The Bears are stuck with Mitch Trubisky for the final 10 games of 2019, with nothing left but to hope the guy they traded up to draft second overall in 2017 finally puts everything together.
Or, alternatively, doesn’t continue to show alarming signs of regression in what was supposed to be a year of “incremental growth,” as general manager Ryan Pace put it prior to the season.
Chase Daniel is not the answer. Trading for a quarterback before the NFL’s Oct. 29 deadline is not the answer, because it's not realistic (more on that later). The only answer for the 3-3 Bears is something clicking with Trubisky and coach Matt Nagy over the next 10 weeks.
It’s why Nagy said he’s “absolutely” committed to Trubisky moving forward.
If that feels bleak, it’s because it is. Trubisky averaged 3.4 yards per attempt before the New Orleans Saints backed off with four and a half minutes left in a blowout, allowing him to pick up some easy yards and finish the day averaging 4.6 yards per attempt (which is still not good). The Bears have one of the worst offenses in the NFL with a quarterback who's fast becoming a national social media punchline.
This is the point of the story where we acknowledge Trubisky is far from the only problem with the Bears’ offense. He’s not the one calling the plays or executing the runs and run blocks. A better run game would certainly help Trubisky be a better quarterback, of course, since opposing defenses would actually have to respect the Bears' ability to beat them on the ground.
Since the start of the 2018 season, teams are 13-29 when they average 2.4 yards per carry or fewer, which the Bears did Sunday. No team has won attempting seven or fewer rushes since 1951, and the Bears are only the sixth team since 2000 to have such a paltry commitment to the run in a given game. The Bears’ previous franchise low for rushing attempts in a game was eight, set during the ignominious Marc Trestman era in 2014.
“Nothing that you see on the field is 100 percent (Trubisky’s) fault,” running back Tarik Cohen said.
But having a good quarterback would paper over some of these issues. Patrick Mahomes and DeShaun Watson have both won games in 2019 with their offenses averaging fewer than 2.4 yards per carry.
Those, of course, are two of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, and there exists a real possibility Watson follows Mahomes as NFL MVP in 2019. You all know why they’re being mentioned here.
"You would like the defense not to be dropping out every time and you would like to have a balanced attack on offense, and that's what we're trying to do," Trubisky said. "But my job is just whatever is called to make sure I go out there and do my job to the best of my ability, and I think if you do that, then it opens up the run game, then the pass game opens up as well."
Is the solution to trade for a quarterback? Probably not. First of all: Never say never, but it's extremely unlikely Pace would even consider such a move. It would mean giving up on the guy he staked this franchise to four or five games into his third year in the NFL.
Would it be a bold move, fitting with Pace's history of bold moves? Of course. But when Pace traded two first-round picks for Khalil Mack, he was replacing Aaron Lynch in the starting lineup, not a guy he drafted with a top-10 pick. NFL general managers have a history of attachment to their top picks. It's why, right now, even with Trubisky's slow start to the season the expectation here is Pace will still pick up his quarterback's fifth-year option next spring.
But if Pace were to decide to even consider trading for a quarterback, it would require a team to make a quarterback available. Midseason quarterback trades are exceedingly rare — Carson Palmer going from Cincinnati to Oakland in 2011 is the only one that comes to memory — and there's a good chance Andy Dalton, Marcus Mariota andeven Josh Rosen aren't available.
Also: Are any of those guys slam-dunks to be an upgrade over Trubisky when dropped into a new, complex scheme with receivers they've never thrown to before in the middle of a season?
But then again, this is what Pace said after drafting Trubisky in 2017:
“If we want to be great, you just can’t sit on your hands,” Pace said. “There are times when you’ve got to be aggressive and when you have conviction on a guy, you can’t sit on your hands.
“I just don’t want to be average around here, I want to be great. And these are the moves you have to make.”
The Bears are nothing but an average team right now, the kind that will struggle to reach the playoffs and truly be great. They have a very good — not elite — defense and a bad offense that, combined, are not playing complementary football. That’s a recipe for 8-8 being a best-case record.
For the Bears to stop playing like average is their ceiling, they'll need to get their quarterback to start playing like the guy they've hoped he could be for the last two-and-a-half years.
That may not be an ideal spot for this team to be in, but it's where they are, hoping with increasingly blind faith in a quarterback who hasn't lived up to expectations.