LAKE FOREST — There is a lot to get to on this short week before a Bears-Packers game so let’s dive right in:
1. Aaron Rodgers knows the value of learning from the bench, but his situation in Green Bay was a lot different than Trubisky’s current situation in Chicago.
“It was the best thing that happened to me, being able to sit for three years and learn behind a Hall-of-Famer,” Rodgers said on a conference call Tuesday.
That Hall-of-Famer was Brett Favre. And that name should not be mentioned in the same sentence as Mike Glennon (which is why I just violated Writing 101 and split these into two choppy sentences).
The Bears don’t have a Favre to buy time while Trubisky develops and I’m struggling to see what the rookie can learn from a quarterback who has attempted just four passes that have traveled at least 21 yards past the line of scrimmage through three games. This, of course, is where the Bears tell us how Trubisky can learn from Glennon’s experience and command of the offense — the same command that led to two busted plays and two false starts because of cadence issues on Sunday.
“Yeah, (I was) trying to switch up the snap count and that’s something we’re working on, to limit the pre-snap penalties,” Glennon said.
Rodgers was also drafted in 2005 by an offensive-minded head coach in Mike Sherman, who was promptly replaced in 2006 by an even better offensive-minded head coach in Mike McCarthy. Rodgers’ quarterback coach as a rookie was Darrell Bevell, who was so well respected that he was hired by the Vikings to be their offensive coordinator even after the Packers went 4-12 in 2005 and everyone lost their jobs. And when Bevell departed, McCarthy hired Tom Clements, who eventually became the offensive coordinator and worked with Rodgers until the end of last season.
The circumstances in which the Packers landed Rodgers also matter. Remember, he fell to No. 24 in the draft and, unlike Ryan Pace, Packers GM Ted Thompson’s didn’t execute an elaborate covert operation to convince the league he wasn’t drafting a quarterback. He took Rodgers simply because Rodgers was there and had no choice but to sit him for three years because Favre was on the team and still only 35 years old. Meanwhile, while Rodgers sat, he was coached up by Bevell and Clements, under the umbrella of two offensive-minded head coaches.
That’s not to say the Bears don’t have a coaching staff capable of properly developing Trubisky, but the circumstances are much different now than they were in 2005-07 when Rodgers was sitting.
“The old schedule prior to 2011, you were able to spend a lot more time with them,” McCarthy said.
Practice times are now limited. Reps are limited. And even when discussing Rodgers’ development, McCarthy kept going back to the preseason games as the measuring stick for how Rodgers was progressing.
“A big part of being a backup quarterback is how they play in the preseason games,” McCarthy said Tuesday. “In ’06 and ’07, (Rodgers) played exceptionally well. A big moment for Aaron as far as his development was the opportunity he had in ’07 when he got into the Dallas game down there in Dallas in the old stadium and played extremely well. And I think with that, so much confidence came from that experience. Not only just for himself but for his teammates and everybody in him.”
So there you have it, straight from the Packers head coach. Ultimately, it was playing in an actual game that was “a big moment” in Rodgers’ development. That was Week 13 in 2007 when Rodgers posted a 104.8 passer rating against the Cowboys. He didn’t throw another pass the rest of that season, but the Packers still decided to stick with Rodgers in 2008 when Favre called off his retirement.
There are certainly good cases to be made for learning on the bench, and Rodgers made those cases Tuesday — “You can kind of come along at your own speed. You’re obviously not dealing with the pressure every week of having to perform, which is a real thing.” — but there’s as much evidence, if not more, to suggest that Trubisky would be better off developing on the field. While Rodgers might be the gold standard for sitting and learning, he did so in an extremely rare situation behind a Hall-of-Famer with an optimal offensive-slanted coaching staff.
So again, what exactly is Trubisky learning from all those Mike Glennon check-downs right now? Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains already admitted that the offense will look different with Trubisky, which is something we saw with our own eyes during the preseason. That means defenses will be playing him much differently, begging the question: of what value is Sunday’s Steelers tape to Trubisky?
Rodgers certainly didn’t have that issue with the gunslinging Favre, who wasn’t all that different stylistically.
So while Rodgers’ input on his own development will always remain interesting, there just aren’t many similarities to Trubisky’s situation. Other than that they might both be very good quarterbacks.
2. Regardless of how Trubisky develops, Rodgers seems to like what he sees.
“Getting picked in the first round, the physical aspects were there. They obviously are with Mitch. He had a good preseason. Made a lot of plays, ran around, did some good things from what I saw,” Rodgers said.
Sidenote: I’ll give Rodgers credit. He spent the great majority of his nearly 14-minute conference call with Chicago reporters answering questions about the Bears’ backup quarterback. He understands that’s the big story in Chicago and he didn’t have any problems giving thoughtful answers on Trubisky even though that topic obviously isn’t top of mind for him on a short week.
3. Former Bears wide receiver Victor Cruz wouldn’t be surprised to see Trubisky start against the Vikings in Week 5. Cruz is still hoping to land with another NFL team, but in the meantime he was hired as an analyst by the NFL Network and made his debut Wednesday morning on “Good Morning Football.”
“(Trubisky) is a good player. I think some of the preseason that you saw, his intangibles, of getting out of the pocket, he’s extremely accurate, and as he got more and more comfortable, he started to command the offense,” Cruz said on the show.
Remember, Cruz worked primarily with Trubisky in the preseason, so his insight on the rookie quarterback is particularly notable.
“He started to come into that huddle with a little bit of swagger and was talking to us — the way he wanted these things run — ‘hey, have your eyes open on this out-route.’ Like giving us little tidbits, even in the preseason as he was getting more and more comfortable,” Cruz said.
The wide receiver also said, “I love Mike G,” and was asked why John Fox loves Glennon so much.
“I think because (Glennon) understands the game,” Cruz said. “He’s been around it. He understands the highs and the lows. He’s someone who can come in and has been through a couple offenses and can facilitate guys and get them in the right place at the right time. I think Mitch, this is his first go-around. Obviously he’s a rookie. He’s just getting into this offense. I think because Mike G has a couple offenses under his belt, I think that gives him the edge.”
That said, Cruz was asked if he would be surprised if Trubisky starts against the Vikings on Oct. 9 after the team gets 10 days in-between games.
Cruz’s response: “It wouldn’t surprise me. I can say that.”
4. A week after detailing how “safe” the Bears played in their first two losses, they played it even safer against the Steelers… and won. In retrospect, the Steelers’ defensive game plan was very odd. They rarely loaded up the box with eight or nine defenders to stop the Bears’ running game. Instead, they played a lot of zone and tried to keep everything in front of them, which resulted in a ton of check-downs from Glennon. Surely, the Steelers must have thought their offense would score a lot more, but with Ben Roethlisberger struggling, this strategy backfired. Somehow the Steelers managed to lose a game in which their opponent only threw for 101 passing yards.
“We’re very aware that it’s going to be hard to win NFL games throwing for just over 100 yards,” Loggains said.
Amazingly, the numbers are even more astounding. I charted Mike Glennon’s game — in which he officially completed 15-of-22 passes for 101 yards and a touchdown — and found that he only completed one pass that traveled at least 10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. And while he got credit for 101 passing yards, his completions traveled a total of 19 yards beyond the line of scrimmage.
- Six of Glennon’s 15 completions were BEHIND the line of scrimmage. Another three were AT the line of scrimmage.
- In other words, only six of Glennon’s 15 completions were thrown beyond the line of scrimmage.
- Twelve of Glennon’s 15 completions were to running backs and nine of those were completed either BEHIND or AT the line of scrimmage. Essentially those are just running plays, but with a more creative way to hand the ball off in space.
- Finally, Glennon’s numbers against the Steelers on passes thrown at least 10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage: 1-of-4 for 15 “air” yards and one interception. To be fair, Markus Wheaton should have caught his longest pass of the day, which traveled 33 yards in the air, and there were two other 10-plus yard drops on plays that were wiped out by penalties, meaning the attempts didn’t count. If you adjust for all of this, Glennon could have been 4-for-6 for 78 “air” yards and one interception.
For what it’s worth, Mike McCarthy expects Glennon to open it up a little more Thursday night.
“We look for them to probably be more aggressive on the perimeter because of just production that they didn’t have this past Sunday,” he said.
5. If Josh Sitton (ribs) is able to play Thursday, it will be interesting to see if he returns to left guard, where he played last season. He started the Bears’ first two games this season at right guard because the Bears had planned to move Kyle Long to left guard. But with Sitton out against the Steelers, Long ended up playing his more familiar position on the right side while making his season-debut.
“The reality of it was I probably got 10 reps at the left guard position (in training camp) so going back to the right spot was a place where I felt comfortable,” Long said.
If Sitton is able to return, the Bears will have their entire starting offensive line together for the first time this season. The former Packer missed last year’s game at Lambeau, so you know he’ll be doing everything in his power to play Thursday. Sitton is officially “questionable” for the game, as is center Hroniss Grasu (hand).
6. The Packers are asking fans in attendance to join them as they lock arms during the National Anthem. The players released a statement on the matter Tuesday:
Considering that the Bears locked arms in Sunday’s game against the Steelers, it would not be surprising to see them join in. If they do so, it might be worth releasing their own statement asking their fans in attendance to join in. Having an entire stadium of Bears and Packers fans locking arms on national television would be quite the show of unity.
7. As of Tuesday, Bears cornerback Prince Amukamara said the team had not discussed their plans for the National Anthem, but added that it was something they needed to talk about before the game. Meanwhile, he had some important words that are worth reading:
“I think that more attention has been on what the guys are doing or what we’re doing rather than why we’re doing it. I think with what Trump did, he tried to make it about him and really it’s not. It’s just about social injustice and inequality and I think we’re all just hoping that message stays pure … And I think it’s more important not to just do it on the field. I know guys like Malcolm Jenkins, Michael Bennett, and Martellus (Bennett) and other guys, especially Colin (Kaepernick), are doing a lot off the field. I know Malcolm is always in D.C. suited up and meeting with legislation and just trying to learn about the laws and see what we can get changed. I think all that stuff is more important.”
8. Speaking of former Bear Martellus Bennett, Aaron Rodgers had nothing but great things to say about him Tuesday:
“Little things have surprised me in the best way. He’s been a fantastic teammate for us. I think he really feels comfortable here. He has a position of leadership and he’s made the most of it. He’s a guy who people enjoy being around, enjoy talking to, enjoy being with outside the facility. I think that’s been the most — surprising isn’t the right word, I would say inspiring to watch him go about his business and to be the kind of teammate he’s been so far.”
Thursday will mark the second time Bennett plays against his former team, as he went up against the Bears in three practices and a preseason game in New England last summer.
9. Hope you’re ready for Tony Romo. The former Cowboys quarterback will be on the CBS/NFL Network/Amazon Prime “tri-cast” of the Bears-Packers game with Jim Nantz. Former kicker Jay Feely, who actually ended his career with the Bears in 2014, will be a field analyst for the game.
So far Romo has gone viral with his ability to call plays out right before the snap, but I’ve also noticed that he has a tendency to shout over Nantz’s calls sometimes. Considering he doesn’t have a lot of broadcasting experience, I’m sure that will improve. I have a feeling Romo will be a hot topic on social media during the game Thursday.
10. Finally, your referee for the game at Lambeau: John Hussey, who is in his third season as a head official.