Smart game plan Monday night by Chicago Bears helped QB Mitchell Trubisky look good
Coach John Fox’s reliance on sprintouts and bootlegs simplified the field for the rookie’s first start
Goff Fever is a new virus first discovered in Los Angeles. It hasn’t yet been recognized by the World Health Organization. But it is believed to be one of many Quarterback Deficiency Disorders. QDDs are a dreaded classification of illnesses that plague many NFL organizations, causing erratic decision-making, an aversion to sustained success and dejected fan bases.
It only took one game from Mitchell Trubisky to give all of Chicago and NFL media a case of Goff Fever. Goff Fever is the belief that if you fire your “old-fashioned” head coach and select a young, up-and-coming offensive coordinator to lead your team, your rookie quarterback will make a big leap in his second season. And, voila, your team will have a franchise quarterback.
For the Chicago Bears, maybe it’ll be Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy or Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich. I am not quite sure who will be the Bears’ head coach next season. But it won’t be John Fox, thanks in large part to Fox’s 10 wins in three seasons. And Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay’s success with Jared Goff.
In the fourth quarter of Monday night’s game, Trubisky threw a touchdown and ran in the game-tying 2-point conversion. Then he got the ball back with the score tied and about two minutes left in the game. He had the opportunity to lead his team to the win, impress the entire league and start to save Fox’s job. Instead, he threw an interception on the first play of the drive, which cost the Bears the game.
I expected postgame analysis of Trubisky to be harsh because he did the worst possible thing in a late-game situation. But, at first, I was pleased to hear and read analysts focusing on Trubisky’s positives immediately after the game, rather than disparaging him. Then, because apparently someone always must be blamed, one analyst became critical of every Bears player not named Trubisky. That’s despite the fact that in my view, Bears coaches and players did a solid job putting Trubisky in a position to succeed.
Fox, Bears had good game plan
They certainly weren’t perfect. Fox and his staff were indecisive with playcalling at times, leaving Trubisky with little time to survey the defense. But they did give him simple plays to execute. Rookie quarterbacks rarely walk into the league as refined pocket passers, so coaches try to get them out of the pocket with sprintouts and bootlegs. Those types of plays condense the field and simplify reads for the quarterback.
By getting him on the edge, rather than asking him to be aware of all 11 defenders and the potential for blitzes, he has a simple read of two or three defenders. There is also the added benefit of forcing the quarterback to make fast decisions. When passing from the pocket, most young quarterbacks hold the ball too long. Their internal clock isn’t yet tuned to NFL speed. Sprints and boots force them to throw the ball before they get to the sideline or get hit by a defender.
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Facing the league’s third-best run defense, the Chicago running backs, behind a good O-line performance, ran the ball well on first down against a heavy box, which set up Trubisky for manageable down and distances and play-action passes. Mitchell went 3-for-4 and threw his only touchdown on play-actions on first down. That was followed immediately by Trubisky trotting into the end zone untouched, thanks to one of the most creative and effectively designed 2-point conversion plays I have seen.
Defensively, the Bears gave up two long runs because they lost gap responsibility with pulling linemen and they missed tackles. But other than that they played well, holding the Minnesota Vikings to just 17 points before Trubisky’s costly interception. They even scored two points on defense, when Leonard Floyd sacked Sam Bradford in the end zone.
Special teams did more than their part to support Trubisky. Bears punter Pat O’Donnell threw a 38-yard touchdown pass on a fake punt. The players and coaches deserve credit for calling and executing that risky play.
Nobody knows exactly what the future holds for Trubisky. One game is not enough to say what he will be in the future, or whether the current coaching staff is right for him. But, as Goff Fever starts to catch on around the league, I would like to point out that the Rams didn’t succumb to a fad hire. They took a risk and were criticized for making an unexpected decision, but it was the best hire for their situation.