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Pereira: Some NFL officials know they messed up Zach Miller TD

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Pereira: Some NFL officials know they messed up Zach Miller TD

It's been eight days since Zach Miller's-touchdown-that-wasn't and it's still a buzzworthy topic in the NFL world.

Miller is set to be released from a New Orleans hospital Monday morning after needing emergency surgery on his knee during that controversial endzone catch/non-catch. 

In the week-plus since that incident, the NFL has not walked back its bizarre decision to overturn Miller's TD against the Saints in Week 8. In fact, the league has actually doubled down, releasing a video last week where head of officiating Alberto Riveron claimed the evidence was definitive.

Mike Pereira feels differently.

The former NFL VP of officiating currently can be seen on FOX broadcasts breaking down the rules and judgements during games. 

Pereira joined the "Pardon My Take" podcast released Monday morning and admitted some officials around the NFL know the Miller TD call was a mistake, but won't say that publicly.

PFT Commenter and Big Cat asked Pereira if the NFL has officially apologized for the Miller TD reversal.

"No, they've done the opposite," Pereira said. "They have officially tried to sell the fact that they were correct with their ruling on the field, which I'm sorry to say — I don't want to call it laughable, but close to laughable.

"I get the fact that they want to try to defend what they're going to do, but there's no part of the Jet play against New England that was clear and obvious to overturn. It's a dangerous trend that we have seen.

"At least I'm happy to say this Sunday's games, they didn't pull any of those. They stayed with the calls that were made on the field. But they're trying to really try to justify their mistake when we're hearing even internally from some people in New York that they do agree it should'nt've been reversed."

Pereira said there are three plays in his mind this season that should never have been reversed — including the Miller TD and the aforementioned Week 6 Jets-Patriots call — that 50 drunk dudes in a bar could clearly see. 

Pereira hopes that NFL has gotten beyond that after a Week 9 with no such issues.

The Bears need to establish a template for Mitch Trubisky

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AP

The Bears need to establish a template for Mitch Trubisky

The bye week of every NFL season is a time of intense self-scouting, more in depth than the weekly self-critiquing that is a constant in the NFL. Four games into the NFL career of quarterback Mitch Trubisky, the Bears have something of a philosophical decision to make with their rookie quarterback.

One quarterback ideal in the current NFL is the one who can operate at max production from the pocket, with the ability to turn a broken play into a broken defense when he gets outside the pocket, whether by design, or induced by pressure. Brett Favre, Joe Montana, John Elway, Aaron Rodgers, a few that come to mind.

Trubisky already has established himself as able to move, able to throw on the move, and able to operate in an offense designed around more of his skill set than simply his right arm. Critics of the Bears’ game-planning and play-calling derided the Bears for not doing more with Trubisky’s mobile talents even as the Bears were winning two of his first three starts.

But much of life is about balance (thank you, Mr. Miyagi), and ultimately that is the foundation of a successful offense. Within that context, the Bears need to establish, and likely already have, a template for the kind of quarterback they want Trubisky to become.

Tom Brady and Peyton Manning always thrived in the pocket. Favre, Rodgers and Montana by their own assessments have flourished in chaos. All will wind up in the Hall of Fame. All have had significant injuries, whether pocket-dweller or man-on-the-move.

Mobile Trubisky, but be careful

Will defenses seek to flush Trubisky out of the pocket and keep him in it? And where will the Bears most often want him to be? How mobile do the Bears really want Trubisky to be “on purpose?”

A couple of thoughts, though:

Trubisky can move. No negative there. But his mobility hasn’t been offense-altering and coaches may have good reason for not designing a lot around that mobility, because the NFL may be onto him.

Trubisky averaged 9.6 yards per carry in preseason; his average is down at 7.3 yards per carry in his regular-season starts, and that includes a 46-yard scamper against the New Orleans Saints. Without that, Trubisky is picking up 4.6 yards per run.

Consistent with that, Trubisky was sacked once every 19 drop-backs in preseason, obviously going against lesser defensive talent. He now is being dropped once every 8.5 times he sets up to pass.

Trubisky, at this early point in his NFL career, has been critiqued as being more accurate on the move and/or outside the pocket. This is not necessarily a good thing whatsoever; the last Bears quarterback with that sort of seeming contradiction was Rick Mirer, who was demonstrably better on the fly (insert caustic comment here).

Nor is it necessarily true, at least in Trubisky’s mind.

“We had a higher [completion] percentage in play-action passes and [quarterback] keepers,” Trubisky said. “A lot of the incompletions were throwaways but we can just be higher percentage in those areas and continue to be better on third down. But we’ve been pretty good on drop backs and we just need to keep getting better in the red area to finish with points.”

He is a rookie with all of 13 college starts, about one-third the number that Deshaun Watson had at Clemson, and 572 total college passes, fewer than half the number thrown by Pat Mahomes at Texas Tech — the two quarterbacks his own selection preceded theirs in the 2017 NFL Draft. So the understanding was that Trubisky’s learning curve could well be a little longer or steeper than the typical rookie.

But he is clearly learning, what works and what doesn’t.

Ball-security concept sinking in

Coaches have drilled into Trubisky the importance of keeping the football in Bears hands and no one else’s. He has appeared to get it since before he replaced Mike Glennon, back in preseason when he nearly unseated Glennon outright as the Week 1 starter.

“Just look from game to game that he’s started,” head coach John Fox said. “We’re 2-2 in the quarter [of the ’17 season] that he’s been our starting quarterback, and I think we’ve done a better job of ball security and…we’ll just see where that takes us."

Trubisky threw zero interceptions in 53 preseason attempts even while seeing some pressure (sacked three times). He has thrown two picks in 80 regular season attempts while taking 11 sacks and throwing more than a half-dozen far out of harm’s way. Colleague JJ Stankevitz puts Trubisky in context with other rookie passers, citing QB coach Dave Ragone’s observation that some of ball-security behavior is innate and some is learning progressions and decision-making.

Jay Cutler never appeared to make ball security the priority it needed to be; his interception rates too often were north of 3, normally a tipping point for quarterback play. Favre can disprove some of the rule, but complementary football begins with an offense not putting its defense in difficult situations with turnovers. Only two teams reached the 2016 postseason with quarterbacks throwing INT’s at a rate higher than 2.7 percent.

Priority: Accuracy

Accuracy is prized nearly as much as ball security (they are not unconnected, obviously), and this so far is a work in progress.

Trubisky has completed a very, very modest 47.5 percent of his passes through his four starts. In fairness, however, he threw six passes away in the win over the Baltimore Ravens, a clear indication of movement along the learning curve from the previous week’s loss to the Minnesota Vikings when a forced throw in the closing minutes resulted in an interception that turned a potential winning Bears drive into a Vikings victory.

Just for sake of a meaningless what-if, had Trubisky completed four of those six intentional throwaways, his theoretical completion percentage improves to 52.5 — not the august 67.9 percent he completed in preseason or his 67.5 percent at North Carolina. Neither mean anything at the NFL level, except that his accuracy was a major reason for his evaluation as the top quarterback in the 2017 draft by more than only the Bears. His coaches may have installed a level-one priority for ball security but that does not compromise a natural passing accuracy that Trubisky has demonstrated his entire football life.

“We watched all the passes [last] week – all the red zone and two-minute and play action, every single pass we’ve had this year to see how we can get better and how we can get a higher completion percentage and too see how we can be more efficient all the way around,” Trubisky said. “We’ve been analyzing and self-scouting our own offense to see where we need to get better and at and what we need to improve.”

Mitchell Trubisky is learning how to take care of the ball in the NFL, and why that’s big in his development

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USA TODAY

Mitchell Trubisky is learning how to take care of the ball in the NFL, and why that’s big in his development

Since 1997, only three rookie quarterbacks have attempted at least 200 passes with a completion rate below 50 percent: Donovan McNabb (49.07 completion percentage, 216 attempts), Ryan Leaf (45.31 completion percentage, 245 attempts) and Craig Whelihan (49.79 completion percentage, 237 attempts).

Mitchell Trubisky is on pace to attempt 240 passes, and enters the Bears’ off week having completed 47.5 percent of his passes. If those numbers hold up, that’d be an odd group to join — one of the NFL’s most notable quarterback busts (Leaf), a future Hall of Famer (McNabb) and an anonymous former sixth-round pick (Whelihan). But Trubisky is nowhere near statistical path taken by Leaf, who threw 15 interceptions his rookie year and was out of the league within four years of being drafted thanks largely to his inability to take care of the football.

If Trubisky’s interception rate of 2.5 percent holds up and he throws 240 passes, that would equal six interceptions in his rookie year. There have been seven rookie quarterbacks to attempt at least 200 passes with an interception rate at 2.5 percent or below in the last 20 years: Dak Prescott (0.87 INT%), Carson Wentz (2.31 INT%), Derek Carr (2.00 INT%), Mike Glennon (2.16 INT%), Nick Foles (1.89 INT%), Robert Griffin III (1.27 INT%) and Charlie Batch (1.98 INT%).

How sustainable have those interception rates been?

Prescott: 0.87 percent (rookie), 1.2 percent (career)

Wentz: 2.31 percent (rookie), 2.2 percent (career)

Carr: 2.0 percent (rookie), 1.9 percent (career)

Glennon: 2.16 percent (rookie), 2.6 percent (career)

Foles: 1.89 percent (rookie), 2.1 percent (career)

Griffin: 1.27 percent (rookie), 2.1 percent (career)

Batch: 1.98 percent (rookie), 3.2 percent (career)

These aren’t without their extenuating circumstances, like Griffin’s serious knee injury or Glennon barely playing in 2015 and 2016 before struggling with the Bears this year. But the thought here is that learning to take care of the football as a rookie is generally a good thing, and good quarterbacks won’t see that percentage slide as their careers go on.

So far, Trubisky has shown he can do that. He hasn’t shown he can operate a complete offense yet, either due to the limitations of only starting 18 games since high school (13 at North Carolina, one in preseason, four in regular season) or because the pieces around him aren’t conducive to opening things up. But Trubisky’s natural ability is there, and isn’t going away no matter how conservative the gameplan is.

And if/when the Bears are ready to open up the offense for Trubisky — this year, next year, etc. — having that ability to take care of the football should greatly benefit him.

“I think some of it’s innate,” quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone said. “Some of it’s understanding hey, my progression, there’s nothing there, or there’s something wrong within the timing of the play and it’s time to move on. And when I move on and I break the pocket, I don’t have to force a ball on a second and seven call in the second quarter. It’s not a must-have situation.

“And for him to already understand that, and we do take as much pride as an offense with coach (Dowell) Loggains on down to talk about situations with him and the offense in general and constantly talk about it, but he does have the ability to understand hey, live to play another play here. And he’s very aware of the surroundings of the game, what’s going on, the situations of the game and again that’s to the fact that the guy obviously, it means something to him, this game and you can tell in his actions and his words.”