THE MORNING AFTER: Two coach-quarterback meetings with different meanings for the Bears
LOS ANGELES – It was a moment in which a coach and quarterback saw eye-to-eye at the start of a critical half in which a season’s path had still been yet to be decided.
October 28, 2018 was a cloudy afternoon at Soldier Field, just as the Bears’ forecast for that season seemed after two-straight losses. That day they faced the Jets and only led 7-3 at the half, when a coach had a message for his quarterback.
“I’m gonna challenge you right now, for the next two quarters, for greatness,” said Matt Nagy to Mitchell Trubisky before the start of the third quarter.
“Yes, sir,” responded Trubisky.
“You got me?,” aked Nagy.
“Got you,” responded Trubisky.
It was a challenge issued from a first-year coach to a second-year quarterback, with hopes it wouldn’t be the last that season the rest of this Bears’ career. Trubisky didn’t exactly inspire greatness in the second half, but the did throw a touchdown and led the Bears to a comfortable 24-10 victory en route to an NFC North title.
With another year under each of their belts in the NFL, many expected these kind of motivational meetings to take place with hopes the stakes would grow with each challenge.
But in accordance with the trend in 2019, this is the kind of meeting that Nagy had with Trubisky.
This was the scene in the fourth quarter of the game against the Rams on Sunday night, with the Bears about to be down 17-7 en route to a sixth loss of the season.
Nagy wasn’t in the ear of Trubisky asking about greatness, instead, it was about his health. He wanted the quarterback to come clean about his hip injury suffered on a sack late in the second quarter. After an 80-yard touchdown drive, the offense and Trubisky became quite ineffective.
There were no recordings on this one, only the attempt to find truth in what is becoming more and more of a mess of a season for the Bears.
“I wanted him to know, coming from me, that he needs to be brutally honest with me in regards to his pain and where he’s at,” said Nagy Monday of his conversation with Trubisky on the sidelines, that was captured by NBC cameras. “That’s exactly what it was.”
The conversations also symbolize the polar opposites of the two years in which the quarterback and coach has been together with the Bears. Last year it was full of creativity, growth, and for the most part, joy. Encouraging moments, like the one captured by NFL films against the Jets, became a calling card of a playoff-bound, creative team that was changing the perception along with the trajectory of the franchise.
On Sunday, the meeting was about coming to grips with reality. Like Trubisky not being healthy enough to play, this Bears’ team simple doesn’t have it this year to make a playoff run. Of course, the team could win their final six games, finish 10-6, and would have a great chance of making the playoffs. But right now there is no indication that it’s going to happen, and frankly, it doesn’t seem that close, as the sluggish Bears have the look of a 6-10, 7-9 club that will finish well under expectations.
All Bears fans are having the same conversation with their positive and negative trains of thought when it comes to this Bears’ era, and like Nagy was to Trubisky, it’s time for the truth about this squad. There’s probably not going to be greatness for this group, and now the quest for the team in the final month-and-a-half of the season is to find out what it might take next year to get there.