Disappointed Darnell Mooney taking the high road

While his diminished production in Luke Getsy’s offense remains a mystery, Mooney will keep plugging away — with an eye toward beating the Packers in Week 18 — rather than complain about his role or his fit in the offense. “I will not be a distraction,” he said.

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Bears wide receiver Darnell Mooney (11, celebrating with DJ Moore after Moore’s 16-yard touchdown run against the Lions on Sunday) has 27 receptions for 395 yards and one touchdown in 13 games this season.

Bears wide receiver Darnell Mooney (11, celebrating with DJ Moore after Moore’s 16-yard touchdown run against the Lions on Sunday) has 27 receptions for 395 yards and one touchdown in 13 games this season.

Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Bears wide receiver Darnell Mooney’s two receptions for 44 yards against the Lions last week was modest production by almost anyone’s standards, but not insignificant. It was Mooney’s highest receiving total in four games. His 28-yard catch in the first quarter was his longest reception from Justin Fields since Oct. 15 against the Vikings. 

But in the context of Mooney’s disappointing season, not much to celebrate. 

“Just doing my thing,” the 26-year-old Mooney said. “When my number is called, just take advantage of it.” 

That Mooney’s number is not called as much as it used to remains one of the mysteries of Luke Getsy’s offense. The 2020 fifth-round pick from Tulane has just 27 receptions for 395 yards and one touchdown on 49 targets in 13 games. That’s even less than his disappointing first season in Getsy’s offense — 40 receptions for 493 yards and two touchdowns in 12 games. And it’s a huge drop from his breakout season in 2021, when Mooney had 81 receptions for 1,055 yards and four touchdowns in Matt Nagy’s offense. 

So in the two seasons in Getsy’s offense, Mooney’s yards per game has dropped from 62.1 in 2021 to 41.1 in 2022 to 30.4 this season. 

He doesn’t know why it hasn’t worked out. 

“It’s been like that for me for the past two years,” Mooney said. “It’s all about the best situation. You always want to be in the best situation to produce as a player. I’m doing whatever I can on the field just to get open. I’m doing pretty well at that, so [I] just got to keep doing that. When the ball comes, just got to make the catch and do whatever I can after the catch.”

Though he is a consummate team player who is careful not to pop off, Mooney’s disappointment is palpable. He’s in the final year of his rookie contract and was hoping for a lucrative extension from the Bears. But he knows that’s not happening at this point.

“The way the plays go [in Getsy’s offense], I’m definitely a guy who can get open and get the ball,” Mooney said. “Sometimes the defense takes me out of the way or maybe the guys get back there or whatever, something happens. It never falls my way. I’ve just got to keep on growing and stay steady.”

Bears receivers coach Tyke Tolbert sounded just as mystified when asked about Mooney’s diminished production. 

“If I had answer, we’d be better at it,” Tolbert said. “I can’t tell you the answer. He does a good job in some of the things he’s doing and he’s getting open. A lot of times it’s just unfortunate or bad luck, because he’s open sometimes … but Justin has to run out of there or somebody else is open and he throws to them first instead of Mooney. You see it on tape every week. It’s just unfortunate.” 

It’s possible Mooney is just not a good fit for this offense — it happens in the NFL. But Mooney wasn’t about to go there, at least not directly. 

“Honestly, guys, I will not be a distraction to myself or my team,” Mooney said to a crowd of reporters. “Whether that’s an answer for yes or no, I’m not going to be a distraction for any of my guys on the team or myself. So those questions may be answered whenever the season ends. For now, I’m trying to win these next couple of games and it will be a nice, cold night game vs. Green Bay [in the regular-season finale in January] and just go out there and get my first dub [win] against those guys.”

It’s got to be difficult and confounding for Mooney, who was nurtured as an NFL player with the Bears, but might have better luck somewhere else. 

“I want to be here. I love Chicago. I love being here,” Mooney said. “So that answer is whatever it is after the season.” 

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