By Robert Zeglinski
Nobody needed more of a rebound than Mitchell Trubisky on Sunday. Nobody needed more of a solid performance with their back against the wall. The walls closing in, trapdoors opening around him, spikes lowering from the ceiling, and the noise creating a deafening, paralyzing audio bubble, Trubisky couldn’t afford another lackluster dud at the hands of the rival Lions. Not if he wanted a semblance of self-respect. Not if he wanted to salvage whatever was left from a nightmare 2019 season. Not if he wanted to show mettle he previously never put on display. He had no choice.
Trubisky didn’t light up the box score, or Soldier Field, against Detroit. He didn’t put a stop to bubbling conversation of his franchise status as a “bust” with “lost potential.” No one will write home about 173 yards, 16 completions, and three touchdowns in a 20-13 win against a toothless team featuring without its starting quarterback (Matthew Stafford). But he did what he could. He did all he had to in the immediate moment.
After decrying televisions showcasing sports programming at Halas Hall criticizing the Bears and their recent demoralizing play last week, Trubisky had to put his money where his mouth was. The question was whether there was any money left. Chicago had lost four in a row. Trubisky looked like he didn’t belong in the NFL, let alone holding a clipboard. Pushing the Bears to a desperate victory in dire straits after the fact, regardless of statistical lines, counts as a worthy financial investment. And that’s more than he had proven capable of for the previous two months. It’s not a high bar of performance, but it is a step in the right direction.
NFL quarterbacks can only excel with what’s handed to them. They can only thrive based on their processing ability and talent for adaptation. They must be the catalyst for teammates, bar none. For the first time since late September, Trubisky galvanized the Bears.
“I think the guys feed off how I react,” Trubisky said. “It’s my body demeanor and everything like that. We communicate on the sidelines. I let the guys know we’re close.”
There’s a difference between leading by charge and leading by example. Trubisky doesn’t have issues with the former. By various accounts inside and outside of Halas Hall, he has no trouble acting as a leading voice for 53-plus grown men. It’s one of the traits that endears the former top pick to the Bears; he seems unflappable, almost to an uncommon extent. Trubisky has no trouble getting all his ducks and Bears in a row before he steps in between the lines, which is more than many signal callers can say.
The latter ideal of tangible performance is what has eluded the anointed face of the franchise. The Bears would be hard-pressed to point to any one area of the field where they have particularly excelled this year. Outside of Allen Robinson’s usual brilliance, they’ve maxed out at average in most relevant categories in all three phases. Finding what they do well is as difficult as mapping out a path to the playoffs after one victory.
Even so, Trubisky has been the common denominator of a dead weight on Chicago’s entire operation. He’s near last in passing yards, passer rating, and touchdown passes. 300 yards in any given game isn’t something he’s accomplished since last January. He’s last in yards per attempt (5.8), placing him amongst recent esteemed company of Josh Rosen, Joe Flacco, and Brock Osweiler. It’s company one doesn’t want to keep if the ultimate goal is to be a franchise quarterback. On the contrary, palling around with secure backups and paychecks for a lifetime might be an attainable goal.
A mediocre even passable quarterback likely has the Bears sitting pretty in the Wild Card race with at least two more victories. Unfortunately football isn’t played in a vacuum and they’re a game under .500 with a mountain of garbage to climb instead. Discussing the postseason at this stage would be as fruitless of a prospect as maintaining Trubisky has won the Bears over and convinced them of his ostensible bright future. Two exercises in futility without further development and consistency.
Context is everything. The main reason Trubisky’s comments about turning televisions off struck a nerve last week was how he chose to characterize the Bears failing to meet expectations. There’s a stark dissimilar perception of the Bears’ identity to those directly involved with the organization, and those who see them clinging on a lifeline. Those on the outside see a team winning one of its last five games. Those on the interior are defined by frustration more than any other concept.
The disconnect is clear and abridged.
“Trying to get some of these TVs in the building turned off because you’ve got too many people talking on TV about us and what they think about us, what we should do, what we are and what we’re not,” Trubisky said, in a stream of consciousness.
For one necessary week, Trubisky showed who he was, who the Bears were, what they were supposed to be. It’s a reprieve they needed. It can’t be a standalone episode. It must be built on. Trubisky dug a lion’s share of this intimidating hole the Bears find themselves in. The responsibility falls on him to dig them out. Maybe then, the TVs will stay off.
Robert is a writer and editor. Follow him on Twitter @RobertZeglinski.