Matt Nagy, Mitch Trubisky break-up inevitable after Bears' loss to Saints

·6 min read

Nagy, Trubisky headed for break-up after loss to Saints originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

A few weeks ago, Matt Nagy tried making the case that Mitch Trubisky’s improvement was “real.”

Nagy’s actions the last two weeks tell a different story. The only thing real in the wake of the Bears’ 21-9 loss to the New Orleans Saints: If Nagy is back as Bears coach in 2021, Trubisky will not be his quarterback.

Ultimately, Nagy did not trust Trubisky against anything better than a bottom-tier defense. It showed with a gameplan against the Saints that ranged from conservative to timid, but was completely ineffective against one of the NFL's best defenses. 

And no sequence of plays slammed home the truth about Nagy and Trubisky's future than a three-and-out just before halftime.

The Bears took over possession at their own 18-yard line with 1:49 remaining facing a 7-3 deficit. Their defense was playing well and they were due to get the ball to start the second half, but had two timeouts and plenty of time to deploy their two-minute offense. 

But Nagy did not trust Trubisky. The plan was to run the ball and see if the Bears could pick up a first down or two and then get aggressive. Nagy – correctly, I should add – decided the risk of giving the ball back to Drew Brees before halftime outweighed the reward of trying to score.

So Nagy's directive to offensive coordinator Bill Lazor was to call plays like the Bears were in a four-minute offense, which is designed to bleed clock. If the Bears got those first downs on the ground, then the switch would've flipped to an up-tempo, attacking two-minute strategy. 

But the Bears’ offense hadn’t done anything noteworthy to that point except witness a soul-crushing deep ball drop by Javon Wims in the end zone. What reason, then, did Nagy have to believe his offense could find a spark and get the kind of points necessary to upset the heavily-favored Saints in a road playoff game?

I didn’t like the field position,” Nagy said. “I just thought that for us we all need to understand — I was telling the coaches, ‘Hey, let’s see where we can go here big picture. Let’s get a first down or two. The field position was so bad that as you could see they called a timeout after first down and then they were out of timeouts.

“Being 7-3, knowing that we’re getting the ball to start the third quarter, at that point in time that was really the mindset just because of the field position. 

The Bears didn’t get that first down. Two unimaginative runs to David Montgomery and a poorly-executed read option by Trubisky later, the Bears went three and out and took that four-point deficit into halftime.

In the flow of this singular game, Nagy’s conservative plan was not a bad idea. 

In the larger sense of where the Bears go from here, it told you all you need to know about how Nagy feels about Trubisky. 

And it fits with how Nagy managed his quarterback over the season’s final two games – a blowout loss to the Green Bay Packers in Week 17 and Sunday’s embarrassing defeat to the Saints. After lighting up bad defenses with a commitment to both the run game and getting Trubisky on the run, the Bears’ offense retreated into a shell against the two best teams in the NFC. They couldn't run the ball. Trubisky was stuck in the pocket too often or only trusted to throw that same barely-beyond-the-line-of-scrimmage pass to a releasing Cole Kmet over and over. 

The identity built against the Lions and Texans and Jaguars? Gone.

“I think we just kinda got away from it tonight a little bit,” Trubisky said. “I’m not sure why. I just go out there and try to do my job to the best of my ability and try to go out there and lead my teammates. But when you’re not efficient on first and second down and they’re putting you in passing situations, you also gotta be able to pass the ball and convert on third down that way. We didn’t tonight. We didn’t execute. We didn’t put ourselves in a good position.

“We gotta get that running game going a little bit more so everything else can come off that. … I do think there’s a lot we can still get better at to put our guys in a better position to succeed. It’s something we gotta look at, something to talk about. And move forward.

Trubisky’s comments hint at a lingering disconnect between quarterback and coach. It’s one that’s not all Nagy’s fault, certainly – Trubisky’s made too many critical errors to have the complete trust of his head coach.

It’s understandable why Nagy thought the Bears’ best chance of beating the Saints involved taking the ball out of Trubisky’s hands late in the first half. But instead of emptying the playbook with more plays like that dropped deep shot to Wims, the Bears retreated further, playing like an overmatched third-tier English team trying to park the bus against Manchester City. 

And so it’s hard to see the Bears moving forward with both Nagy and Trubisky. A few weeks ago, it felt realistic for both coach and quarterback to be back next season; given the Bears’ limited salary cap and draft pick resources (they’ll pick 20th overall after Sunday’s loss), they may not do better than Trubisky.

But if Nagy isn’t going to trust Trubisky with the season on the line or in the playoffs, there’s no reason for the quarterback to return. 

If Nagy indeed keeps his job, he’s going to want a quarterback he can trust.

(Well, maybe not Nick Foles – who he ostensibly trusted until his hand-picked guy was so bad he had no choice but to bench him. But if the Bears draft a quarterback this spring, there’s a good chance Foles starts Week 1. Just be prepared for that.)

And Nagy showed against the Saints he doesn’t trust Trubisky. So as long as Nagy keeps his job, Trubisky will leave Chicago as a free agent and into an uncertain future as an NFL quarterback, most likely as a backup somewhere else.

Right now, Trubisky is saying all the right things. But Nagy’s actions speak louder.

I think I can definitely see myself back here next year,” Trubisky said. “Obviously a lot of that is out of my control but it feels like home and it feels like we have unfinished business. Right now I’m just bummed about this season being over and how the game went so a lot of emotions going on right now but I can see that. We’ll see.

"There are a lot of things that have to happen and a lot of decisions that have to be made and that’s out of my control but and I can see that."

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