With each Mitchell Trubisky soaring overthrow, misread and three-and-out in Sunday’s dispiriting 36-25 loss to the New Orleans Saints, the question for the Chicago Bears grows.
How long can they stick with Trubisky, especially considering their championship-contending defense?
Namely, as the Oct. 29 trade deadline approaches, would a franchise that has boldly invested in winning a Super Bowl right now blow up one of its signature moves and make another one … this time for Cam Newton?
Shopping for a quarterback and the reboot that comes with it in the middle of the season is not ideal. Very little about this 3-3 Bears season has been ideal. No, the defense wasn’t great against the Saints, but it can be. And when you’re getting nothing from the offense, these things happen.
Maybe Trusbisky was extra rusty in his return from a Week 4 injury. Maybe. More likely this is who he is. Does Chicago still think this guy is a savior, the way it did in 2017 when it dealt three mid-round draft picks to move up one spot to pick him second overall?
What they got Sunday was a mess.
His final line of 34-of-54 for 251 yards and two touchdowns doesn’t do it justice. Much of that was gained late, when the game was out of hand. Trubisky had 23 pass attempts in the first half and gained just 73 yards. The first 10 Chicago drives lasted an average of 3.7 plays. The first 11 possessions netted just three points. With 4:33 remaining in the fourth, the Bears had 120 total yards.
Worse, Trubisky’s mistakes were the kind that are so obvious they can suck the life out of a team. The defense tired after allowing 10 first-half points. The running attack has become nonexistent — just seven rushing attempts — perhaps because no one fears the pass.
“We have no identity,” Trubisky said. “We’re just searching. We don’t have any rhythm. We’re not the offense we were last year.”
They may actually have an identity, just not a positive one. Can that change? And can Chicago, which entered the season thinking Super Bowl, afford to wait and see?
Trubisky hasn’t shown much in two and a half seasons. He escaped major criticism last season when much of the fan and media attention was focused on the Bears’ lousy kicking game — most famously in the 16-15 playoff loss to Philadelphia. It was Trubisky’s offense that stalled out three times in the red zone and got stopped on the final, critical drive.
This season the Bears are 30th in total offense, 29th in passing, 28th in rushing and so on and so on. They just had a bye week to get Trubisky healthy and figure it out. They still haven’t gained 300 yards in a game this year.
It was daring to move up and take Trubisky, a relatively unknown player out of North Carolina, as the first QB in the draft. Chicago was convinced. Others weren’t, perhaps most notably Watson, who while at Clemson dominated the ACC only to watch a lesser player with just 13 career starts go ahead of him.
“You’re going to have to live with the consequences that come with it,” Watson said before the draft. “… I guess if that’s who they’re going to roll with, so be it.”
So be it. And here are the consequences.
Can Chicago, which last year dished two first-round picks to Oakland to grab Khalil Mack and turn a good defense into a great defense, admit its mistake with Trubisky and try to right the ship while there is still time?
Cam Newton has missed four games in Carolina due to injury, but he’s expected back within the next two weeks. In his place, however, Kyle Allen has stepped up and gone 4-0. The Panthers might be interested in moving forward without their longtime star.
Newton isn’t what he was in 2015 when he was the league MVP. His 45 touchdowns that year (35 of them passing) look like an aberration — he has averaged 27.9 in his other seven full seasons. He brings a distinctive game and a big personality.
Yet former league MVPs aren’t often available at age 30 — let alone one who might benefit from a change of scenery.
It’s not ideal, but the original sin needs to be addressed. The defense is there. The kicking game can’t be blamed anymore. An expected Super Bowl-contending season is in the process of wilting on the vine … and if Trubisky can’t get the Bears to the playoffs this season, then the question lingers into the offseason.
Maybe Chicago still thinks the guy it once believed would be better than Mahomes, McCaffrey and Watson can still become something great. Maybe they are right and staying the course is the move here.
As a once-promising season churns toward being lost though, that feels like as big of a gamble as making a move for Cam Newton.
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