We live in a meme culture.
Largely due to the influence of social media, life in 2019 is dominated by memes. We see them in texts, we see them in Twitter, we see them seeping into the worlds of politics and even global affairs. And of course, we see memes all the time in the world of sports.
When I sat down on Monday morning to rewatch Mitchell Trubisky’s outing against the New Orleans Saints, only one meme came to mind:
This, of course, is supermodel and international businesswoman Tyra Banks, from an episode of cycle four of America’s Next Top Model. In this clip, Banks in essence breaks character when confronting contestant Tiffany Richardson and her attitude throughout the show, and when Richardson found out she would be going home.
To understand why that meme is seared into my brain today, let us revisit this summer. When many were wondering about Trubisky’s future as the starter for the Chicago Bears, I took a different approach. Here is how I concluded a piece for the Pro Football Weekly Bears’ preview magazine:
“If I were a betting man, I’d bet on Trubisky this season.”
How is that bet looking today?
Against the Saints, Trubisky completed 34 of 54 passes for 251 yards and a pair of touchdowns, top-line numbers that you might like to see from your quarterback. But the bulk of his success came when the game was largely decided, with the third-year passer throwing both touchdowns in the final minutes after the visiting Saints had established a 36-10 lead.
It was everything that happened prior to garbage time that has Bears fans frustrated this week, and decidedly so.
You did not need to wait long to see some of the same issues with Trubisky rise to the surface. On Chicago’s opening drive, the Bears faced a 3rd and 3 and put Trubisky in the shotgun with three receivers to the left:
Chicago will run a stick concept here, a Day 1 installation-type of play and something that probably 90% of high school teams in the country run. The outside receiver runs a vertical route and the two inside receivers run stick routes. Look at the alignment over the two inside receivers, Cordarelle Patterson (#84) in the middle and Allen Robinson (#12) on the inside:
Patterson has a slot cornerback across from him using outside leverage. Robinson, however, will be working against linebacker A.J. Klein (#53), who is aligned well inside of the receiver.
Klein has good coverage, but look where Trubisky puts this throw:
Once more, we see Trubisky step well to the left of the target line, and on a throw to that side of the field his pass is to the outside and off the mark. Let’s return to the 2019 Report Card I wrote for PFW:
“Putting these footwork issues together, we can see how they lead to some of the negatives we saw from Trubisky this season. Until these issues are ironed out, there may continue to be some bumps along his developmental path.”
He. Keeps. Missing. These. Throws. (Again since we live in a meme culture you can just picture the clapping emojis between each word there).
And you did not need to wait long to see him have an even more egregious miss to Taylor Gabriel (#18):
This is a simple out route against off coverage on a 3rd and 5, and the quarterback cannot even keep the throw inbounds.
Folks, we have a problem.
Look at this miss on a curl route to Robinson from late in the first quarter:
Yet again, the pass is well off the mark and misses short and to the left. When you watch the replay of Trubisky’s throwing motion on this pass, you will see why:
Look at the disconnect between his lower body and the upper body. Trubisky flares his left - or lead - hip open early and then the arm and upper body rotate through much later. Instead of the hip turn helping to drive the throwing motion, all in one fluid movement, Trubisky jerks the left hip open and then starts the upper body motion.
This dates back to his days at UNC. It has not been fixed, and it remains a problem. If you look back to the miss to Gabriel, you will see the same issue with his left hip and foot.
What else remains a problem? Processing speed. Again, this was an issue highlighted in the 2019 Report Card on Trubisky:
“Of all the issues facing Trubisky, this might be the biggest. Until he speeds things up mentally, there will be issues in developing the offense and expanding the playbook moving forward.”
Now we can look at this play early in the second quarter, with the Bears facing a 1st and 10 on the Saints’ 24-yard line. They line up with Trubisky in the shotgun and David Montgomery (#32) to his right. Chicago has two receivers to the left, Robinson and Taylor Gabriel (#18) with Gabriel in the slot:
This is what the Bears run on this play:
This is a run/pass option that is determined pre-snap based on a box count. If the quarterback determines that there are enough blockers to pave the way for Montgomery on this inside run, he will hand the football off. But if the defense stacks the box pre-snap, he will pull and throw.
Looking at the defense here, New Orleans has seven defenders in the box, so the quarterback is going to pull and throw.
Another critical element to this play is the fact that Cameron Jordan (#94) is the unblocked read defender. So Trubisky needs to understand that if he is going to pull and throw, there is an extremely talented defensive end who will have a free shot at him, that he as the quarterback needs to account for.
To spell this out, if Trubisky is going to pull and throw, he needs to get it out quickly.
Narrator: He did not.
Chicago catches the Saints in a Cover 2 look here, and there is initially a window to throw the quick flat route to Gabriel. But Trubisky comes off this, and then gets sacked by Jordan. Looking at the replay angle, you can see how there was a window to hit both Gabriel quickly, and then Robinson on the vertical route in the soft area of the Cover 2:
Chicago would settle for a field goal on the drive.
Now, there are also play-calling issues to be sure. Matt Nagy might want to reconsider a scheme where Jordan is left unblocked. He might want to consider a run/pass ratio of 7/54. But with Trubisky we are seeing the same issues over and over and over again.
I know full well that some will respond with “this is only his second year in this system, and he will figure it out going forward.” I know that, because in the wake of his season-opener against the Green Bay Packers, when I talked about how this was Year 3 with Trubisky and the clock was ticking on him, that is the response that I received. But we are talking Quarterbacking 101 concepts here: Mechanics and quick decisions. This offense is predicated on getting the ball out to the right receiver quickly and in a good spot so the receiver can pick up yardage after the catch. It is predicated on creating and exploiting mismatches. When your quarterback is averaging just 5.2 yards per attempt (besting only Josh Rosen in that category for the 2019 season), then you need to get yardage after the catch to extend drives. But without quick decisions and good ball placement, those yards will not come.
Look, I do not want to be writing this piece. I was rooting for him. We were all rooting for him. But the evidence is mounting. There needs to be drastic improvement - and fast - or there needs to be a difficult decision made for the future of this franchise.