By Tim Baffoe–
(CBS) Even a new quarterback doesn’t pour the glass to half full.
The Chicago Bears aren’t a good football team right now. That means with rookie Mitch Trubisky at quarterback, too.
While Mike Glennon is a major reason the Bears are 1-3 — and never should have won the one — a quarterback change, as coach John Fox announced Monday, isn’t a fix for this. Yet the move to the Bears’ top pick in April’s draft is a major thing as all things NFL quarterback are huge things because the position is the most important thing in sports. And when a midseason switch occurs, especially without injury, hoo boy do people love the shiny new thing.
Thing is, it’s still the damn Bears. It’s still the playcalling of DeWitt … Dansby?… Loggains. It’s still a wide receiving corps whose top player in yards per game is at 38.5 and whose yards per catch leader is no longer on the roster. It’s still Fox and his game plans that are so conservative they’re actually sovereign citizens.
“It was just a decision I thought needed to be made,” Fox told the WBBM 780 Bears Coaches Show. “We had 10 giveaways in the first four weeks of the season, and you can’t win football games that way. Not that they were all one guy’s fault, but the combination of that, we’re going in a different direction.
“We just got to put an end to it. A lot of people had their hands in it; it’s not all one person, is what I told the team. We’re just going in a different direction. Mitch is a different style of quarterback. But not one of us is going to wave fairy dust on it. We still got to go out and execute.
“But I think he’s ready, and I see the improvement in practice.”
A coach will often try to be diplomatic about firing a starter, but this isn’t a ringing endorsement of Trubisky either. Not that Fox can endorse anything besides omerta and Dr. Farfegnugen Old Timey Gargle Acid (“Now in Prune!”). What Fox has a pretty good idea of, though, is that Trubisky isn’t stepping into the role as a world beater just yet.
“It’s definitely going to be a challenge,” Fox said of Trubisky’s first start coming against the Vikings next Monday in prime time. “A very, very good defense. Minnesota has been, at least in my tenure here, very salty on defense. But I think he’s ready. He’s worked hard. I think he’s grown quite a bit. These four games, he’s sat and prepared and been one play away from being out there. We get to see him in practice, how he operates, his confidence level. He adds a dimension to a degree. We’re excited to see how he does.
“He does have a quiet confidence. He doesn’t get real up or down. He’s a pretty straight line. But the guys respond to him. He’s kind of got that maturity and confidence that you have to have at that position.”
Hey, Mitch isn’t a quaking Jell-o square. Have you heard he drove a beat up car (at the request of general manager Ryan Pace)?
That nobody has to be subject to the Planet Earth 2 giraffe-vs.-lions footage that was left on the BBC cutting room floor that is Glennon quarterbacking isn’t something to whine about, but there’s little right now about the Bears’ situation that will allow Trubisky to win games. Or at least try to not lose them, as was Glennon’s task basically. Hopefully the offensive game plan changes to allow Trubisky to spread defenses way more than the dink-and-dunk approach of the historic Glennon era. Trubisky might make the receiving corps a bit better, but they’re also more likely to handicap him.
Don’t misunderstand: Trubisky getting the ball from here on out is fascinating and exciting. It should also not be weighted as some revolution against Bears futility in 2017 — even if Trubisky should not lose against a Vikings team with it’s own offensive issues. 2018 is a different story, and if this experience helps him develop, then great (though how that happens without the Bears attempting to somehow open up the offense with lax talent is unclear).
But he’s going to make mistakes, probably quite a few. How Trubisky responds to them and corrects them will be telling. Ditto where that “confidence” stands after a defender who isn’t around for the second half of preseason games sits on Trubisky’s head. Maybe he saves the Bears from being laughed at on a weekly basis, but he likely isn’t immediately closing the gap between them and a team like the Green Bay Packers who were setting them up as punchlines.
This is also the point of no return. There is no “Mitch isn’t working out for us right now, so back to the clipboard for a bit.” He’s the starter until injury or contract deem otherwise. So Fox and Dow Jones Loggains and Pace have made a bed that they all have to sleep in for the duration of their respective times in Chicago, which includes formerly endorsing (and paying a lot of money) a player whom people could see from a mile away was going to be bad out there and now is benched. Though short of Trubisky somehow looking consistently and completely inept in real games, what he does this season shouldn’t be a reflection on his bosses. Unless he’s all fireworks, which would demand answers for why four games were wasted without him and his readiness misjudged.
That’s all highly unlikely, though. Expect a player who shows evidence of why he was selected so high and given the keys to a woeful franchise while at the same time giving you significant bitter beer faces from your seat. Remember what he is and who he’s out there with.
Trubisky is the quarterback of the Bears future, and the future is now. But the now isn’t ideal for blossoming, and viewers need to not misconstrue what he’s getting into. Be cautiously excited, but err for now on the side of sometimes boring, sometimes painful player development rather than an expectation of the shiny new toy doing things that alter 2017 beyond the next draft position.
There’s not much in glass to drink otherwise.
Tim Baffoe is a columnist for CBSChicago.com. Follow Tim on Twitter @TimBaffoe. The views expressed on this page are those of the author, not CBS Local Chicago or our affiliated television and radio stations.