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It was the option that did it. When coach Matt Nagy called for Mitch Trubisky to run an option to the left on third-and-one late in the third quarter of the Bears' 17-7 loss to the Rams Sunday night, the quarterback didn't just half-ass the play, he no-assed it.
After the game, the Bears claimed Trubisky was benched for the last drive because of tightness in his hip. Wow is that convenient. At least as important was the quarterback's complete lack of effort in that crucial situation late in the third.
It was clear immediately on the play that Trubisky had no intention whatsoever of taking the risk of running the football, which Cris Collinsworth quickly pointed out is the only way to make an option work. The quarterback pitched the ball to David Montgomery without giving the defensive end the slightest indication that he might keep it. And the defender quickly moved out to make a tackle for loss and force a punt.
Nagy has said this season that he has not discouraged Trubisky from running the football. In fact, the coach did not prevaricate in any way when asked if anything had been said to the quarterback that would indicate that running with the ball was ill-advised. He said it absolutely had not happened.
But someone (my guess is his agent) has told Trubisky not to run the ball and he has been determined to follow that advice all season long.
And if Trubisky had any second thoughts about the decision not to run, they were just about obliterated by his shoulder injury about a month ago now and by this "tightness in his right hip." We know the first injury at least didn't happen on a running play but it was still was a painful reminder that bad things happen when a quarterback puts his body on the line.
For now, the most important thing here is that there is no quarterback controversy!
Trubisky being injured, and the announcement coming soon that he will return to the starting lineup when he is healthy enough, eliminates that possibility in the near term.
Oh, and there is also the fact that backup Chase Daniel made a fool of himself on what, his third play? That was when he had the chance to run out of bounds to stop the clock in the midst of a two-minute drill. Instead he slid to the turf just short of the sideline as if he thought the Bears were winning and he wanted to keep the clock rolling.
We've said it before and let's say it again: the 33-year-old Daniel, possessor of all of five career starts in his decade in the league, is not the answer.
Football commentators' fear of signal-calling controversies continues to mystify me. There is the belief out there that just about the worst thing an observer can say about a team is that there are questions at quarterback.
It isn't. I am reminded again of what Pete Carroll and the Seahawks did when Russell Wilson arrived as a third-round rookie (Wilson lasting until the third round was another stellar job by NFL talent evaluators) in 2012. The accepted wisdom at the time was that Matt Flynn, a free agent with a decent-sized contract signed out of Green Bay, where he had backed up Aaron Rodgers and had one great game in relief of the Hall-of-Famer, would start that season and Wilson would watch and learn.
But Carroll quickly figured out that there was a good chance Wilson was the better quarterback. And the coach turned his team's preseason into an audition for the starting job, i.e., an almost two-month controversy. At the end of it, the Seahawks knew their best signal-caller was Wilson and he started the first game of the season. The co-favorite for 2019 NFL MVP at this point (with the Ravens' Lamar Jackson) has proven and then some that the controversy was worth it.
It is too bad the Bears don't have a promising young back-up quarterback who could at least get some more reps in practices going forward and perhaps prove he could do a better job than Trubisky. Third-stringer Tyler Bray, who is 27 but has not impressed in preseason action the last few years, doesn't qualify.
Then again, he could hardly do worse.
Jim "Coach" Coffman welcomes your comments.
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