By Chris Emma—
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (CBS) – Each day in practice, offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains is reminded why the Bears moved up to draft quarterback Mitchell Trubisky second overall. Loggains sees the sharp reads and precise throws, the mobility to extend plays and gifted arm to beat safeties over the top. There has never been a question of that.
“I believe in this quarterback a lot,” Loggains said Wednesday at Halas Hall, echoing his praise from weeks before. “I think he’s a guy who can handle whatever you’re going to give to him.”
With the Bears spotted a 17-3 halftime lead against the Panthers by rookie safety Eddie Jackson and a dominant defense Sunday, coach John Fox went to Loggains and said they would dial back the offense. The rookie Trubisky would be asked to manage the game cautiously and avoid making mistakes. As a result, his final passing line was a paltry 4-of-7 for 107 yards.
What was more important to Fox, Loggains and even Trubisky was that the scoreboard still read 17-3 at the end of the game.
Loggains was once a walk-on quarterback at Arkansas and has come up through the coaching ranks throwing the football. His words on Trubisky are authentic, the belief is real. But it’s the head coach’s call, and Fox has done this before. In 2011, Tim Tebow went 2-of-8 for 69 yards in a 17-10 win for Fox’s Broncos. Back in 2006, Chris Weinke went 4-of-7 for 32 yards in a 10-3 win for Fox’s Panthers.
Though he has plenty of confidence in his arm, Trubisky understands what Fox was asking him to do.
“Winning’s the most important thing,” Trubisky said. “I don’t care if I throw zero passes if we win the game. I don’t care if I’m not playing if we’re winning games. As long as the Chicago Bears are winning, we’re doing something right. But the mentality is, win or lose, we got to continue to get better. The positive is we are winning. There’s no replacement for that.”
Loggains is working in a unique situation, tasked with leading Trubisky’s development as a young quarterback while also giving the Bears a chance at victory. There’s no substitute for game experience, no matter how hard a team can try in practice. Trubisky is gaining little by running 11 passing plays in a game. Even Loggains noted the aggressiveness in Trubisky dropped off in the second half Sunday.
Reps can only benefit Trubisky’s growth as a quarterback – both the dimes downfield and the mistakes in coverage. Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz, the No. 2 selection in 2016, threw the ball 607 times in his rookie season, which marked an average of 37.9 throws per game. Wentz has since developed into one of the NFL’s best young quarterbacks, and the Eagles lead the NFC East at 6-1 on the season.
But the Bears are also in a different reality. They have marginal talent at receiver and fear that Trubisky will get into trouble with this group. The Bears don’t have healthy receivers who can separate from defenders and make plays. Tanner Gentry, an undrafted rookie, had the lone reception by a receiver Sunday, and he had to dive away from a defender just to get free.
Trubisky can’t wave the magic wand with this bunch, as the Bears have said before. He can only do so much to make a replacement-level group of receivers get open. The Bears will prioritize mitigating risk, especially when spotted a lead by a terrific defensive performance.
“We all want to throw 30 times, and he wants to throw,” Loggains said. “(Observers) want to see him throw it that many times and we believe he can, and we believe when that game comes, if it’s this week, next week, whatever that is, he’s going to handle that well. But there’s nothing like and there’s nothing that can be matched like winning for a young quarterback.”
Trubisky called Sunday’s win “the strangest game I’ve been a part of.”
“We’ll win any way we can get it,” he said.
On Sunday, Trubisky will match up against the Saints (4-2) and watch from the sidelines as Drew Brees goes to work. For many years, Trubisky has scouted the film of Brees, one of the game’s greatest quarterbacks. He has studied how Brees sets his base, uses sound footwork, goes through his reads and always seems to make those precise throws.
Bears general manager Ryan Pace will certainly be a curious observer in New Orleans. He was part of the Saints front office that brought in Brees and oversaw his growth into a great. The Bears (3-4) have hopes that Trubisky can follow the path of Brees.
Each dropback, read and throw goes a long way for Trubisky’s growth, but so do the wins – no matter how ugly they may be. Loggains and Trubisky walked off Soldier Field last Sunday with the sense of accomplishment from a victory but the realization that they need to be better.
“You’ve got to win as you grow,” Loggains said. “The organization has to win while you grow. Sometimes, it doesn’t unfold the way you want to. “He’s going to get plenty of snaps and plenty of throws. There is nothing like winning for a young quarterback, and that’s what we’re judged on.”