We spent so much time worrying about the Bears' kicker situation that we forgot they might have an even bigger problem at quarterback. It turns out the question isn't, It really might be, can the U.S. women's national soccer team legend play quarterback?
On Thursday night, in the 100th NFL season's opening game that resulted in , Bears kicker Eddy Pineiro did his job by making his lone field goal attempt. But Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky didn't do his, failing to demonstrate any signs of development in what can only be described as a dismal performance that resulted in a cascade of boos. The Chicago crowd thought it would be getting an improved version of Trubisky -- a version that would establish the Bears as a Super Bowl contender with more than just a great defense, but also a great offense -- but instead left Soldier Field wishing that Jay Cutler could've stepped off the sideline, out of his snazzy jacket, and into Trubisky's jersey and helmet.
Against a revamped, hyped and young Packers defense, Trubisky went 26 for 45 (57.8 percent) for 228 yards (an ugly 5.1 yards per attempt), no touchdowns, a game-losing interception and a fitting 62.1 passer rating. It was as awful a performance as the numbers suggest.
Who is to blame for the Bears loss on Thursday night? Was it Trubisky's bad play? Nagy's bad play calls? The Packers improved defense? Is it all a big overreaction?? Will Brinson, Sean Wagner-McGough, Ryan Wilson and John Breech break it all down in an instant reaction edition of the Pick Six Podcast. Subscribe to our daily NFL pod here and listen below.
Bears coach Matt Nagy deserves blame for his play-calling (a third-and-1 running play up the gut with Cordarrelle Patterson, to name one example), decision making (his decision to go for a fourth-and-10 instead of trying a long field goal, to name one example), and his eagerness to abandon the running game (the Bears ran the ball 12 times, not including Trubisky's keepers). And the offensive line was overrun by the Packers' defensive front. However, most coaches and O-lines wouldn't have been able to win a game with that version of Trubisky.
There were missed openings that Trubisky didn't see -- just ask Allen Robinson, who was wide open on more than occasion, but didn't always get the target his openness demanded. Below, in videos courtesy of NFL Game Pass (start your free trial today to rewatch Thursday's game), Trubisky missed an uncovered Robinson and instead fired a late pass into traffic that very easily could've been picked.
There were wildly thrown passes sailing over the heads of his receivers -- just like the missed passes that sailed over the heads of his receivers last year.
There were carelessly thrown passes that should've been intercepted. He was fortunate to finish with only one interception instead of three or four.
And there was a game-losing interception on a pass that never should've been thrown -- into double coverage.
The angle from behind the play is particularly damning. You can see Trubisky lock in on his target, which allowed former Bears and current Packers safety Adrian Amos to follow his eyes, which created the double coverage. And you can see exactly how Trubisky struggles against the blitz, lofting up a softball without stepping into the throw. It was a lazy pass that deservedly resulted in an interception.
In fairness to Trubisky, he made a couple nice throws -- mainly to Robinson, who was the lone bright spot on offense with seven catches for 102 yards. But it's those moments of brilliance that make his inconsistencies that much more frustrating.
It felt a lot like last year, when Trubisky posted decent enough numbers,Over the course of a 14-game regular season, Trubisky completed 66.6 percent of his passes, averaged 7.4 yards per attempt, threw 24 touchdowns and 12 interceptions and generated a 95.4 passer rating. Those numbers are fine -- good even for a second-year quarterback in a brand new system. It's how he posted those numbers that was concerning. In six starts, he posted a passer rating below 80.0. In six starts, he posted a passer rating above 100. Consistency was lacking.
The problems that plagued him a year ago were the exact same problems that plagued him Thursday night. Missing open targets with both his eyes and arm. Forcing passes into interceptable coverages. Not handling pressure with poise and composure. Making unforced errors.
Last year's Bears managed to capture the NFC North crown with a 12-win season and would've been onto the divisional round of the playoffs if not for Cody Parkey's double-doink, which is why the Bears (and all of us) spent the offseason obsessing over their problem at kicker. But the Bears' problem at kicker feels rather trivial after witnessing their problem at quarterback.
The problem is, if the Bears are going to take the next step, they're going to need Trubisky to take the next step in his development and emerge as a consistently good quarterback, and based on what we saw Thursday night, Trubisky isn't at that point -- at least not yet.
The Bears need Trubisky to develop quickly because, as has been documented to death, their defense is likely to regress. A year ago, the Bears' defense was the league's best by a wide margin, but they also relied extensively on turnovers and good health, both of which tend to fluctuate on a year to year basis. Perhaps more importantly, they got gutted in the offseason, losing defensive coordinator Vic Fangio to the Broncos (who has to be drooling as he thinks about how he'll deploy his new defense against the Bears' erratic quarterback in Week 2), slot cornerback Bryce Callahan and Amos, who likely won't ever forget Thursday night's homecoming.
While the Bears' defense submitted another incredible performance on Thursday night, it's worth noting they did not register a takeaway -- the kind of takeaway that would've shifted the game. They created a fumble, but didn't recover the loose ball because, well, fumble recoveries come down to dumb luck. They almost intercepted a couple of passes, but fell short by a few inches because, well, that's the way turnovers usually work. Based on what we saw on Thursday night, we can safely conclude the Bears' defense is going to remain great. But we were also reminded that the turnovers might not come at as high of a clip as they did a year ago because while turnovers require skill, they also require a dose of luck.
The easiest way for the Bears to offset their expected defensive regression is for their offense to improve a year after it ranked 20th in DVOA. And after the way Nagy and the Bears talked up their offense, we expected improvement, which made sense. Trubisky was a raw prospect after starting only one full season at North Carolina. He started his first NFL season on the bench behind Mike Glennon and then submitted a statistically poor, but under John Fox.
Last year, he had to learn Nagy's innovative scheme with new teammates surrounding him. This summer, he was mastering it -- allegedly, anyway.
"Last year he learned [this offense]; now he's trying to master it," Nagy told reporters at the end of May. "He's done a wonderful job of trying to get to some of the adjustments we have within the plays, concepts and schemes. Hopefully a few months from now, we get to training camp and preseason, and you all see that in game situations."
Well, we didn't see it on Thursday night. Instead, what we saw was a quarterback the Packers knew was a liability.
"We wanted to make Mitch play quarterback," said Packers cornerback Tramon Williams, per The Athletic. "We knew they had a lot of weapons, we knew they were dangerous, we knew all of those things. But we knew if we could make Mitch play quarterback, that we'd have a chance."
Let's be clear about something: It's Week 1. This isn't the time to overreact. Fifteen games remain. Let's give Nagy, an offensive-minded coach, time to work with Trubisky and the rest of his offense. Let's give Trubisky more time to develop. They both deserve it. At this point a year ago, the Bears were coming off a season-opening devastating loss to the Packers and we all thought the Bears were well on their way to another playoff-less season and the Packers were well on their way to postseason glory. The Bears went on to double the Packers' win total and Trubisky wound up scoring the same number of touchdowns as Rodgers. A lot can and will change between now and January.
But it's worrying that one year later, the conservation after the Bears and Packers' season opener is about the same player. It's worrying that the question we're all asking remains the same: Is Trubisky good enough?
As of right now, the answer to that question is a resounding no.
The Bears have a Super Bowl-caliber roster, but they also have a fatal flaw. Despite what we all thought, it isn't their kicker, though Pineiro remains both unproven and untested. It's their quarterback.
Until we see signs suggesting otherwise, Trubisky should be regarded as the Bears' fatal flaw, the thermal exhaust port that might just be the reason the Bears' Super Bowl dreams explode.