HEADLINE

Bears search for offensive help

The Sports Xchange

January 03, 2018 at 4:39 pm.

LAKE FOREST, Ill. — It was supposed to be Mike Glennon’s year at quarterback for the Chicago Bears.

Instead, it became a year of development for rookie Mitchell Trubisky, and one of losing for former head coach John Fox — first games and then his job.

The Bears move into the offseason focused on finding a coach and more talent to complement their young passer.

“I think we have a lot of attractive things about our job, and I think it starts with a 23-year-old quarterback that we all feel good about,” general manager Ryan Pace said.

Trubisky finished his first season with a 77.5 passer rating and more passing yards (2,193) than any rookie quarterback in Bears history. They are hoping Trubisky makes a jump like Rams quarterback Jared Goff, who had a 63.6 rookie passer rating and 100.5 rating this season.

Playing without injured receivers Cameron Meredith and Kevin White, and for half the season without tight end Zach Miller, held back Trubisky.

The league’s worst passing attack and an offense ranked No. 30 dragged down a stout defense in a 5-11 season.

“I feel good that I just got more comfortable,” Trubisky said. “More comfortable as the weeks went on to play my game, and be a leader of this team, and help our offense grow and get better.”

It was comfort gained through experience, after he made only 13 collegiate starts. In the future, they will need more than learning.

“We’re looking for success right now,” Pace said. “We need to win more games.”

WHAT WENT RIGHT: The Bears never attained the status of an elite defense, but they were very good. Only the lack of interceptions kept them from being dominant. They had only eight interceptions for a third straight year, matching a team-record low. But they still finished ninth in points allowed as Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman shut down rushing attacks even when linebacker Danny Trevathan was out injured or suspended. The pass rush had 42 sacks, their most since 2001, and did it despite going without their top three outside pass rushers for extended periods. Running back Tarik Cohen’s addition to the offense provided another dimension and a counter punch to Jordan Howard, although it seemed there wasn’t always a solid plan for using this new weapon. Finally, Trubisky’s rookie season led to mixed results. But he did make 12 more starts than management and coaches expected. As a result, he is ahead of the original plan.

WHAT WENT WRONG: The passing game never recovered after it was geared entirely to Glennon and then changed to a different type of quarterback after four games. A familiar scenario bogged down the Bears when 16 players wound up on injured reserve. They had lost 19 the previous year. Digging deep into the bench prevented big plays on offense. On defense, it led to long drives by opponents. The injuries affected their offense most, as Trubisky not only had to overcome his inexperience, but also a lack of timing with receivers. The end result was few big gainers. The Bears had only 13 passes for 25 yards or longer to 22 by opponents. They couldn’t adjust when trailing, as they went 0-9 when opponents scored first this season, and 1-16 in offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains’ two seasons. When they lost the turnover battle the last two seasons, they couldn’t compensate and went 1-16. Injuries contributed greatly to the running game’s inconsistency. They had more negative runs than any team, yet finished 16th in rushing.

MOST DISAPPOINTING PLAYER: In four starts, Glennon generated nearly as much frustration as predecessor Jay Cutler did over nine seasons. Glennon reacted slowly, moved slower and was way too quick to dump off the ball underneath coverage. Over a three-game stretch he became a turnover machine even while he was refusing to push the ball downfield. So Trubisky faced a good situation when he took over at quarterback, simply because it was going to be difficult to look more overmatched than Glennon. It’s hard to see what Pace ever saw in Glennon.

MOST SURPRISING PLAYER: Cornerback Kyle Fuller was all but out the Halas Hall door after a knee injury sidelined him all last season. Considering that and an unimpressive second season in 2015, the Bears didn’t pick up Fuller’s fifth-year option and now it’s going to backfire as he will be a free agent. Fuller had the classic breakthrough year. Offenses tried to avoid Prince Amukamara to attack Fuller and rarely succeeded. Fuller finished with 22 passes defended, 15 more than any other Bear. He tied for the team high with two interceptions and showed a physical side never before seen, as he tied for the team high with 60 unassisted tackles.

ASSISTANT COACH ON THE RISE: Vic Fangio can pretty much name his defensive coordinator job after his group’s production this season, and teams could do worse than considering him for a vacant head coaching post. Fangio guided the Bears to 10th in yardage allowed and ninth in scoring even though they were on the field longer than all but four other defenses. They plugged in reserves after injuries, and rarely saw a big dropoff. It was like what Pat Shurmer did with Minnesota’s offense. Their low three-year total of 24 interceptions under Fangio reflected talent shortage more than scheme.