bill Parcells said. Buffalo played one of the NFL's weakest schedules to open the season and has lost two of its last three contests. The latest came Sunday when the Cleveland Browns orchestrated a late fourth-quarter comeback to sneak away with a 19-16 win.
While the final score was close, Cleveland controlled most of the contest. The Bills seem to be regressing during an uptick in competition, and the toughest portion of their schedule is yet to come.
Record aside, where do the Bills rate as a potential playoff squad?
Mike Freeman: A
The Bills aren't a pretty playoff team, but damn straight they are one. That defense is legit, the quarterback is legit, and they are almost a lock to make the postseason.
Mike Tanier: C+
They needed Sunday's win against the Browns, who were going out of their way to play as foolishly as possible and lose (again). The Bills' future schedule is no longer a Cupcake War, and opponents have figured out their six-play (three of them quarterback draws) offense. The Titans, Colts and Raiders could easily take a golden opportunity away from Buffalo.
Brent Sobleski: C-
The Bills are trending in the wrong direction. Fortunately, they got off to a good start, because they'll need it. Buffalo is flawed with the inconsistent Josh Allen at quarterback and a soft defensive front susceptible to opposing ground games.
Brad Gagnon: D
Calling it now: The Bills will lose five of their final seven games to finish 8-8. And that'd be fitting. They're a mediocre team that only has a shot at the playoffs because the AFC sucks, the AFC East is a joke and their schedule has been weak. That last part is changing now.
Gary Davenport: C
The Bills are probably going to make the playoffs. Their schedule is manageable, and the AFC is 13 kinds of "meh" in 2019. But Buffalo doesn't have the offense to hang with New England. Or Baltimore. Or Kansas City. Or Houston. It may win a Wild Card Game, but that's it.
Brian Flores' Coaching Job in Year 1
The Miami Dolphins don't have any quit in them.
Despite trading away some of their best young talents in Laremy Tunsil, Kenny Stills, Minkah Fitzpatrick and Kenyan Drake, Miami has won its last two contests. The front office may have put a plan in place to tank this season, but the players continue to compete for head coach Brian Flores.
Instead of falling into the trap of a projected 0-16 season and maybe the worst campaign of all time, the Dolphins are getting better.
"The coaches deserve a lot of credit," quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick told reporters after Sunday's 16-12 victory over the Indianapolis Colts. "And the players deserve a lot of credit, too."
Obviously, the Dolphins remain at a talent disadvantage on a weekly basis. But how good a job have Flores and his staff done with what little they've been given?
Mike Freeman: B
The bad news: The Dolphins are tanking. The good news: Flores has them playing hard. You can see the effort, and Ryan Fitzpatrick has been solid. (Did you know he went to Harvard?) It's odd to say this about the coach of a two-win team, but Flores has been good.
Mike Tanier: A
Look at the talent he has available. Look at how the team started the year. Heck, listen to the narrative. What Flores is doing this year will pay dividends when the Dolphins use all that draft capital to improve and the rookies arrive to find more than a few young veterans developed and bought into the culture during what was supposed to be a "tanking" year.
Brent Sobleski: B
The team's play as of late certainly deserves the best possible grade. However, this is the same coaching staff that struggled to use Minkah Fitzpatrick earlier in the season and didn't seem to have a plan for Drake. Kudos for getting this team to play hard, but those early-season sins didn't disappear.
Brad Gagnon: A+
This isn't really quantifiable, but I think I can safely state the Dolphins have one of the worst rosters in modern NFL history. The fact they've had a good chance to win five consecutive games is incredible. Ever since their Week 5 bye, they've performed at practically a playoff-caliber level in the weak AFC. Considering the lack of talent and the low expectations, as well as the fact he's essentially fighting his own tanking front office, Flores might only need a few more wins to land Coach of the Year consideration.
Gary Davenport: B
It doesn't show in the Dolphins' record, but Flores has quietly done a solid job in his first season given the hand he was dealt. The Dolphins may be the most talent-deficient team in the league right now, but Miami has been playing hard the past few weeks. There's no quit in this bunch, and that speaks volumes about the head coach.
Christian McCaffrey's MVP Chances After Another Loss
The Green Bay Packers may have stopped Christian McCaffrey's run toward an MVP season.
With Sunday's game on the line, the league's leader in yards from scrimmage failed to break the plane of the goal line in an attempt to force overtime. The Panthers have lost two of their last three contests, and the McCaffrey MVP argument appears to fade with each loss despite his awesome production.
Still, McCaffrey provided his sixth 100-yard rushing performance in nine games so far.
What are the chances the running back's impressive workload outweighs his team's shortcomings compared to other MVP candidates?
Mike Freeman: B
McCaffrey is very much still in the MVP race. The loss wasn't on him. It really wasn't the fault of any of the Panthers. They were beaten by a better team. McCaffrey will be in the race until the end of the season. He's too good not to be.
Mike Tanier: D
I'm sorry: Did Russell Wilson and Lamar Jackson both retire this week and I somehow missed the news?
Brent Sobleski: F
McCaffrey is the game's best running back. There's no doubt about it. But two things stand in his way regarding the MVP race. First, it's a quarterback award, and a couple of quarterbacks are deserving of the hardware. Second, McCaffrey's numbers aren't quite as impressive as some might think considering Green Bay's Aaron Jones has as many total touchdowns.
Brad Gagnon: D-
Had the Panthers pulled that off, it would have had more to do with Kyle Allen's heroics than McCaffrey's effective play. He continues to be an Offensive Player of the Year candidate with virtually no chance at winning MVP, especially with the Panthers only on the playoff fringe and rushing records probably out of reach.
Gary Davenport: D
McCaffrey had another big stat line against the Packers and came up just short of what could have been a game-tying score. But in order to steal the MVP award away from guys like Russell Wilson and Deshaun Watson, he'd need to post ridiculous numbers and guide the Panthers to the playoffs. The latter is looking less and less likely.
Kyle Allen as the Long-Term Solution in Carolina
The Panthers placed Cam Newton on injured reserve Tuesday. As a result, Kyle Allen received an extended opportunity to prove he can be Carolina's long-term starter.
He didn't exactly respond well.
Yes, Allen eclipsed 300 passing yards for the first time in his professional career against the Packers, but he also committed two turnovers, including an end-zone interception.
Though the second-year signal-caller disappointed early, he still had his team positioned to tie the game as time expired. He welcomed the responsibilities of a NFL starting quarterback.
"I'm a young guy, but I'm the quarterback of this team," Allen told reporters. "This is a talented team."
Now eight starts into his career, where does Allen stand as the future of the Panthers organization?
Mike Freeman: A
It's Allen. There's very little question (at least to me). He's been solid. No, he's not Cam Newton, but with more experience, he can be better than good. He's the future in Carolina.
Mike Tanier: C
I'm an Allen skeptic, and he was a bit of a mess in the first half against the Packers. But he was very good—and very poised—in the snow and on the road during that final Panthers drive. So let's keep evaluating while Allen and opponents adjust to each other.
Brent Sobleski: B+
Follow the money. The Panthers can save $19.1 million by moving Newton this offseason. Allen will make far less than $1 million next season. If Carolina can get quality quarterback play within the system as it's designed, the smart financial move is going with the younger and cheaper alternative.
Brad Gagnon: C+
His previous two games weren't great, and he was far from fantastic before putting together a nice final drive Sunday. Even that fell short despite the Packers giving him plenty of opportunities. He's yet to execute a fourth-quarter comeback, and his numbers aren't impressive enough for me to view him as the next big thing under center. But he's at least earned the right to battle for the job.
Gary Davenport: C
I'm not sold on Allen as the long-term answer, but he's still got seven more games left in his audition. However, if the losses start piling up and there are big changes coming in the offseason, it's that much more likely a new regime would want to go in a different direction.