Alex Smith didn’t have to sit through each of Mitch Trubisky’s 724 offensive snaps to see that the Chicago Bears didn’t do their rookie quarterback too many favors.
“I’ve watched (the Bears) a couple times this year and felt almost all of (Trubisky’s) pass attempts came on third down, and that’s a hard way to play because I have been there too as a young player,” Smith said to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune, who caught up with Smith in between interviews on Super Bowl radio row, but before the trade that sent him to Washington went down. “He didn’t have the breather completions and throws to get himself into a rhythm and I think Matt will do a great job just building it around him, tailoring it to his strengths, putting pieces around him that will help him.”
It’s an astute observation from Smith. Trubisky dropped back to pass 118 times on third down, accounting for nearly one-third of his total drop-backs as a rookie. Of those 118 occasions in which Trubisky went back to pass, 61.8 percent came when the team was facing 3rd-and-7 or longer. Trubisky was often behind the 8-ball as a rookie and it showed as the offense converted a league-worst 144 passing first downs and owned the fifth-lowest third-down conversion rate.
But under Matt Nagy, Smith sees things going differently for Trubisky. After all, no one in a better position to talk about Nagy and his potential influence on Trubisky than the quarterback who spent the last five years with him.
Smith – who played his best ball under Nagy (94.8 passer rating and a 3.1 TD-to-INT rating the last five years) – says he and Nagy “were about as close as it gets from a coach-and-player relationship” after their five-year stint together. It would probably help if Trubisky developed a similar relationship.
While speaking with Biggs, Smith outlined how Nagy can get the most out of Trubisky – which starts with some early-down success.
“I just think he is going to utilize Trubisky’s strengths from day one,” Smith said. “He is going to find out what those are and take advantage of them. I think (Nagy) is going to put him in positions to have success early and get in a rhythm.”
It would be nice for the fun to start on first down, where Trubisky completed just 57.9 percent of his attempts. Three of Trubisky’s seven interceptions came on 1st-and-10 throws. That’s not great. Without digging too deep into the play calling decisions by a staff that is no longer employed by Chicago, let’s just say Trubisky wasn’t in too many favorable situations as a rookie.
Compounding Trubisky’s issues on first down were three of his seven interceptions came when making a first-down throw. Getting Trubisky to protect the ball on first down as well as he did on third down is likely to be a point of emphasis when the team gets together and starts training again.
It all starts at the top for the Bears, and judging by Smith’s encouraging words, the offense is already in a better position than it was in 2017. Smith raved about Nagy’s leadership abilities and said he was “very gifted from an X’s and O’s standpoint.” If that wasn’t enough, Smith said he believed Nagy was going to do “fun stuff” with Trubisky. And who am I to say “no” to fun?