Following the Bears, especially as an amateur enthusiast who lives vicariously through Twitter Journalism™, sports talk radio, team releases, press conferences, and beat writers, can be profoundly frustrating.
This is not specifically to point fingers at Fox, Pace, or players – they were not hired for their warmth and transparency with the media. Their hiring wasn’t contingent on how savvy they were with the thorny local press. Their firings won’t be based on bland answers. Their sole responsibility was and is to field a competitive team, embracing a youth mentality with an exciting core that is annually replenished from better and better draft classes.
To say they have failed in these tasks isn’t right. In the 3 years since Trestman and Emery were scraped unceremoniously from the bones of the franchise, there is definitely more positives imbued in the organization now both talent-wise and from the stance of sheer competence. Ryan Pace has been relatively shrewd in free agency, with very few long-term deals being guaranteed beyond year one, and his draft classes feature more ups than downs. John Fox has hired and maintained a core of coaches that are at worst respectable, at best esteemed.
In-game decisions and certain strategies are argument-inducing but not altogether bad. Injuries and availability have been the primary factors in holding back the fans from getting a true look at what the Pace/Fox era of Bears football is, and while that is certainly an obstacle, it’s not necessarily something that you can point to the team infrastructure for being negligent.
This may all sound like I’m on the bright side with the team, which I am in general, but there’s just something that irks me from time to time when the wrong thing is said and/or done. They don’t even have to be big things, but those tiny bits of snark or dismissal from Coach Fox and others send me from a 3 to a 9 on the Anger-o-Meter immediately.
For example: Game 4 of the 2017 preseason.
Trubisky was declared the starter, which many fans and pundits questioned, and rightfully so. In what is easily the most meaningless game on any NFL team’s schedules, why risk a player who will no doubt be of incredible import in 2017 and the future, perhaps the most valuable Chicago Bear prospect in 25-30 years, to even suit up? Have him wear sneakers and warm-ups with an iPad and a headset.
Mark Sanchez had thrown maybe a dozen passes to that point of the preseason and Connor Shaw hadn’t even been active until preseason game three.
…so naturally the Bears start Trubisky only to – you guessed it – have him hand the ball off 9 straight times. The fans booed, and rightfully so.
Trubisky had a few throws sprinkled into his final series before Connor Shaw took the reins. Mark Sanchez was inactive.
Late in the 4th quarter, Shaw became injured (again), forcing Fox to put Trubisky into the contest, by then a 25-0 Browns lead. The wise thing to do would be to hand the ball off as they did earlier, run out the clock, run out the preseason.
The stands were emptying out. The contest was decided. The game’s conclusion bore no statistical, moral, or philosophical weight.
…so naturally, with just over 1 minute remaining and the bottom of the offensive line depth chart in action, the Bears had Trubisky attempt three passes, all of which resulted in him getting hit, the final being a decisive sack to end the game.
Trubisky certainly by that point didn’t need the reps. Coach Fox and offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains attested during a press conference days later that Trubisky picked up their gameplan and NFL concepts with astounding speed, so much so that they made him the backup quarterback on the depth chart.
Yet they deactivated the 3rd string quarterback in Sanchez, whom Fox said would play in week 4, and needlessly endangered a precious acquisition by having him drop back thrice, going for broke when the game was mathematically decided long before and indeed never mattered anyway.
It was clearly the wrong decision. It was a stupid, arrogant risk. John Fox wasn’t interested in any criticism, as usual.
“Football is a rough game, no doubt. You don’t want to see people get hurt, but it is part of the game. I don’t know if we exposed Mitch a whole lot, but I can also say anytime you trot between those lines you are exposed.” – John Fox
Ryan Pace didn’t seem too terribly interested in addressing the concerns, choosing instead to politely abstain, changing the subject.
“I’m past that, man. We’re focused on Atlanta.” – Ryan Pace
I’m guessing his start was merely a way to justify getting fans to shell out an average of $234 per ticket to get the privilege of observing Mitch practice his ability to hand off a football to Benny Cunningham and Josh Rounds. But I digress…
Trubisky didn’t get hurt, and that’s all that matters. But now the question is when he’ll be your starter. Many were concerned if the Bears were going to reveal their quarterback depth chart and have the number two overall pick be the 3rd string emergency passer, inactive on most Sundays. When prompted, Fox and his staff were typically obstructive.
Fox himself was caught off guard, dare I say even gently betrayed, when during a team event for season ticket holders emceed by team employee Jeff Joniak, the radio veteran gambled a question about Trubisky’s place on the depth chart, conveniently after confirming with the coach about his propensity for playing young talent.
JONIAK: Noone could ever say you don’t like playing young players, right?
FOX: Especially when they’re your best ones.
JONIAK: Do you have any comment yet in terms of what the depth chart will look like in terms of the quarterback position?
JONIAK: …Just hold off?
FOX: (stuttering)No, ah – I – I can tell them, can’t I?
FOX: …No. *laughter*
It was a bit tongue-in-cheek, and I’ve always gotten the sense that the Bears organization is comprised of a lot of ball-busters, but the pause before the “wow” made me ache a little inside. Clearly Fox was hoping to get through one day, one event, one media interaction without having to answer any questions that would give away precious and most-secretive information.
That was September 4th – Labor Day. A Monday.
The Bears announced Trubisky as the backup on Wednesday afternoon two days later.
…alright? I’m guessing the Bears really fooled some people with their brilliant plan to wait another 48 hours to essentially remind Mark Sanchez that he’s only got a roster spot because Mike Glennon has no professional reason whatsoever to give Mitch Trubisky any pointers on how to be an NFL quarterback.
I guess I should be more optimistic. Trubisky is the backup after all that, he’s healthy, and there’s a lot of hope that injured starters on defense (McPhee, Trevathan, Amukamara) will be healthy in time for week 1 against Atlanta. Meh. I doubt it.
It’s been proven that Ryan Pace deliberately plays the media spin to shroud his true intentions, particularly with the draft. It’s inarguable that John Fox has a lukewarm, disinterested relationship with the Chicago press. I honestly don’t care about that, so long as their secrecy and craft results in wins. So far that hasn’t been the case, but we’re early in the –
“TRUST IN THESE GUYS. I DO. INSIDE WE’RE VERY EXCITED – NEED YOU GUYS TO BE EXCITED. TRUST THE PLAN. WATCH IT UNFOLD, AND WE’LL GET BACK TO OUR WINNING WAYS.” – Ted Phillips
Ted Phillips’ words combined with the pudding-like momentum of Mike Glennon’s bumbling preseason to generate stellar interest in the Bears home opener.
Fans are lining up in droves to see the Bears take on the –
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