This season, Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky is on pace to throw for 4,146 yards and 34 touchdowns, while adding 677 rushing yards and 5 scores on the ground. At this rate, Trubisky is on pace to have the single greatest season in the history of Chicago Bears quarterbacks. And after leading his team to a 4-3 record out of the gate – good enough for first place, half-way through the season – the idea of Trubisky leading the Bears to the postseason *this year* isn’t as far-fetched as it might have once seemed.
And yet, that’s not good enough for some. In fact, some might argue Trubisky isn’t good at all.
NFL.com’s Around The NFL editor Gregg Rosenthal shared his mid-season quarterback index, which ranks Trubisky as the 26th best quarterback in the NFL right now. The only signal callers rated lower than Trubisky are Eli Manning, Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, C.J. Beathard, Brock Osweiler, and Derek Anderson. That’s a group consisting of three back-ups, two rookies, and a rapidly declining veteran. But it’s some of the names that are ahead of Trubisky that are the real head-scratchers.
For example, Jameis Winston has been benched in favor of Ryan Fitzpatrick, but is ahead of Trubisky. Blake Bortles started the Jaguars’ most recent game, but he was pulled earlier in the year due to his ineffective play. Marcus Mariota has increased his completion percentage, but his touchdown rate, yards per game, and yards per attempt have dipped from last season. So on, and so on.
It would make sense if Rosenthal was to cluster this group of quarterbacks together, pointing to their inconsistencies as former first-round picks who haven’t quite taken that all-important step forward, and move on from there. But that’s not how it reads.
Here’s Rosenthal’s reasoning:
“He’s the most divisive quarterback in football, at least according to the stats. ESPN’s QBR has him ranked seventh overall and his fantasy stats are undeniably large. DVOA has him 20th, while the graders at Pro Football Focus have him ranked as the worst pure passer in football by a wide margin. My rank is closer to PFF’s because of all the interceptions he’s lucked out of thanks to drops by defenders, and all the open receivers that he’s missed. “
I won’t argue that Trubisky has had good fortune with some dropped interceptions, but citing things that didn’t happen can be a slippery slope. And besides, there’s a reason those defenders aren’t playing on the other side of the ball.
As for the missed receivers, well, we’ve discussed Trubisky’s inconsistencies, misses, mistakes, troubling tendencies, and other issues that have popped up along the way. But we’ve also made note of when he has made corrections and key adjustments along the way. It’s not right to highlight a player’s flaws while at the same time ignoring evidence that said player is improving in what have been highlighted as areas of concern.
But if the Bears are rolling with an offense that ranks in the top 10 in yards per game and scoring average with a quarterback who is – by one pundit’s measure – bad, then it must mean the coaching and players around him are doing well enough to mask the deficiencies of one of football’s worst quarterbacks. And just imagine how good this group could be if Trubisky improves just a little bit on the things we’ve highlighted that’ve held him back. That would hint that Bears GM Ryan Pace has done one hell of a job turning over the roster and hiring the right head coach to put the team in this position. In this case, you can’t be in both camps at the same time.
But hey, things aren’t looking totally bleak for Trubisky. All you have to do is re-read the part in the Rosenthal excerpt that notes ESPN’s quarterback rating metric thinks the second-year Bears quarterback is doing some good things. Maybe the future is bright after all! That is, of course, if Trubisky makes it through to the end.
ESPN’s Bill Barnwell tried his hand at projecting what NFL rosters will look like in 2020, which is something of a head-turner once you scroll down to the section looking into the Bears’ future. Barnwell has Trubisky *on the bubble* in 2020, as in there is a possibility he isn’t even on the roster in two seasons. Yikes! Barnwell writes Trubisky hasn’t shown enough at this point to be worthy of a roster lock, then proceeds to call Trubisky NFC North’s version of Blake Bortles.
My response to that:
The idea of Trubisky not making it to the final year of his rookie deal is ludicrous. Even the much-maligned Bortles did that much. And cutting him while he’s on his rookie contract doesn’t even make sense logistically. With the Bears sinking a ton of money into Khalil Mack and other high-priced talents and the team not having a first-round pick the next two years, it’s not like there are going to be a ton of avenues to add a cost-effective replacement who can step right in and play ball in a competitive window.
So here’s the thing: Trubisky isn’t bad. He has flaws, but he’s improved his completion percentage and yards per attempt, which has led to a better yards per game and passer rating. His touchdown percentage has nearly tripled from 2.1% to 6.3% and his interception percentage has remained at a manageable 2.5%. Moreover, he is taking fewer sacks despite dropping back more often now than he did as a rookie. And, of course, he’s still very young and inexperienced, even relative to other rookies who drew more starts in college. In short, bad quarterbacks don’t have these numbers.
However, Trubisky isn’t great – at least, not yet. And maybe that’s why big picture national writers are pumping the brakes hard on the Bears’ QB1. So while Trubisky had the breakout game many were pleading to see before this year started, he hasn’t strung together a stretch like fellow first-rounders Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson. Perhaps Trubisky not being Mahomes or Watson is what’s at the crux of this whole thing.
In the end, Trubisky is still being molded – but we knew that would be the case at this point of the year before we embarked on this journey. That’s why the Bears went out of their way to revamp the offensive coaching staff and talent around him as they ripped the blueprint straight from pages written up by Sean McVay and Doug Pederson.
Trubisky shows flashes of greatness with arm talent, mobility, and intangibles. But the inconsistencies with his mechanics (mostly footwork) and the deep ball inaccuracy are holding him back from unleashing his full potential.
But, again: Trubisky hasn’t just come a long way from where he was at this time last year, he’s taken some notable steps forward. The rest of his season is a blank slate, and I’m looking forward to seeing what comes of him in the days, weeks, months, and years to come.