LAKE FOREST, Ill. — Don’t expect the Chicago Bears to host a splashy offseason news conference to announce a lucrative contract extension for quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. That, however, doesn’t mean Chicago’s front office is done with the 25-year-old quarterback.
But even Trubisky’s most ardent supporters can’t expect the Bears to offer him a second deal in the range of other young quarterbacks. In September, the Los Angeles Rams gave Jared Goff a four-year contract extension with $110 million guaranteed. In June, the Philadelphia Eagles signed Carson Wentz to a four-year extension with $107 million guaranteed.
Both had their team options picked up prior to the extension, and unlike Trubisky, both have had elite seasons.
But the Bears, without any electrifying results from Trubisky or real playoff success, find themselves stuck in quarterback limbo. The kind of place where a team doesn’t have a solution or a clear path forward.
Goff, who will face the Bears Sunday (8:20 p.m. ET, NBC), got the deal because he guided the Rams to the playoffs in consecutive years and reached the Super Bowl last season. Goff has passed for 12,191 yards and 76 touchdowns with 35 interceptions since being drafted No. 1 overall in 2016.
Wentz, chosen second overall by the Eagles in 2016, passed for 3,296 yards and 33 touchdowns with seven interceptions in 11 games in 2017 before suffering a season-ending injury. Philadelphia went on to win the Super Bowl that year. In his career, Wentz has passed for 12,212 yards and 85 touchdowns with 32 interceptions.
Trubisky entered the league as the second overall pick in 2017. Over 34 career regular-season starts, Trubisky has passed for 6,806 yards and 39 touchdowns with 22 interceptions.
Those numbers pale in comparison to those of quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes (8,007 passing yards, 68 touchdowns, 14 interceptions) and Deshaun Watson (8,296 passing yards, 63 touchdowns 22 interceptions), both of whom were drafted after Trubisky in 2017.
Mahomes, the reigning MVP, and Watson are all but assured of inking record-setting deals in the offseason.
For the Bears, it’s a type of football purgatory that many teams have experienced.
“To me, it is a tough situation. There is a lot of heat from the fan base because they don’t think he can play,” said Ryan, who was with the Jets when they drafted quarterback Mark Sanchez in the first round in 2009. “So you have a lot of things to consider, but I think they are going to err on the side of caution and wait and see. They just want some reason to sit back and say, ‘Hey, look, he’s got a chance.’”
But no matter how you spin it, the former North Carolina quarterback is in the throes of a subpar third season. Trubisky’s only bright spots have been against dreadful defenses in Detroit and Washington, against whom he threw six of his eight touchdowns passes. The rest of the season has been one shaky performance after another, a seemingly endless stream of incompletions, inaccuracy, indecision and general ineffectiveness. The Bears could have easily pulled the plug on Trubisky following back-to-back home losses to the New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Chargers, but they stayed the course.
“Right now it’s too early to panic if you are in the Bears’ front office,” former NFL executive of the year Scott Pioli said. “Fans are going to react and overreact. The media is going to act and overreact, and that’s what they are supposed to do. … When you’re inside the room, you need to try and hold a steady hand. Keep working towards what you believe in until the time comes that you don’t believe it’s going to work anymore.”
The Bears haven’t reached that point, in large part because general manager Ryan Pace is heavily invested in Trubisky. Pace sent the third, 67th and 111th picks of the 2017 NFL draft and a 2018 third-round pick to the San Francisco 49ers to move up one spot to select Trubisky. By virtue of being the second overall pick, Trubisky signed a four-year, fully guaranteed rookie contract worth more than $29 million.
And Trubisky did — at times — reward Pace’s faith last year. He passed for 3,223 yards and 24 touchdowns with 12 interceptions while the Bears went 12-4, won the NFC North and reached the playoffs for the first time since 2010.
“You can always go back to that [success last year] and see that it’s not that this has never happened,” Bears coach Matt Nagy said Thursday.
Ryan said he considered Trubisky one of the league’s “most exciting players” in 2018.
On top of the strides Trubisky made in the passing game, he added a dual-threat ability, rushing for 421 yards and three touchdowns in 2018. This season, Trubisky dislocated his non-throwing shoulder and suffered a slight labrum tear in Week 4, and he has run just 14 times for 54 yards.
“With Trubisky, look, it hasn’t been great, but I think last year he made huge strides,” Ryan said.
“There is no set timetable for a quarterback. Some guys hit late. The one thing we know he has is the tools to be a legitimate NFL quarterback. And he’s also had some flashes where you say, ‘OK, this kid is pretty good.’ That’s kind of where you run into that fine line of asking yourself will there be other teams willing to roll the dice with him. I don’t know. But you’d hate for somebody else to take him and he hits.”
Pioli believes the worst thing Pace can do is bail on Trubisky prematurely.
“Right now, Mitch is not trending in a positive way, but the thing Ryan Pace can’t do and the head coach can’t do is jump the ship too early,” Pioli said. “This is Mitch’s third NFL season. There is still time. He’s still learning …
“There’s no blueprint for how long you wait on a quarterback.”
The final piece of living in this limbo is procuring Trubisky’s replacement. Where do you find him? Do you turn the offense over to backup Chase Daniel, who plays well in spurts but struggles when opponents have time to prepare for him? Do you sign a veteran in the offseason? Do you use limited draft capital — the Bears do not have a first-round pick but have two picks in the second round — and search for a college prospect?
And can the Bears find an upgrade to Trubisky?
For the impressive roster that Pace and the Bears have built, the quarterback spot is still in question. Remember, the Bears originally wanted Trubisky to sit out his entire rookie year. Pace signed veteran Mike Glennon — and guaranteed him $18.5 million — to bridge the gap until Trubisky was ready. But Glennon turned out to be an unmitigated disaster and lasted four games before Trubisky was forced into action.
“Be careful what you wish for, because when the guy is gone, who the hell is going to take his place?” Ryan said.
“It’s not like you have a slam dunk heading your way. That’s not the case. It’s really a hard situation. I think they’re going to stick with this guy and give him more time than people want. … It’s easy to say we need a quarterback. Really, where are you going to find them?”
With no clear-cut alternative, Nagy and the Bears have no choice but to preach patience, even if that becomes increasingly difficult after every poor Trubisky outing.
“We all understand the significance and the importance of the quarterback position,” Nagy said. “If you don’t, then you’re not really being real with the situation.”
Jerry Jones questioning lack of success after 3rd consecutive loss
CHICAGO — Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones did not make any proclamations about changes to Jason Garrett’s job status after Thursday’s 31-24 loss to the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field, but he did question why the roster is not producing results.
“These guys are mentally OK for me and all these guys are talented enough for me, so that’s good,” Jones said. “I’m questioning how to put together a coordinated one that complements each other, how to put together a team that can win a football game. … We’re not collectively getting together as a team and doing the things it takes to win ballgames.”
Instead, at 6-7, the Cowboys are mired in their second three-game losing streak of the season, despite a mostly healthy roster.
“It’s leveled out here. It’s losing, losing, losing. I’m not trying to be funny here but the point is we’ve got to win a football game,” Jones said. “I don’t care what the standings are, what the numbers are. We had thought that we could come up here and play a good team, play a fine football game and get our act to where we’re starting to look like a team that could — if we by the slim chance get in the playoffs — where we could win. We can’t do that until we play and start winning the football games and we’ve got three more to play. When we do that, we can go.”
Thursday’s loss was a disillusionment. After driving 75 yards on 17 play on their first drive for a touchdown, the offense stalled until the fourth quarter when the game was out of hand. The defense forced a takeaway for the first time in four games on the opening possession, but gave up scores on the next four possessions in the first half.
The Cowboys scored 17 points in the fourth quarter to close the gap but that did not impress Jones.
“We know that the score didn’t indicate how bad they beat us tonight,” Jones said.
Garrett’s job security has been an issue since the opening of training camp since he does not have a contract past 2019 and will continue to be a bigger topic in the final three weeks.
Garrett said he believes the players are still buying in.
“I just see how they come to work every day,” Garrett said. “I see how they practice and unfortunately we didn’t carry the practice work to the game.”
Nor did Garrett see any players quit.
“I don’t believe that,” the coach said.
The Cowboys will remain in first place in the NFC East even if Philadelphia beats the New York Giants on Monday based off their October win against their division rival, but this was a season that was supposed to be about more than making the playoffs.
Now Jones does not care if the Cowboys finish 7-9 or 8-8 and make the postseason.
“Are you asking me if I would take the division and go to the playoffs, if we got in on any basis? The answer is yes. Absolutely yes,” Jones said. “Acceptable? I don’t know. Not if we’re not playing good but if we’re playing a lot better than we played tonight, I’ll take getting in. (Are) you talking about getting in the playoffs? Well, yes, I would on any basis. I realize if we don’t play better in the last (three games) than we looked tonight than that’s tough to thinking about having success in the playoffs, but your goal, the first goal is to get to the playoffs.”
Bears fear linebacker Roquan Smith has significant pectoral injury
Smith, Chicago’s leading tackler, suffered what is believed to be a significant pectoral injury in the first quarter of the Bears’ 31-24 victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday night.
“We’ll get more details in the next couple of days, [but] it doesn’t look real good for him,” Bears coach Matt Nagy said after the game.
Smith made contact with Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott as he crossed the goal line to cap Dallas’ opening 17-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. Kevin Pierre-Louis replaced Smith on defense for the remainder of the game.
Chicago’s first-round pick in 2018 (eighth overall), Smith had a career-best 15 total tackles last week. The Bears are already without another starting inside linebacker, Danny Trevathan (elbow), who was replaced in the starting lineup by Nick Kwiatkoski.
Smith entered Thursday’s game with 99 tackles, two sacks and one interception on the season. As a rookie last season, he played in all 16 games and posted 122 tackles, five sacks and an interception.
“It could be a big loss,” Nagy said. “The way that Roquan has been playing the last couple of weeks, he’s been flying around and making plays. You just love that confidence that he’s bringing to the defense.
“The depth that [the front office] has created on their roster allows guys like Kevin Pierre-Louis to step up and make plays. You feel bad for Roquan but we know we have guys that can fill in. It’s a good thing to have that depth.”
Pierre-Louis finished the Cowboys game with five tackles, two pass breakups and one tackle for loss.
The Bears (7-6) next travel to Green Bay for an important showdown with the Packers in Week 15.
Cowboys fall to Bears for 3rd consecutive loss, 6-7 record on season
CHICAGO — Jerry Jones might not be in a position to keep Jason Garrett as Dallas Cowboys head coach anymore.
Thursday’s 31-24 loss to the Chicago Bears was the latest disappointment in a Cowboys’ season that has gone wrong but still has the potential to lead to a playoff appearance.
Jones has made only one in-season coaching change in his tenure as owner and general manager and, at times, Thursday’s game was reminiscent of Wade Phillips’ final game on Nov. 7, 2010, a 45-7 defeat to the Green Bay Packers.
The day after that loss Garrett was installed as interim head coach and has had the job ever since.
Thursday’s loss was the Cowboys’ third straight and as disheartening as any they have had because of what was on the line.
After the Thanksgiving Day loss to the Buffalo Bills, Jones said he would not make a coaching change and professed faith that Garrett was the right coach to change the team’s fortunes. Jones was envisioning the Cowboys running the table, winning the NFC East and becoming a threat to compete for a Super Bowl.
Given the performance Thursday, even Jones’ confidence has to be shaken with his team 6-7 with three games to play.
For the second straight game, the Cowboys’ offense opened with a first-possession touchdown. For the second straight game, things went downhill after that.
Like the loss to the Bills in which the defense allowed 26 straight points, they were scorched again, giving up 24 unanswered points to the Bears.
The Cowboys’ defense had a first-possession interception, its first takeaway in 263 snaps, but then gave up touchdowns on three of the next four possessions to close out the first half. The defense contributed mightily as well with three third-down penalties that kept Chicago’s touchdown drives alive.
The offense wasn’t much better. After opening with a season-long 17-play drive that covered 75 yards and ended on an Ezekiel Elliott touchdown run, the offense went six straight possessions without a score and gained just 57 yards.
Jones has remained more patient with Garrett than he has with any other coach. Chan Gailey was fired after making the playoffs in 1998 and ’99. Dave Campo was finally let go after three straight 5-11 finishes in 2002. Phillips made the playoffs in 2007 and ’09 but was doomed by a 1-7 start to the 2010 season.
Garrett is the second-winningest coach in Cowboys’ history to Tom Landry with an 83-66 record, but he has not gotten past the divisional round of the playoffs in three postseason appearances. He entered this season with a must-win mandate since he does not have a contract past this season.
A potential issue for Jones is who to make the interim coach even if he wanted to make the switch. In 2010, Garrett was the clear choice. In 2019, passing game coordinator Kris Richard, who calls the defense, and coordinator Rod Marinelli have presided over a group that has disappointed.
Despite entering Thursday with the top-ranked offense in terms of yards per game, with first-year coordinator Kellen Moore, the offense has bogged down in recent weeks.
If there is any optimistic bent to the Cowboys’ playoff chances, which might save Garrett’s job, it’s this: According to ESPN’s FPI, the loss dropped the Cowboys’ chances of making it to the postseason to just 70 percent. Had they won, their chances would have improved to 77%.
But is there any sense of confidence that the Cowboys can right all their wrongs before they play the Los Angeles Rams at AT&T Stadium on Dec. 15 even if Jones makes a change at head coach?
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