The Chicago Bears are finding themselves at a bit of a crossroads. The question here is what to do with quarterback Mitch Trubisky? No, I don’t mean whether or not he should start or be benched, frankly, that’s a preposterous notion. The question I am asking is whether the Bears should stunt Trubisky’s growth for a shot at the playoffs in 2018 or should they continue to preach patience and development?
Just over a week before the season started, the Bears traded for outside linebacker and pass rush extraordinaire, Khalil Mack. Given how quickly he has acclimated himself to the rest of the Bears defense, the timeline has changed. The championship window that many have discussed since Ryan Pace was hired was generally thought to be opening in 2019. This would afford a young team with several new pieces — including a new head coach and offensive scheme — time to jell together. When Mack’s plane arrived at O’Hare, the calculus had changed.
This leads us to the first part of the question: should Matt Nagy treat Trubisky like a game manager to complement a championship-caliber defense?
To truly answer this question, you first must ask another: how secure is Ryan Pace’s and Matt Nagy’s jobs? Considering that Nagy was just hired, I will say it’s completely safe, regardless of the outcome of the 2018 season. As for Pace, he just hired Nagy, has a second-year quarterback that he traded-up to select, spent ungodly sums of money in free agency, and was given carte blanche to spend draft picks, AND a record-setting sum of money to secure the services of Mack. I am going to go out on a limb and say that Pace is sitting pretty up there in Lake Forest (sorry Pace haters).
With that part out of the way, it makes it easier to answer the original question. The Bears do not have to win 10 games, or make the playoffs, or win the Super Bowl this season for the men at the top to keep their jobs. That means that changing your timeline or course for the 2018 season isn’t necessary based on a need. It sure seems like it’s been a LONG time since we could say that.
But needs aren’t the only factor here, sometimes you just want something. Nagy was a quarterback himself and has won a championship in the Arena Football League. Pace has shown that he isn’t afraid to push this team toward the goal of winning championships. The McCaskey family has been around much longer than either one, and it appears that they are getting restless as well.
Obviously, all these folks would like to push this team as hard as they can be pushed this season, but that might come at the expense of Trubisky’s development. If you ask Trubisky to simply manage the game and play well enough not to lose, are you doing what’s best for the Bears long-term? I would tend to think not. Sure, it would probably mean and extra win or two this season, probably even a playoff berth, but at what cost?
Circling back to the beginning, the opening of the Bears championship window — emphasis on the word championship — has always been 2019. Even with Mack, a bevy of new offensive weapons, and a better coaching staff, this team still needs time to come together. Think of it like making a nice Italian meat sauce (or gravy for those Italian Americans out there), it takes time for all the flavors to develop. You start with the olive oil and garlic, then sear your meats, then comes the tomatoes and onions, then finally some spices. But it’s the slow simmer that gives it structure, balance, and complexity.
You can’t rush a good sauce, just like you can’t rush a quarterback’s development. Of course, if you want instant satisfaction, you can just buy a jar of the ready-made stuff, but you know it won’t taste as good. The Bears simply need to be patient and let this team come together, especially on offense. What we all need to do is not let what we are seeing on defense affect the progress that needs to be made on offense. The goal here should be multiple championships, not simply becoming relevant again. This team is going to be relevant regardless.
There are few people that have less patience than myself, so I am as guilty of anyone of wanting instant gratification. When it comes to rebuilds however, I want them to be done right. At the end, I want a parade, to feel that same euphoria that I felt after the 2005 baseball season. It is difficult to balance the present and the future in sports, the wait for next season is just so long, and life can be, well, kind of tedious at times. Sports is our outlet, our escape from the real world for those three hours. Always looking a year or several years ahead stinks, but it must be done.
So, what should the Bears do with Trubisky? They should stick to their plan. Development isn’t linear, and Trubisky is going to develop on a different path than other quarterbacks, that’s just human nature. The best thing that Nagy and the Bears can do is to just run the offense, let Trubisky get reps and get more comfortable as the years goes on, and try to win games.
They just cannot put the optics of 2018 over development. There will be mistakes, there will be turnovers and missed assignments. Trubisky will do things that will infuriate you, really, he already has. But that should taper off as the season plays out. What we as Bears fans need to do is compartmentalize this season. Enjoy knowing that the team is better and has some serious talent, but stay grounded enough to know that everything that happens is setting up for a Super Bowl run in 2019. That is the ultimate goal.
Let Matt Nagy worry about Mitch Trubisky, that’s his job. At the end of the day, just know that the arrow is pointing up, that progress is being made, and that this is supposed to be fun. Enjoy the ride Bears fans, this is going to be an exciting year.
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