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Should Bears bench Trubisky? Making argument for — and against — sitting the starting QB.

Colleen Kane, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Football

CHICAGO -- Mitch Trubisky still has his job as Bears starting quarterback, and with that power, he has a request for those working around the freshly remodeled Halas Hall.

Could they please turn off all the flat screens airing nonstop analysis of why the 2019 Bears have utterly failed to meet expectations?

The statement, given at Trubisky's weekly news conference, was immediately mocked on social media. Doesn't he know how to turn off a TV? But that kind of proved his point. He was, after all, answering a question about how he tunes out the outside negativity.

"You've got too many people talking on TV about us and what they think about us -- what we should do, what we are and what we're not," Trubisky said. "But they don't really know who we are or what we're capable of as people or what we're going through or what we're thinking. It's just the outside viewers looking in."

It's hard to blame Trubisky -- for that, at least. With each of the Bears' last three losses, the criticism of him and the calls for his job have grown.

The Bears haven't given any indication they have considered sitting Trubisky in favor of backup Chase Daniel. But that hasn't stopped fans and critics from discussing whether a quarterback change is needed.

In honor of the demise of TV at Halas Hall, here's a good old-fashioned debate about whether the Bears should bench Trubisky.

(Now would be a good time for Trubisky to tune out.)

Bench him: The sample size is big enough. The stats tell who Mitch Trubisky is.

Through 33 career games, Trubisky has a passer rating of 86. His rating of 80 this season ranks 30th among qualifiers, ahead of only Andy Dalton, Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold, according to Pro Football Reference.

Trubisky's 1,217 yards this season rank 28th, his 2.3% touchdown percentage is 33rd and his 63% completion percentage is 22nd. One of the best things that can be said of him so far is he has thrown only three interceptions in seven games. But two of them -- against the Packers and Chargers -- came in the fourth quarter of a one-touchdown game that the Bears ultimately lost.

Of the three aforementioned quarterbacks with lower ratings, the 0-8 Bengals benched Dalton for rookie Ryan Finley. Darnold's regression has Jets fans calling for the firing of coach Adam Gase. Ditto for Mayfield, the Browns and coach Freddie Kitchens.

Trubisky's numbers were closer to middle of the road last season, and there should have been a step forward in the offense in Year 2 under coach Matt Nagy. Through half a season, Trubisky's inconsistency has made that leap impossible, and in turn, the Bears' lofty postseason goals are nearing unattainable.

And that should be enough to move on.

Play him: The Bears need to be certain this isn't just a funk Mitch Trubisky can climb out of.

Bears general manager Ryan Pace's reputation, perhaps even his legacy, is directly linked to the night in 2017 when he traded up to draft Trubisky with the No. 2 pick.

If the Bears are going to move on from Trubisky -- and a benching would likely be the start of that -- they had better be positive their quarterback won't go elsewhere and become the player Pace once envisioned.

The only way they can be comfortable that won't happen is to continue to test Trubisky the rest of this season, using different strategies on and off the field to get him out of his slump.

Trubisky showed glimpses of promise in 2018 -- 354 passing yards and six touchdowns against the Buccaneers, 355 yards and three touchdowns against the Lions. Sure, those performances were against subpar teams, but the Bears would take one of those showings at any point this year.

Who's to say that's not still in there?

Nagy said he is willing to try anything -- from making Trubisky watch broadcast tape to study his body language to encouraging conversations with past coaches. And Trubisky embraces that.

"It's been a learning experience ... going up and down and having it not going the way you expected it to go," Trubisky said. "Kind of what we did last year, we've got to throw expectations out the window. They don't really matter. ... If you take a step back, you look at it and you say, 'OK, it is what it is. This is where we're at right now. How can we fix things? How can we get better from here?' "

Bench him: At 3-5, playoff hopes are very slim, but there's still a shot.

Taking into account the Bears' need to be sure about moving on from Trubisky, the only real reason to sit him is to salvage a shot at the postseason.

The New York Times says the Bears still have a 4% chance to make the playoffs. That drops to 1% if they lose to the Lions on Sunday.

Since 2000, 50 teams have advanced to the playoffs after posting a .500 record or below through their first eight games, according to NFL Communications, including the 3-5 Cowboys and Colts last season. Each team won its ninth game.

"It's now or never," wide receiver Anthony Miller said. "It's win or go home, really, for us, to my knowledge. So we've got to win."

So if a change is going to make a difference, now would be the time to make it.

When Daniel entered the Vikings game after Trubisky injured his left shoulder, he completed 22 of 30 passes for 195 yards in a 16-6 victory. And while the Bears got off to a horrible start against the Raiders in Oakland, Daniel led a comeback to at least make it a game, completing 73% of his passes for 231 yards, tied with Trubisky's third-best effort this year.

Could Daniel's presence help provide the spark the Bears need? Would it hurt to try?

Play him: Chase Daniel's turnovers have helped lose two of the four games he played for the Bears.

There's a good amount of evidence that Daniel is not the answer to the Bears' problems on offense.

 

He has played the majority of four games for the Bears the last two seasons, with two victories to his name.

In the overtime loss to the Giants in 2018, he threw two first-half interceptions, including a pick-six on the first drive of the game. In the loss to the Raiders this season, he threw two interceptions, including one on a drive that could have helped seal a victory.

The only touchdown drive he led against the Vikings was the one he took over for Trubisky at midfield. On Thanksgiving Day against the Lions in 2018, the Bears needed Eddie Jackson's pick-six to win it.

This isn't like the Bears turning to a young, unproven -- and potentially exciting -- quarterback. Daniel is a 33-year-old career backup who is like another coach for Trubisky and is serviceable in a pinch. But he doesn't appear to be the answer over half a season.

Bench him: As Matt Nagy said, mistakes can be contagious.

Trubisky's mistakes aren't just turnovers, though the aforementioned fourth-quarter interceptions and a lost fumble against the Chargers were particularly costly.

When he misses wide receivers by several yards, as he did when he overshot Taylor Gabriel on what looked like a sure touchdown against the Chargers, or when he fails to see the field correctly to spot an open receiver, there's potential for the negativity to rub off on other plays and other players. How can he maintain trust with his receivers when he makes such obvious errors?

It's no wonder Nagy had Trubisky watch that broadcast tape from the Chargers game to study his body language. Bad vibes can snowball.

As Gabriel said when asked generally about the offense's mistakes: "Negative plays, they affect everybody. It's just how you bounce back from them."

Play him: The problems run deeper than Mitch Trubisky.

Nagy made that much clear after the Eagles game when asked if he considered a move to Daniel at halftime. He didn't because he blamed more than Trubisky for the Bears netting just 9 yards in the first half.

A failure of those proportions falls on many -- from Nagy's game plan to the offensive line's issues to drops by Tarik Cohen, David Montgomery and Allen Robinson.

Nagy used that argument when he was asked how his other players are maintaining faith in Trubisky.

"It's there," Nagy said. "Here's how we do it. We look at it as a whole unit. You go back and look at (Sunday's) game, offensively, there's a lot more than just one person. ... Mitch knows and I know and we all know that it goes to him. He gets it. But there's a lot of people involved here that we really believe in that it didn't happen (Sunday). That's the part that's really frustrating."

Bench him: At some point, if Mitch Trubisky continues to struggle, Matt Nagy could lose the team.

The public message from the players is that they are not yet at that point.

Gabriel stood up Wednesday and said he still believes in Trubisky. Left tackle Charles Leno said Tuesday the best thing the Bears offense does is stick together. Trubisky said he stresses communication with his teammates so they stay on the same page with their work, mindset and goals.

All three were earnest in their statements, but is there a breaking point? If Trubisky makes another game-deciding turnover or continues to miss wide-open receivers, will the mistakes wear on his teammates? Will the defense begin to resent the heavy load it is forced to carry? Or will those players give up?

Nagy is guarding against such problems, but maybe a quarterback change would help stave off the disgruntlement of his players.

"Defensively I have all the belief in those guys and how they're going to handle themselves, even after a four-game losing streak," Nagy said. "What happens is that you see their character jump up even more and you realize that they lead themselves defensively. The whole unit, they feed off of that, so I have confidence they won't get burned out."

Play him: The Lions game presents a good time to right the ship.

Trubisky had his second-best game of the 2018 season against the Lions, connecting big with Robinson and Miller to lead a 34-22 victory at Soldier Field.

Nagy is showing clips of that game to his players this week to show what their functioning offense can look like.

Meanwhile, the 2019 Lions have given up 424 yards and 27.1 points per game, both among the six worst in the NFL. They are vulnerable against the run, with opponents rushing for more than 100 yards in seven of eight games. That includes 166 or more in three of their last four games.

It seems like a good time to get rookie running back David Montgomery going, easing some of the pressure on Trubisky.

"We see what we can be," Trubisky said of watching last year's Lions game. "Obviously we have the same players we had last year, so we're capable of creating explosive plays, staying on the field, converting on third downs, scoring touchdowns and having that identity and being the team we want to be. ... That was a fun day, and we're hoping to have more of those in the future."

And if Trubisky remains on the field -- and looks like that -- perhaps TV time will be saved at Halas Hall after all.

(c)2019 Chicago Tribune

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