Through 12 games this season, Chicago Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky has checked a ton of boxes for a guy looking to make the much-ballyhooed second-year leap.
For example … Leading a comeback on the road after throwing an early interception? It happened against the Cardinals. Single-game breakout performance against a defense that was begging you to throw against them? I know you remember the Buccaneers game. String together a strong second-half after making halftime adjustments. Hey, that Jets game totally happened. But it’s the latest box that has been checked that encourages me the most.
If you recall back to last season, you might remember that Trubisky struggled when facing a defense for the second time in the same season – which is not uncommon, but not a great thing either. The Vikings and Lions, for example, saw Trubisky twice in 2017, but after shining a bit in their first meeting, he often struggled to get it in gear the second time around.
Check it out:
- First Meetings vs. MIN/DET: 30/55 (54.5%), 307 yards, 2 TD (3.6 TD%), 1 INT (1.8 INT%), 75.3 rating
- Second Meeting vs. MIN/DET: 51/82 (62.2%), 492 yards, 1 TD (1.2 TD%), 3 INT (3.7 INT%), 67.7 rating
Immediately, two things come to mind.
First, the Bears were ultra-conservative with Trubisky the first time around against the Vikings and Lions, before loosening up later in the season. Knowing what we know about Head Coach John Fox and Offensive Coordinator Dowell Loggains disagreeing on how Trubisky should have been developed, these raw numbers aren’t all that surprising. Second, let’s all acknowledge the dip in touchdown throws, increase in interceptions, and decline in passer rating, so we’re all on the same page. On the surface, it looks like a guy performing poorly. But underneath it all, you have to credit the Vikings and Lions, who made necessary adjustments against the Bears/their quarterback, who didn’t have a counter punch.
But this season, things are a little different. After falling to the Packers in a painful 2018 regular season debut, Trubisky stepped up the second time around. Just look at the difference:
- WEEK 1 @GB: 23/35 (65.7%), 171 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT, 77.2 rating
- WEEK 15 vs. GB: 20/28 (71.4%), 235 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT, 120.4 rating
How about that! Clearly, the Bears’ coaching staff made adjustments with how they would attack the Packers defense in Week 15. And when comparing the game tape, I can see that Trubisky was more consistent with his mechanics and had a better idea of where he was going with the football from the very start. Development! Progress! Happy feelings!
And in Matt Nagy’s post-game press conference on Sunday, the Bears head coach provided an on-field, in-game example of what progress looks like when analyzing a simple five-yard check-down to Tarik Cohen.
“Real quick to the flat, and he just got, like four or five yards. But within the progression of the play, he made a quick decision,” Nagy explained, via Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times. “No one will know that watching that. They just think the ball was designed to go there on the first part of the play, and it wasn’t. He just made a quick decision and got it out, and as coaches, we know that. That’s where we see the growth.”
Unless you’re desperate to defend a stance you took months ago, it’s impossible not to see the difference between Trubisky in Week 1 and Trubisky in Week 15, and that speaks to something larger than just game planning. His development hasn’t been linear and the inconsistency is still annoying to its core. But he’s playing well in his first year in this offense – while winning enough games to clinch the division, no less – despite inconsistent mechanics and maddening overthrows (plus a shoulder injury) – just imagine what it will look like once he starts putting it all together.
This isn’t to say Trubisky is a finished product because he is nowhere near that. But in a year where the most important question that needed to be answered was if Trubisky was going to show he made progress from his rookie season, that the answer is a resounding yes makes the 2018 season that much more successful.