The Chicago Bears’ final scoring drive Sunday against the No. 2 seeded New Orleans Saints would have done a lot more for the team, and specifically, quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, if the game wasn’t all but over by then.
When the second overall pick of the 2017 NFL Draft led his team down the field 99 yards, he could have cemented his immediate future in Chicago; he could have squashed (even if it would have been for a very brief time) the concerns that he isn’t fit for a starting role. This, and more, could have happened if the Bears weren’t already down 21-3. Trubisky’s late efforts padded his stats and gave everyone a glimpse of what could have been if he, head coach Matt Nagy, and the rest of the organization were actually a playoff-caliber team.
The Bears’ season was kept alive, not by their own volition—although they were able to stop a midseason skid with three consecutive wins—but by an Arizona Cardinals loss. The expanded playoff field allowed Chicago to sneak into the postseason as the NFC’s seventh seed; as quickly as their playoffs hopes were met, they were easily squashed. New Orleans was obviously the better team in every sense, and Trubisky’s struggles were exacerbated by facing one of the top defensive units.
There wasn’t any trust from the head coach down to the quarterback, which was evident in the lackluster offense fielded for all but two minutes. Before Trubisky’s last-ditch efforts moved him to 19-of-29 passing for 199 yards and a touchdown, he completed only 10-of-19 passes for just 107 yards. The future doesn’t look bright for Trubisky, who could have made a case for staying in Chicago with a deeper playoff run.
While Trubisky and the Bears’ brass seem to be on a different page, the fate of this team lies in the few seemingly easy questions they must answer during the postseason; leave it on a struggling team to fail to make the decision of parting ways with a known face harder than it needs to be. Beyond Trubisky’s status, there’s Nagy, who was in danger of losing his job after the midseason skid but is rumored to be safe through 2021, and general manager Ryan Pace, who traded up one spot in the 2017 NFL Draft to draft Trubiksy No. 2 while passing up on quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson, who were selected 10th and 12th overall, respectively.
Over a week ago, it was reported by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, among other rumors that proved to be true, that Nagy is expected to return next season. It will ultimately be up to how patient Chicago is and that could be running low. The shocking (and yet, slightly expected) firing of Philadelphia Eagles’ head coach Doug Pederson three seasons after he took the team to its first Super Bowl appearance in over a decade (and won!), makes Nagy’s success insignificant. Nagy’s accomplishments include a 12-win season and two early playoff exits.
Both Trubisky and Nagy addressed their status’ separately. A breakup is imminent; if Nagy stays, it’s hard to see Trubisky on the roster next season despite his own desire to stay.
“I think I can definitely see myself back here next year,” Trubisky said, via NBC Sports Chicago. “Obviously a lot of that is out of my control but it feels like home and it feels like we have unfinished business. Right now I’m just bummed about this season being over and how the game went so a lot of emotions going on right now but I can see that. We’ll see. There are a lot of things that have to happen and a lot of decisions that have to be made and that’s out of my control but and I can see that.”
But both Nagy and Pace put their faith, until recently, in Trubisky; that is until they traded for Nick Foles, who is under contract next season. Trubisky’s fourth season was anything but effective. He completed 67% of his passes for 2,055 yards and 16 touchdowns while throwing eight interceptions. Trubisky was benched in Week 3 and regained the starting job in Week 12. In the team’s final six games during the regular season, Trubisky threw 10 touchdowns and five interceptions. He’s the face of another disappointing Bears’ season but the fix doesn’t stop and start with a new quarterback. It extends to a defense that’s wasting the talent of linebacker Khalil Mack, which won’t be addressed with just a quarterback change.
The fate of Trubisky, Nagy, and Pace will help determine just how far Chicago can go; and if the Bears opt for addressing just one of the key reasons why they’ve struggled to make it past the wild-card round or accumulate winning seasons, we’ll likely see more of the same going forward.