So of course the Bears won another game most people thought they would lose. They are consistent at being inconsistent. But this most recent victory against a Cincinnati Bengals team who was missing half of their starting defense due to injuries sustained in against the Steelers six days prior, still rings hollow.
It’s not that Cincinnati quit against the Bears, but their performance lacked the intensity the Bears had in getting blown out in either Packers game this year. That Mitchell Trubisky and the Bears offense had their best performance of the year, really means nothing, when you consider the Bengals lack of talent and resolve on the field last Sunday.
The Bears also made a switch on their offensive line prior to the game which I believe was the real reason for their win. Instead of moving center Cody Whitehair over to guard to replace Kyle Long and starting backup center Hroniss Grasu, as the pregame depth chart led me to believe, they replaced Long, who is now on season ending injured reserve, with backup guard Tom Compton, who is finally healthy after dealing with a sprained ankle for a good part of the season.
On 3 previous game days this season, the Bears have slid Whitehair over and played Hroniss Grasu, their backup center, with disastrous results. Not surprising that the Bears worst losses of this season to the Packers and Detroit in weeks 9 and 10, coincided with this kind of offensive line shuffling. Grasu started or played extensively in two of the Bears’ three worst losses of the season. Those were in the week 2 blowout loss on the road to Tampa Bay 27-9, and the week 9 loss to the Packers at home when the Bears were 7 point favorites, 23-16.
It seems as though John Fox did learn from his past mistakes when he decided to start a bigger Compton over his much smaller center, Grasu, in Cincinnati. The result was noticeable. Whitehair largely controlled the center of the line, and when they pulled Compton to block on the edge for Jordan Howard, he steamrolled defenders and allowed Howard to pick up big chunks of yardage and first downs all day. A healthy Compton was a seriously noticeable upgrade over the increasingly gimpy Long who had off-season ankle surgery and has been gutting it out after missing the seasons’ first two games.
Long’s first game of the season in week 3 proved to be inspirational, as the Bears handled the AFC leading Pittsburgh Steelers 23-17, even though it was evident that Long was limping and not 100%. Since then, the Bears have changed quarterbacks from veteran to rookie and have been forced to make due among the injuries on their line to Long, center Whitehair, guard Josh Sitton, and backup guard Compton. The results have been inconsistent to say the least, but the team has not quit on Fox.
The fact that players like Long and Sitton are trying their hardest to stay on the field and compete, and defenders like linebackers Danny Trevaithan, Pernell McPhee and Nick Kwiatkowski are also rushing back from injuries to compete and win says a lot about the character of the team and the way they feel for this coaching staff.
When Fox arrived in Chicago there was a 3 part plan that had to take effect in order for this coaching staff to get extended.
Number 1: Change the culture of the team.
From whiny and overpaid like qb, Jay Cutler, wr, Brandon Marshall, te, Martellus Bennett, dt, Jay Ratliff and lb, Lance Briggs
To tough and team/ family oriented: Trevaithan, McPhee, cb, Prince Amukamara, s, Quinton Demps and dt, Akiem Hicks.
Number 2: Make over and develop a younger roster.
The Bears have gotten a bit younger, but a lot of key players are starting to approach 30 in the next couple of years. General manager Ryan Pace needs to hold onto his draft picks and start to bring in younger depth behind injury prone veterans like Kyle Long and Danny Trevaithan.
The Media is pointing to the Bears unexpected blowout win over Cincinnati, as possible proof that Fox and offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains are developing Trubisky, or that Trubisky is developing in spite of his coaches. Either way, there were finally signs of growth from the coordinator and his quarterback. But I need to see it against a team that is prepared and fighting for something, like this weeks opponent, the Detroit Lions on Saturday.
Until Trubisky can perform a game winning touchdown scoring drive at least once, I will not say he is developing. And that 3rd down conversion rate that the Sun-Times was touting for Trubisky this week..that is a garbage statistic, taken completely out of context.
Trubisky may have a higher completion percentage on 3rd down, but it means nothing if you are dumping the ball off to the underneath receiver, and he can’t run to and convert the first down. Hey Dowell, do your job and teach your quarterback / mancrush, to try spotting the receiver who runs the deeper route, beyond the yard marker. Complete that pass consistently and I will say Mitchell is developing. Football is a game for the brave and those who have the will to answer challenges, not cowardice and the easy way to pad your own statistics.
To quote legendary Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis, “Just win baby!”
The quarterback for the Washington Redskins, Kirk Cousins, is the perfect example of an overpaid, gutless loser of a quarterback who has never developed. Every year for the last few, he has had one of the highest completion percentages in football. Why? Because he is always dumping the ball off to the underneath guy. A short four or five yard pass is safe and completely ineffective in the grand scheme of winning in the NFL. Washington is going to finish near the bottom in their division just as I had predicted, and unfortunately, some really stupid general manager is going to give Cousins $20 million dollars to quarterback their lousy team. He will never, ever win a championship… book it!
The only stat that matters is wins. Fox knows this, and it’s why he has been trying to micro-manage Trubisky so far. Tarik Cohen, Jordan Howard, Eddie Jackson, Adam Shaheen, Eddie Goldman and Kyle Fuller are some of the young players who are developing on the Bears. Trubisky? We’ll see…
Mission accomplished? Not yet, but getting there.
Number 3: Win, and win in the division.
Mike Ditka always stressed beat the teams in your division and you win the division, which he did in 6 out of 11 seasons with 7 playoff appearances. Where Fox and his staff currently sit, this has been the biggest disappointment. Since beating Green Bay early in his first season here, Fox now has lost 5 in a row to the Packers. And the Bears haven’t done much against Detroit and Minnesota either. If Fox can’t rally the team to play some of their best football against Detroit, Cleveland and Minnesota in the next 3 games, he will no doubt be gone the day after the season ends. But with strong showings, no more embarrassment and improved play by Trubisky, Fox just might save his job.
If Danny Trevaithan, the Bears star linebacker, can play in all three games then the odds of Fox making a fourth season go up exponentially. Trevaithan has been a beast all year when he has played. Unfortunately, he has missed several games with a calf injury and all of those games contained embarrassment of some sorts, for Fox. It seems silly to pin the Bears record to the health of one player, but just watch him play. That’s what full speed looks like in football, he looks like a lion tackling an antelope on the Serengeti. The rest of the defense feeds off of his energy to a degree I haven’t seen since Brian Urlacher retired. He doesn’t get talked about much, but he followed Fox here as a free agent and will some day be voted to the Hall of Fame, if he can stay healthy.
3 games to go. Have mercy!