John Fox was right as far as looking ahead to how things can or might unfold for an NFL team (or quarterback): “Understate, overproduce,” was Fox’s operating mantra.
Why that matters or comes to mind at all is a step-back sense of what’s going on around the Bears and quarterback Mitch Trubisky. Their struggles through two games have loosed waves of bad feelings about at least the offensive portion of local professional football.
Much of that was not anything that he or his coach probably anticipated. But perhaps they should have, given various utterances, all offseason led much of BearsNation were led to believe by what coach Matt Nagy was putting forward.
Plus some long and painful pieces of Chicago sports history, Bears and otherwise.
Consider: Nagy this offseason frequently referred to where his quarterback and offense were as “2.0,” meaning the next step up from what was a respectable first year for players in Nagy’s offense, and for Nagy as a first-time, first-year Bears head coach. That said, “good things coming.”
So when “2.0” turned out to be alarmingly close to the yards-per-pass-play through two games, the negative response shouldn’t have been surprising, nor its intensity level. Call it the “You told us you were good! You lied!” reaction. More on the history of this psychological scarring shortly.
Fair to Trubisky? No, but….
None of it is necessarily fair whatsoever to a young man playing the most difficult single position in all of sports, who is clearly a leader and a worker and is an obvious favorite of his teammates and gives the degree of effort that traditionally endears athletes to Chicago, regardless of sport.
And Trubisky has acquitted himself very well at the most crucial points in two of his last three games, a huge positive looking ahead and the kind of in-the-clutch thing that is at the core of real success.
“The thing we’ve got to keep in mind here,” Nagy said on Thursday, “Mitchell ended up, at the end of the season against Philadelphia, when everything was on the line, that kid took us right down the field and gave us a chance to win. Okay? I think we all agree with that.
“He was put in a position this last game to take us down the field with 31 seconds to go and [he] put us in position to win.
“Depending on what went on in the game before that, did he have that opportunity to do it? He did. So let’s figure out – I need to – where are we at.
“He has it in him at the end of the game."
Understanding the scarred “You lied to us!” psyche
Part of all this swirling negativity lies in Nagy’s default-setting positivity: His daily updates never include trashing a player, and he appears at times to be making excuses or covering for Trubisky.
Part of this also traces back to Ryan Pace trading significant draft capital to be sure of getting Trubisky in the 2017 draft. Pace’s statement that Trubisky portended greatness, more so than either Patrick Mahomes or Deshaun Watson. Regardless of the outcome, Pace did make the overall right move, leaving nothing to chance to get his guy. (Whether this was THE guys was the concern. And still is, although not really the point here.)
In any case, there’s a deeper psyche issue that neither Nagy nor Trubisky could reasonably be expected to understand. Call it a form of betrayed trust. Call it: “You said you were good and we believed you! You lied to us!”
It didn’t start with the ’69 Cubs, but that may have been an accelerant. Even the ’85 Bears brushed up against it.
Recall that in 1983 the “Winning Ugly” White Sox won the AL West by 20 games. 20. 2-zero.(“You said you were good…”) They then proceeded to lose in the ALCS to Baltimore in four games, scoring 0, 1 and 0 runs in the three losses. (“You lied!”)
Come forward to 1984. Cubs blast out to a 2-0 NLCS lead, outscoring San Diego 17-2 in the two games (“You said you were good…”), then fade to black with three straight losses, the last two despite leading in each. (“You lied!”)
A year later Mike Ditka made liberal use of the “nobody believes in us but us” mantra even as his Bears were running away and hiding with a 12-0 start.
Even after that, Chicago paranoia reigned. Actor and Chicago native Joe Mantegna told this writer that even during the Super Bowl he just KNEW something would go wrong. So when Walter Payton fumbled on the second play and the Patriots recovered and kicked a field goal to lead 3-0, Mantegna said he proceeded to go around the corner into another room because he just couldn’t watch but still wanted to listen to the game. (He did come back in the TV room after halftime).
What the Cubs are going through right now is another booster shot of “You said you were good! You lied” juice. They win that World Series in 2016, Joe Maddon was deified (“You said you were good…”), then have proceeded to slide, to the point now where they are closer to falling all the way out of the postseason, which would represent a capstone “You lied!”
BearsNation was all in on Nagy from the beginning, with his foundation in offense, coaching tree (Andy Reid) and just the fact that he wasn’t John Fox. That was taken to new levels by 12 wins and an upbeat persona, creative offbeat plays, Club Dub, all the rest. The buy-in was there.
Now Nagy may be finding out what Fox and Dowell Loggains saw in first-year Trubisky, that he just wasn’t overly accurate down the field, and conservative game plans may be required until Trubisky grows to another level, if that happens.
Underlying the Trubisky brouhaha right now is the sentiment that faded for some last year, that the Bears had taken leave of their personnel senses when they traded up to be sure they got Trubisky in the 2017 draft. How strong was that feeling? Trubisky went to a Bulls game not long after the draft and was booed.
Trubisky had an obvious major hand in the Bears winning 12 games last year (“You said you were good…”), although the defense had an exponentially bigger hand in that and in Nagy, an offense-based coach, winning coach of the year honors with an offense ranked in the 20s.
Then Trubisky turns up on the cover of Chicago Magazine with a headline “The Bears Are Back” (“You said you were good…”) and on the story inside, the headline “Mitch Trubisky Grows Up” (“You said you were really good…”).
So when Trubisky bumbles to a combined passer rating of 65.0 through two games and looks to be turning out to be well short of “really good,” the reaction almost predictably has been tinged with that distant whiff of betrayed trust: “…You lied! You’re NOT good!).
Fair or not, Chicago has been through this sort of thing before.