By Robert Zeglinski
Late Sunday night, a Philadelphia news broadcast compared the gap between the contending Eagles and Bears to that of the juggernaut Alabama Crimson Tide going against Mercer football. That, of course, refers to a lowly FCS school overmatched against a “big boy” before it ever stepped on the field.
Following a 31-3 beatdown of the Bears by the Eagles, where Chicago attained a lowly 140 offensive yards on 49 plays, it would be difficult to argue with that comparison. Chicago, standing at a “formidable” 3-8 in the standings, has nothing left to play for but pride, if there’s any left.
No, the only real microscope that matters down the stretch for these Bears – and what separates this December from previously hopeless final months on the lakefront – is the future of Mitchell Trubisky. Optimism still reigns at a tempered level.
Ultimately, what happens to Trubisky before this season concludes will be the only aspect of a lackluster year most everyone eventually elects not to wipe from memory. That factors in both the quarterback’s development, maintaining his confidence and keeping him upright to make it to the off-season.
Now, one would be remiss to trust John Fox, Dowell Loggains, and company to do something so beneficial for the future. These two, part of a coaching staff as a whole likely playing out the string, have no reason to place anyone in a position to succeed. To not set the franchise back for years again. That’s a fair distinction between two men that have proven anything but capable of bringing along the face of the organization along safely to this point when considering the Bears’ offensive output.
If one didn’t trust certain catastrophe not occurring for the organization’s No. 2 overall pick in Fox and Loggains’ hands, they shouldn’t be considered deranged. When you ask Fox of what he’s looking for in his team in a seemingly hopeless month, that fact remains all the same.
“It’s a matter of getting better and improving. Our record is 3-8 as we get on the bus and get on an airplane and fly back to Chicago. That’s reality,” said Fox. “We have five games remaining and that will define our season – what we do in those five games.”
With all due respect, and the Bears safely out of the playoff race, the malleability of Trubisky still comes to the forefront of a fruitless five games left. Chicago could go 0-5, but as long as Trubisky is healthy and taking even small steps of improvement, that takes primary precedence. Going all out for victory or “finishing strong” is merely the mantra of a coach at a loss for words at what went wrong during his tenure.
For everyone else more than safe for the time being, such as general manager Ryan Pace, or foundational pieces the Bears have on offense (Jordan Howard) and defense (Akiem Hicks): Trubisky’s rise means everything.
Trubisky’s future, as it has been all year, is the Alpha, Beta, and Omega for the Bears. Leaving the 2017 season in one piece with a solid amount of meaningful snaps under his belt is, or should be the only concern at Halas Hall (aside from finding the proper coach to take him to the next step, that is).
That’s why you could consider it a moral victory that the 23-year-old quarterback was able to leave Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday without being ravaged. The Bears weren’t ever going to give the Eagles a fair fight. This was a mismatch on paper that never saw the underdog realistically pulling the upset. One organization still a ways away from being prepared for a heavyweight fight.
Against one of the most voracious defensive fronts in football in Philadelphia, the Bears are fortunate Trubisky was only sacked twice. The team’s prized fighter was hit, rattled, and arguably had the worst game of his career with three turnovers and horrid inaccuracy throughout. However, he was not deterred, which will have to be a similar refrain for most of the rest of the 2017 season regardless of how games Chicago wins.
That’s a sign of a man ready to turn this operation around. Who knows what he has in store to improve upon and reach his potential. No one can evaluate Trubisky’s performance against the Eagles or anyone else better than Trubisky himself.
The time for all-important self-reflection has come.
“I think just going back to knowing what I’m capable of and just being honest with myself. And I didn’t play the game I set out to play or the game that I’m capable of,” said Trubisky. “So, you look yourself in the eyes, you look your team in the eyes… and yeah, I didn’t play well. I’m going to own up to it. But I’m going to get better, and they know that, and I know that.”
Lessons Trubisky takes now from defeat and inconsistency are what will take this Bears franchise to the next step – if it ever gets there – with the proper pieces in place around him. Keeping him from being the one to take all the bullets until then needs to be priority number one.
For now, a competitive Trubisky can only stew and learn from his early failures: a crucial part of a hopeful exponential growth plan.
“I don’t like losing, and that’s a big motivator for me. You just get that sick feeling from it.”
Robert is your guy for all things Bears. You can find him on Twitter @RobertZeglinski.