1 in 4 isn’t good odds

Stand­out quar­ter proved to be enough against li­ons, but bears must be re­al­is­tic about tru­bisky

Chicago Sun-Times - - COVER STORY - BY JA­SON LIESER | Jlieser@sun­times.com | @ja­sonLieser

Bears coach Matt Nagy is a glass-half-full kind of guy, even when that glass is only a quar­ter-full.

So af­ter three quar­ters of the same dis­heart­en­ing de­ci­sion-mak­ing and er­ratic throws that ev­ery­one saw from quar­ter­back Mitch Tru­bisky last sea­son, Nagy did the most pre­dictable thing pos­si­ble and held up Tru­bisky’s heroic fourth quar­ter in the opener against the Li­ons as the rea­son to keep hope.

Tru­bisky got a hearty pat on the back for fran­ti­cally clean­ing up the mess he spent all af­ter­noon mak­ing.

The Bears still want to be­lieve Tru­bisky, a 26-year-old with 42 ca­reer starts, can play like that all the time and be­come the fran­chise quar­ter­back they dreamed of when gen­eral man­ager Ryan Pace chose him ahead of Pa­trick Ma­homes and De­shaun Wat­son in the 2017 draft.

‘‘For him to play as well as he did in that fourth quar­ter, that’s spe­cial,’’ Nagy said. ‘‘He played at an­other level in that fourth quar­ter. Man, if we could get four quar­ters of that, you can see what could hap­pen.’’

Well, sure, but who’s still wait­ing on that at this point?

Nagy’s wish­ful think­ing only fur­ther em­pha­sizes the re­al­ity that Tru­bisky’s fi­nal quar­ter was the out­lier and the first three were the norm. That’s not a re­li­able for­mula for vic­tory, and, the truth is, Tru­bisky was one dropped touch­down pass by Li­ons rookie D’An­dre Swift away from ev­ery­one spend­ing the week talk­ing about backup Nick Foles.

In fair­ness to Nagy, he didn’t com­pletely close his eyes to the ugly side of Tru­bisky’s per­for­mance. He’s an op­ti­mist, but he’s not a fool. And he’s still weigh­ing, as he will be for the fore­see­able fu­ture, whether the Bears are bet­ter off with Tru­bisky or Foles.

‘‘That’s the con­sis­tency part that we’re try­ing to re­ally eval­u­ate right now, and that’s what some­times can make it hard,’’ Nagy said. ‘‘There can be times through­out the first three quar­ters where it can be frus­trat­ing for all of us, ev­ery­body on the side­line, but then you get to that fourth quar­ter, and you see how great it can be.

‘‘We don’t get too high about the fourth quar­ter, and we don’t get too low about the first three.’’

That would be rea­son­able, but he seems to skew it to­ward the part he liked.

Tru­bisky does, too, though it’s a lit­tle more un­der­stand­able com­ing from a player.

‘‘It gave my­self and the of­fense con­fi­dence that we could put up points in a hurry,’’ he said. ‘‘We’d like to do it through­out the first three quar­ters, as well, not just all in the fourth quar­ter . . . but I think scor­ing three touch­downs in the fourth quar­ter gives your of­fense and my­self a lot of con­fi­dence.’’

Tru­bisky was 12-for-26 for 153 yards af­ter three quar­ters, which comes out to a piti­ful 5.9 yards per at­tempt and a 65.1 passer rat­ing. Eleven of his throws were in­ac­cu­rate. The Bears trailed 23-6.

Ask Nagy whether he wants to try win­ning that way again. Ask him how com­fort­able he would feel go­ing into the fourth quar­ter of any game, let alone one against a good op­po­nent, bet­ting that Tru­bisky will pull out of that nose­dive with three touch­down passes and a 143.3 rat­ing, like he did against the Li­ons.

That sounds crazy, but it’s the il­lu­sion the Bears have fallen for with Tru­bisky for three­plus sea­sons.

In his sup­posed 2018 break­out, they over­looked that his six-touch­down game against the way­ward Buc­ca­neers in­flated his sea­son passer rat­ing from 89 to 95.4. That meant the dif­fer­ence be­tween rank­ing 16th and 26th.

Last sea­son, they wanted to be­lieve in Tru­bisky’s uptick dur­ing a stretch of four vic­to­ries in five games — in which he av­er­aged 244.6 yards and threw 11 touch­down passes against five in­ter­cep­tions — for­get­ting that the vic­to­ries came against the Gi­ants, Li­ons (twice) and Cow­boys. He had a 95.4 passer rat­ing in those five games and a 76.5 oth­er­wise.

Tru­bisky has posted a triple-digit passer rat­ing in one-third of his ca­reer starts (four against the Li­ons). Ma­homes has topped 100 in 66 per­cent of his starts, Wat­son in half of his and La­mar Jack­son in 52 per­cent of his.

Those glasses ac­tu­ally are half-full — or more.

The sooner the Bears stop see­ing only what they want to see and start tak­ing a hard look at whether Tru­bisky re­ally should be the start­ing quar­ter­back this sea­son, the bet­ter. They can’t af­ford to waste time, and they cer­tainly can’t af­ford to lose any of their first four games, all of which are against teams that were not only sub-.500 last sea­son but also had dread­ful pass de­fenses.

That ur­gency is nec­es­sary be­yond this sea­son, too. The worst thing for the Bears would be to go an­other year with­out be­ing able to de­cide whether Tru­bisky is good and stick with him on the fran­chise tag or a con­tract ex­ten­sion. That pro­longed, mis­guided hope that he still can turn into a star will keep them stuck in medi­ocrity. ✶


Af­ter an ugly first three quar­ters in the sea­son opener Sun­day, Bears quar­ter­back Mitch Tru­bisky threw three touch­down passes against the Li­ons in the fourth.


Tru­bisky is knocked down by Li­ons in­side line­backer Reg­gie Ragland dur­ing the first half of the sea­son opener Sun­day.


Tru­bisky ad­dresses his team­mates be­fore the sea­son opener Sun­day against the Li­ons in Detroit. Coach Matt Nagy praised the way Tru­bisky stepped up in the fourth quar­ter of the Bears’ come­back vic­tory.

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