By DERON SNYDER
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is convinced. “There is no question the league is suffering negative effects from these protests,” he told reporters Sunday after Dallas demolished San Francisco.
The extent of those negative effects is debatable. But here’s something everyone can agree upon:
Mitchell Trubisky and the Chicago Bears are threats to inflict more damage than all the protesting players combined.
NFL TV ratings are down for a number of reasons, but they’ll fight for second-place if we see more performances like Chicago delivered in Sunday’s 17-3 victory against Carolina. That game set the NFL back a couple of decades.
Trubisky completed four passes. Not on a drive. Not in a quarter. Not before, or after, halftime. The Bears quarterback had four completions. Period.
“He managed the game pretty well,” Bears coach John Fox told reporters.
“I thought I played really poor,” Trubisky said, perhaps judging himself too harshly since he attempted only seven passes. “I just got to be better, overall.”
He’s headed in the wrong direction to prove himself. A week earlier, Trubisky attempted a whopping 16 passes, which he said marked the lowest of any game in his life. Any arm fatigue was caused by the 50 times he handed off.
Maybe there’s hope for him down the line. After all, even Jacksonville QB Blake Bortles can show signs of competence. The Jaguars were so afraid of the potential disaster when Bortles throws the ball, he attempted just one pass on two dropbacks in the entire second half against Pittsburgh on Oct. 8. On Sunday, with star halfback Leonard Fournette sidelines, Bortles completed 18-of-26 passes for 330 yards.
Even a blind squirrel finds a nut every occasionally.
Despite his pedestrian numbers, Trubisky is 2-0 in his last two starts. Such ineptitude at passing shouldn’t be rewarded. But the Bears have no choice other than reliance on their defense and rushing attack, a combination that rivals TV commercials as a trigger for channel-flipping.
Being placed in the same sentence with Tim Tebow isn’t a good thing for NFL quarterbacks, at least not when it comes to throwing the football. But Trubisky’s outing hearkened memories of the former Denver Broncos signal-caller who led his team to a playoff victory in 2011.
Earlier that season, Tebow “won” a game by completing 2 of 8 passes against Kansas City. According to NFL research, Tebow and Trubisky are the only non-injured starters since then to win a game with fewer than five completions.
Fox coached Denver in 2011.
He also coached Carolina in 2006 when QB Chris Weinke was 4 of 7 for 32 yards in a victory against Atlanta.
Keeping Fox-led teams off TV might give ratings a boost.
To be fair, Fox has to work with what’s he given. Trubisky was the No. 2 overall pick in this year’s draft but, right now, he no better than Tebow or Weinke, totally forgettable passers. And Trubisky’s starting wide receivers are even more nondescript. Rookie halfback Tarik Cohen leads the team with 27 receptions and tight end Zach Miller is tied for second with 20 catches.
The offense can barely compete with their counterparts lately. Against Carolina, Bears rookie safety Eddie Jackson scored on a 75-yard fumble return and 76-yard interception return. In the previous game, safety Adrian Amos notched a 90-yard pick-6 against Baltimore’s Joe Flacco.
Trubisky’s unit has gone along for the ride during the two-game win streak.
“But that’s how it plays out sometimes,” Miller told reporters Sunday. “There are going to be times when (the offense) is going to have to pick up the slack for our football team. I thought the defense today played lights out. They’re bringing that ‘Monsters of the Midway’ back.”
That’s so 32 years ago. The legendary, dominant defense played by the 1985 Bears is nowhere near the attraction of modern, pass-happy offenses. Eyeballs are drawn to exploding scoreboards not stagnant first-down markers.
It’s understandable that Jones points to protests during the national anthem in explaining the NFL’s TV malaise. The issue has received outsized attention from the nation’s highest office, whose occupant treats not standing like a matter of national security.
The 2016 presidential election was blamed for a 9 percent ratings drop last season and the numbers continue to be off this year. But uneven play and sub-par quarterbacks are greater factors, not helped by society’s overall declining interest in TV and the rise of cord cutters. Combining those factors with oversaturation and fans’ uneasiness over head trauma gives you a perfect recipe for sagging ratings.
Just don’t underestimate the effect rotten ingredients like Trubisky, Bortles and other pitiful passers.
— Brooklyn-born and Howard-educated, Deron Snyder writes his award-winning column for The Washington Times on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Follow him on Twitter @DeronSnyder.