Without Cameron Meredith, perhaps the biggest question facing the Bears entering the 2017 season is who, if anyone, can step up to fill the production void left by that brutal injury he suffered in Tennessee.
But Meredith’s injury opened up another question: Might it mean Mitch Trubisky won’t see the field as quickly as we might’ve thought based on his excellent preseason?
If the answer to that question is yes, it may have less to do with Trubisky’s own development and the desire to put him in the best possible situation when he makes his regular season debut. And while Trubisky very well could be a guy who makes receivers around him better — which would be the best-case scenario — it’s worth considering the worst case here.
And the closest thing we’ve seen to that worst case happened to Jared Goff last year.
Goff sat out the Los Angeles Rams’ first nine games before coach Jeff Fisher, faced with a 4-5 record and a struggling Case Keenum (9 TDs, 11 INTs), anointed last year’s No. 1 overall pick as the team’s starting quarterback. The Rams lost their next four games, leading to Fisher’s firing, and then finished out the year with three more defeats. Goff’s stats were horrendous: A 54.6 completion percentage, 1,089 yards, 5 touchdowns, 7 interceptions and a rating of 63.6 to go along with an 0-7 record.
Benny Cunningham had an up-close look at how bad things got last year in Los Angeles, and said the problem wasn’t necessarily Goff, but the rest of the offense not helping him.
“I would say that the situation with Jared Goff was kind of unfair to him because I feel like as a whole offense, we struggled,” Cunningham, who signed with the Bears in March, said. “As a quarterback, being drafted high, you take most of the criticism. But I feel like if the guys around him can help — that’s any quarterback — if the guys around you can execute and help, it makes your job a lot easier.
“… I just felt like in general we all struggled as an offense. I wouldn’t say he struggled by himself. It’s different when you’re on the inside looking out, you can see exactly what’s going on the depth of a receiver, a missed block by a running back — you see everything. And then in the paper you read the quarterback had two interceptions, so you really don’t get to see the whole detail of it. I feel like everybody played a part in what happened last year.
“… I feel like we failed as an offense. If you look back to the points we put up, the yards per game, as a whole, I just feel like we failed. I feel like the quarterback position in this league, in a lot of places, they take the criticism.”
The Rams’ offensive line was shaky, and while Kenny Britt turned in a 1,000-yard season, Goff lacked a speedy target who could stretch a defense. As a result, opposing defenses continually stacked the box, limiting the effectiveness of running back Todd Gurley (3.2 yards/carry).
As a result, the Rams were last in the NFL in points per game (14) and yards per play (4.4).
The parallels aren’t perfect between the 2016 Rams and 2017 Bears, of course. This year’s Bears have a better offensive line, for one. Trubisky in his first three preseason games has thoroughly out-performed what Goff did in his 2016 preseason, too:
Trubisky: 34/48 (70.8 completion percentage), 354 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs, 2 sacks
Goff: 22/49 (44.9 completion percentage), 232 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs, 4 sacks
More than anything, though, Trubisky and Goff are different quarterbacks. Trubisky may be able to make a bad situation better. But Goff’s struggles are worth noting as the question of when, not if, Trubisky plays continues to be asked.