By Greg Gabriel–
(CBS) Entering Sunday off a bye week and facing an undermanned Packers team, the Bears had a golden opportunity to set the tone for the second half of their season and make a run to .500.
Instead, the Bears lost 23-16 in a game that wasn’t as close as the score. The Aaron Rodgers-less Packers won by outplaying the Bears in all phases of the game as Chicago dropped to 3-6.
What was especially disappointing was that the Bears defense, which had been playing winning football, didn’t show up. The aggressive, disciplined style of play we’ve seen most of the season wasn’t there. Third-year Packers quarterback Brett Hundley went from struggling to complete 56 percent of his passes to looking like Rodgers against the Bears, going 18-of-25 for 212 yards.
That shouldn’t happen to a well-coached football team. Which brings us to the next point: Are the Bears well-coached? The answer is no.
The Bears are now struggling in all facets of their game. While the defense’s play Sunday may be an aberration, its poor performance with two weeks to prepare reflects poorly on the coaching staff. The Packers had 342 yards of offense, didn’t turn it over and went 7-of-16 on third downs. It was an awful look in one of the Bears’ most important contests of the season, a rivalry game that ownership values.
The play of the Bears’ offense is even more concerning. We know Chicago is facing a great challenge with an undermanned receiving corps and rookie quarterback in Mitchell Trubisky, but the offense also isn’t getting help from the coaching staff.
The most important part of this season is the development of Trubisky, who has the talent to become the cornerstone of the franchise and perhaps the best quarterback in Bears history. But in order to attain that lofty goal, he needs to be guided and coached correctly. That hasn’t been the case.
There are plenty of examples of other young quarterbacks around the NFL having early success, and the common denominator is that they’re surrounded by strong offensive-minded coaches who can help them develop.
The Rams selected Jared Goff at No. 1 overall in 2016. He struggled as a rookie as he didn’t get enough support in his development. The Rams overhauled their coaching staff in the offseason, hiring Sean McVay as coach, Matt LaFleur as offensive coordinator and Greg Olson as quarterbacks coach. McVay did a great job developing Kirk Cousins in Washington, LaFleur was regarded around the league as a bright offensive guru and Olson had experience working with Derek Carr when he was a rookie in Oakland. The changes made an astronomical difference, with Goff piloting the No. 1 offense in the league as the Rams have started 7-2.
In Philadelphia, Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz, the No. 2 overall pick in 2016, has coach Doug Pederson, offensive coordinator Frank Reich and quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo, three highly regarded minds. In Dallas, 2016 fourth-round pick Dak Prescott has coach Jason Garrett, offensive coordinator Scott Linehan and quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson. In Houston, Deshaun Watson, the No. 12 pick in April, was spectacular before suffering a season-ending ACL tear. He was being guided by coach Bill O’Brien, who was instrumental in the development of Patriots star Tom Brady.
Pederson, Reich, Garrett and Wilson all played quarterback in the NFL. It’s no coincidence their pupils have starred early in their careers.
What hurts the Bears the most is their play-calling. Every opponent knows the Bears are a run-first team and game plan accordingly. On Sunday, we consistently saw eight and nine Packers defenders in the box on first down, and the Bears continued to run into that wall. You can’t run against nine in the box and have success. In the fourth quarter when the Bears needed to throw on first down, they had success. Why wasn’t that done earlier?
It’s no secret that the current Bears coaching staff had to direct this team to vast improvement over the past two seasons in order to keep their jobs. Sunday showed us that we aren’t going to see that happen. If Fox is going to be retained for next season, he has to find the right assistants to work with Trubisky. If a change at the top is made, then the new head coach and those working below him need to be among the best at developing young quarterbacks. Because that’s the route to getting back to the playoffs.
Greg Gabriel is a former NFL talent evaluator who’s an on-air contributor for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @greggabe.