Finally. The Bears’ season has begun. I know, I know, it started a month ago, but now it really feels like it has begun. Mike Glennon has been sent to the bench. #2 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, and mammary gland aficionado, Mitchell Trubisky will get the start in Week Five at home to the Minnesota Vikings.
None of this means I have any ill-will toward Mike Glennon. In fact, I think he did ok, the lack of even receiving talent in the Bears’ offence has undoubtedly expedited his demise. But perhaps therein lies the real issue. His demise was inevitable. There has been space on the Bears bench figuratively bearing his name from the moment Roger Goodell announced Trubsiky’s name on April 27th – the only question was when would they make him sit on it?
Looking at the schedule before the season, Week 5 always seemed like the first serious hurdle. On paper at least, the Bears first four games were a brutal gauntlet of opponents with three of the most heavily favoured teams to make a Super Bowl push in the form of Atlanta (H), Pittsburgh (H) and Green Bay (A). Not to mention 2017 bandwagon team – Tampa Bay (A). As a team, the Bears did a fine, beating Pittsburgh and coming extremely close to beating Atlanta. The problem for Glennon though is that the relative success was viewed as being despite him, and not because of him. A rough outing against the old rivals in Green Bay was the final nail in his coffin.
Given that Glennon was always a placeholder, it is now that the season begins for Bears fans. Anyone trying to be objective knows that a playoff run was not on the table in 2017 for Chicago, but fans want to see progress, and through the first four games there has been. Most notably on Defence where the Bears are much improved on their 2016 iteration. Also, the running game, that was already viewed as a strength, has taken an unexpected step forward with the addition of the exciting Tarik Cohen. Nevertheless, if this season is truly to be a platform for success the most pressing area to develop is the passing game; you cannot win in the NFL without throwing the ball effectively – and it begins with the Quarterback.
Will Trubisky be able to lead the sort of improvement fans are hoping for? It’s hard to say, but there are compelling reasons to think this is the right move. Trubisky was mightily impressive in preseason. The caveat being it was, after all, preseason. Also, one of the biggest criticisms of the decision to draft Trubisky was based on his lack of experience – he played only one season as a starter in college, with North Carolina. Of course, there is no way for him to gain more experience on the bench. From that perspective, it makes sense to give him time to learn on the job, and this season isn’t one with expectations of a winning record anyway. Furthermore, Trubisky may have traits that allow the offence to function better right-away. Most notably is the marriage between the Bears offensive philosophy and his skill set. The Bears are a good run-first team, but teams are aware of that. Mike Glennon was a pure pocket-passer. So, teams quickly realise they can blitz the Bears, with Plan A being stop the run, and if it is a pass play they know Glennon will be right there, in the pocket waiting to be hit. And he was. Trubsiky however is athletic, and can make plays with his feet. The Bears should be able to move the pocket on Play-action more easily with roll-outs and bootlegs while allowing Trubisky to take advantage of his improvisational skills. On a personal level, one other thing that gives me cause for optimism is Trubisky himself. He seems confident, and assured without seeming to lack self-awareness. There’s just something in the way he carries himself that gives me hope. And hopefully he can take that on top the field with him on Monday Night.
This move is not a given to be a success though beyond the obvious concerns facing all rookie Quarterbacks. The most significant if which is a complete dearth of receivers. Kendall Wright is the nominal #1 guy, and he’s really a 3 guy who dies his best work in the slot. Markus Wheaton has speed but has shown little to inspire so far and has been hampered with injury. Josh Bellamy is a Special Teams ace, but as a receiver he just drops too many easy passes. Deonte Thompson is great in space but just does not seem to get open. It is, almost certainly the worst group of Wide Receivers in the NFL. There is help, in the form of the electric Tarik Cohen, and a plethora of middle of the road Tight-Ends. From a strategic perspective though, the lack of receivers is a serious problem. Unfortunately, the reality for the Bears is that teams will continually play with eight in the box to stop the run and play the underneath options in the passing game – like Cohen and Miller with greater aggression until Chicago demonstrate that they can hurt their opponents down the field. And that is going to be Trubisky’s big challenge. Can the Bears expand their offence by going deep periodically? It’s a lot of pressure for a rookie to carry, and it could lead to turnovers. But if the Bears want to improve, it’s the right approach.
In terms of the Vikings game specifically, there is probably no better time to give Trubisky the start. While the Vikings are a good team thery are likely going to be missing Sam Bradford, and their offence took a huge blow when Dalvin Cook was lost for the season last week. Beyond that the Bears have looked very strong at home, and having had an 11 day gap between the Green Bay game on Thursday and the Vikings game on Monday it gives them maximum preparation time. At the very least it will be interesting to see how Trubisky fares. Despite the 1.30am kick-off I know I will be watching. Will you?