On Sunday night, at some point between the Bears’ second-to-last and last offensive possession, head coach Matt Nagy pulled embattled quarterback Mitchell Trubisky into a tight hug and began talking, obscuring his mouth on both sides by using Trubisky’s pads and a play call sheet.
After that conversation, backup Chase Daniel came in for the final possession. The Bears were trailing by 10 points with 3:24 to play and a full slate of timeouts. Daniel and the Bears offense turned the ball over on downs. Relentless speculation as to Trubisky’s future was already underway.
If we believe Nagy and Trubisky’s series of events, Trubisky was evaluated medically at halftime for a hit he took that created some discomfort in the “hip region.” Trubisky said “I just tried to keep it loose, but it just kept getting tighter and tighter and it was really preventing me from playing my game. It’s frustrating.” Trubisky said most of his throws couldn’t get any lower-body power in the second half, suggesting they were “all arm.”
Trubisky later narrowed the timeframe of the injury to the final drive of the second quarter. In that series of eight plays, I counted three that may have led to potential hits. Two of them were hits that came right after the ball was released, though until the All-22 film is released it will be difficult to gauge the severity of each one. Trubisky seemed to get hit in the hip region by Rams defensive end Morgan Fox on a first-and-10 with 1:18 to go in the second quarter. Then, two plays later he was sacked by one-hand touch after falling to the ground. On that play, Trubisky scrambled toward the sideline and made a few awkward contortions trying to extend the play.
After the game, Nagy confirmed that Trubsiky received no sideline medical attention during the second half—just that he was told by quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone during the second half that Trubisky was playing through it.
For a Bears fan (and perhaps for its general manager, too), this moment is a type of Rorschach test on the long-term future of the quarterback they traded up to draft No. 2 overall in 2017, ahead of both Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes. If you indeed feel he’s coming along at an incremental pace but has been thrown off course by a series of inconvenient injuries—a theory that, even Monday, is being wielded by one of the most connected reporters on the Bears beat—then the above string of facts will all fall neatly into place. He was a Pro Bowler last year, made a jump in yardage, threw twice as many touchdowns and interceptions, so there must be a logical explanation for the regression this season.
If you believe that Trubisky was bolstered by fresh playcalling and a brilliantly assembled slate of complementary playmakers (not to mention a world-beating defense) in 2018 and that this season is exposing his fundamental flaws, then Sunday night only hurls dry logs onto your smoldering conspiracy.
This has not been a great few weeks for Trubisky. While his stat line in the last five games can be deceiving (107-176, 992 yards, six touchdowns, two interceptions, 15 sacks taken), he has one of the lowest points added totals in the league (-12.4). His total QBR hovers around 37, which lumps him into a tier of quarterbacks like Andy Dalton, Kyle Allen and Mason Rudolph (in Trubisky’s defense, Baker Mayfield, Josh Allen and Jared Goff are all sitting in similar situations).
A comment he made about wanting the televisions turned off at the team’s facility to shut out a growing number of critics became a window into the perception that he is a less-than-confident soul. This, coming just a few weeks after an awkward press conference where Trubisky was seemingly not allowed to talk about a recent loss the team had just suffered.
Trubisky looked broken on the sideline Sunday, folding his hat over his head. He grunted his way through a post-game press conference. Anecdotally, it’s not hard to compare his demeanor to other quarterbacks who have similarly felt the gigantic weight of a given situation when their performance doesn’t align with expectation. Or, in Trubisky’s case, when he’s also constantly compared to two of the brightest young stars in football who the Bears could have had instead of him.
What comes next will be telling. The Bears can use the hip injury as a shield to reinsert Daniel into the lineup, or perhaps look outside the franchise for more help at the position. They did not make any moves to bolster the quarterback room during the trade deadline, which may have been an indication of their feelings at the time.
Either way, their perspective on the Rorschach will soon be revealed. Sunday’s events don’t leave a lot of wiggle room for Nagy and the Bears to let us know what they’re really thinking about their franchise quarterback.
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