Why Mitch Trubisky wasn't willing to write off the Bears' sloppiness in Cincinnati

Why Mitch Trubisky wasn't willing to write off the Bears' sloppiness in Cincinnati

CINCINNATI — The results in his preseason debut weren’t much different for Mitch Trubisky than what was customary in 2017: Two ineffective runs, then a short completion or an incompletion on third down, then a punt. 

Trubisky quarterbacked the Bears’ first two drives in their 30-27 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals Thursday evening at Paul Brown Stadium, completing two of four passes for four yards and a passer rating of 56.2. But while the results were shades of his dour rookie year, they weren’t what Trubisky felt like he and the offense had been building toward over the last few days of practice. 

And that’s one reason why Trubisky wasn’t willing to write off the sloppiness of the first-team offense as this group shaking off some rust. 

“Our standards are higher that we expect to be better,” Trubisky said. “No excuse for first preseason game. We have a bunch of experienced guys from last year, so there shouldn’t be any jitters. Maybe guys were excited, but it’s very simple — come out here, do your job, do exactly what we were doing in practice. We practiced our butts off this week. We just came out here and were sloppy.”

Trubisky added that he thought it was “surprising” the offense was so sloppy. A few examples of what he was talking about: He and Kevin White couldn’t connect on a deep shot on the first play of the game, White dropped a pass, Eric Kush was beaten back by Geno Atkins for a sack and Cody Whitehair was whistled for holding. Those accounted for four of the 10 snaps Trubisky took (only eight were official — there was a roughing the passer penalty that bailed out White’s drop, and then Whitehair’s penalty). 

“You definitely want to see a better start out of this offense," Trubisky said. "That was definitely not the way we’d been practicing, and that’s not what this offense is going to be this year."

It was somewhat telling that Trubisky was frustrated with how things went on Thursday. A few thoughts on it: First, he doesn’t have the gravitas of an experienced veteran to say “oh, well, it’s the first preseason game.” Second: Well, it was sloppy, and that kind of play isn’t up to the standard Trubisky set for himself and the Bears’ offense this year. 

“It’s going to be changed, because that’s not who we are or who we want to be,” Trubisky said. 

From a bigger-picture standpoint, though, this still was only Trubisky’s first preseason game of 2018. The Bears haven’t begun gameplanning for opponents yet as Nagy and offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich have focused on installing plays on a daily basis. Nagy said he thought Trubisky’s operation of the offense was smooth, and came away with neither a negative nor positive grade on his starting quarterback. 

“This is so early right now, it really is,” Nagy said. “… It will be fun as we go here to get them some more snaps, let them get into a rhythm and, really, for all the guys to get into a rhythm offensively. He’s going to have eight snaps to take a look at and see what was right and what was wrong, but it’s hard to judge off of eight plays.”

It’s worth noting, too, that the following players did not participate in Thursday’s game: Jordan Howard, Benny Cunningham, Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel and Dion Sims. Tarik Cohen nominally started, but didn’t touch the ball. So while Trubisky was working with his starting “U” tight end (Trey Burton), a presumptive starting wideout (Anthony Miller) and his entire starting offensive line (for the first series, until Kyle Long came out for the second one), there were plenty of pieces missing that are expected to be ready for Week 1. 

From an even bigger picture view, Thursday’s game being sloppy shouldn’t be too surprising, given the installation process of learning had generated some sloppy practices in Bourbonnais to this point even if they hadn't come in the last few days. There’s still a month until the Bears’ season-opening trip to Green Bay, and nobody around these parts is close to worrying about how Trubisky and his teammates are growing into the offense. 

But to Trubisky’s credit, he was frustrated. He was disappointed. And that’s probably how the Bears want the face of the franchise to feel after not performing to the level he believes he can reach — even if it was “only” a preseason game. 

“You get limited to so many plays, so you go out there and try to do the best you can with it,” Trubisky said. “It’s gotta be better. It will be better.”

Bears and Ryan Pace praise "underrated" (and highly paid) Leonard Floyd

Bears and Ryan Pace praise "underrated" (and highly paid) Leonard Floyd

I would make an argument that Leonard Floyd is the most divisive player on the Bears right now. Before you point out the obvious, you should remember that everyone's opinion on Trubisky is concretely set in stone. 

Floyd gets a lot of love from the All-The-Tools gang while garnering equal amounts of hate from people who swear by Pro Football Focus. He's an incredibly athletic, situationally-useful edge rusher who just can't really get to the passer. Is there value in that? Of course! How much? I don't know. But it's probably not $13 million. That's how much Floyd, who had a career-low 3 sacks last season, is going to make in 2020. It's a lot of money for an edge rusher who actually shows up in the box score. And it's certainly a lot of money for an edge rusher who doesn't. And it's surely a number the Bears are well-aware of.

RELATED: Will Ryan Pace's actions speak louder than his words

You would think this predicament might open the Bears up to some sort of contract restructuring or even a trade. Every second of media availability at the combine is just a chance for general managers to set smokescreens and it certainly doesn't sound like the Bears are trying to move on. 

"I think Leonard wants to be more productive as a pass rusher," Pace said on Tuesday morning. We want him to be more productive there too. He's close in a lot of areas when you look at the pressures and those things. He just needs to finish a little better on the quarterback. But I think when you're evaluating him, you have to factor in everything. His run defense. His ability in coverage."

"We consider him our "Sam" outside linebacker, so we value what he can do in coverage and think sometimes that goes a little underrated for what he does in that area, for a guy that's of his stature. Not many outside linebackers can drop in coverage like he does. So, that's a factor."

Maybe that's what the Bears WANT us to think! Maybe Pace is playing chess while we're all playing checkers. Or maybe he has a problem knowing when to cut bait with a high draft pick who hasn't panned out.

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Heading into Year 3, Matt Nagy's still searching for the Bears' identity

Heading into Year 3, Matt Nagy's still searching for the Bears' identity

Matt Nagy met with media on Tuesday, so naturally the horrid state of his offense eventually came up. When pressed on what's going to change, Nagy said some things that fans will probably like hearing.

"We know offensively we struggled in a lot of different areas, but we're about fixing it," Nagy said. "If we're OK with what we did last year, then we're in the wrong place. And we're not. So, we gotta fix things."

And then he followed that with some things they may not:

“Yeah, I’ll be calling the plays," he added.

"As we go through this offseason here, we need to figure out offensively what is our identity. I think more specifically, too, in the run game, we struggled there. So, we got to figure out what our identity is and that's going to be an objective for us. And then last year you heard me say, sometimes it takes five or six weeks. I feel like personally that's always the case but there's a sense of urgency for us going into this year. It needs to happen sooner."

Though the notion of who's calling plays has become something of a strawman for 2019, the Bears have already addressed it plenty. Gone are offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich, offensive line coach Harry Hiestand, and tight ends coach Kevin Gilbride. (Helfrich and Hiestand were reportedly heavily involved in the team's run plan.) In their places, respectively, are Bill Lazor, Juan Castillo, and Clancy Barone. They even brought on John DeFilippo to be the new QB coach after promoting Dave Ragone. 

"For me as a head coach, what I’m trying to do is, I want to become the best possible head coach I could be," Nagy said. "And by doing that, having guys around me that I can delegate and give things to is important … we don’t have the run-game coordinator title, but we have guys in Juan Castillo, Clancy Barone that have a great background in that. Bill Lazor can oversee really everything. We’re all having great ideas."

And while the Bears are fully embracing the idea of (too?) many cooks in a kitchen, there's still only one chef. This will still be Nagy's offense, for better or for worse. With that said, after watching Andy Reid -- his professional mentor -- adjust the Chiefs' gameplan all the way to a Super Bowl title, the art of the adjustment hasn't been lost on Nagy. 

"Coach Reid, in Philadelphia, ran a true West Coast offense," he said. "Not running that anymore. He’s been changing. So being able to change to your personnel—When we had Alex Smith, he brought in a lot of the RPO stuff. And now he’s got Patrick and they’re doing their things. So, to each their own. And it worked. But that also took a little bit of time, right? I remember coming in in 2013 in Kansas City and the year before, they were 2-14. It took time. Now seven, eight years later, it’s a Super Bowl. There’s a foundation there of players that has been created over time and that offense is not the same as what it was when I was there two years ago. That’s fun."

Here's to hoping that Bears' fans have patience for "seven, eight years later." 

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