When the Chicago Bears’ offseason training program opened up in April, Head Coach Matt Nagy drove into the players the idea of being obsessed. As linebacker Sam Acho put it, Nagy’s opening message was simple: “He talked about obsession; obsessing over winning, obsessing over being a great teammate, obsessing over doing the best you could possibly do.” The Bears were obsessed, fired up, and obsessed with being fired up. It was a thing.
But long before the Bears were obsessively obsessing about being fired up, quarterback Mitch Trubisky was ahead of the curve:
Ryan Pace says that Mitchell Trubisky is “obsessed with being great.” That’s good to hear about your franchise QB. #Bears
— Zack Pearson (@Zack_Pearson) February 28, 2018
Talking about being obsessed is one thing. Turning talk into action is something totally different. But after finishing this must-read piece by ESPN’s Tim Keown, it’s evident Trubisky walked the walk and embraced obsession as he learned to lead in his second year as a starting quarterback.
Here is the thing about talk, Trubisky doesn’t seem to like it all that much. If you’ve listened to his press conferences, they’re relatively bland. Trubisky doesn’t give out bulletin-board material or dish quotes that can quickly be turned into headlines. But as Keown points out, there is a major difference between the Trubisky who sits in front of a microphone in front of a Bears logo-filled back-drop and discusses football and the guy who is in the locker room, in meeting rooms, and on the field for game day.
Given a chance to go behind the scenes, Keown paints a picture of a Trubisky no one else has seen in his two years in Chicago. It’s an image that doesn’t match what we see or hear when speaking to the media:
Nothing is left to chance. He walks through the Bears’ locker room like someone determined to project calm confidence. He studies books on leadership and teamwork and greatness. He looks for ways to be inclusive: lifting offensive linemen off the pile; running out onto the field after a field goal to personally congratulate every guy on the unit; accepting blame (eagerly, almost too eagerly) for plays that go wrong. He ends his preparation every week with a Saturday night meeting with quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone and injured tight end Zach Miller. By this point — around 10 p.m. — every one of first-year head coach Matt Nagy’s fever-dream plays has been indelibly repped into Trubisky’s brain. But still, they go through the next day’s game plan, spending 30 or 40 minutes, Ragone speed-reading formations and plays and packages as Trubisky scrawls out the answers on a dry-erase board.
Holy Moses, this is intense! Wait, no! This is obsessive.
And it’s *EXACTLY* what Nagy wanted out of his quarterback. More importantly, it’s what Trubisky wanted out of himself all along after learning it’s OK to be obsessed.
“Now I’m conscious of it,” Trubisky told Keown. “Like , ‘Oh, I am obsessed.’ I realize now: I was obsessed before I knew I was obsessed.”
This obsession has been inside Trubisky all along, it was simply buried deep within him as a rookie. That’s understandable to an extent. First-year players don’t often like to be the ones rattling the cages, especially with a veteran-laden team and a head coach like John Fox who was long in the tooth. But there were times when Trubisky let it loose, like in a practice before his first start when he went potty mouth to get his teammates’ attention.
“Shut the f— up!” he yelled.
Surprised by the ensuing silence, he looked around, nodded, and called the play.
“You never know how they’re going to respond, but the guys loved it,” Trubisky says. “That’s by no means a go-to thing for me, but they were like, ‘OK, Mitch is finally going to take control of the freakin’ huddle. Let’s freakin’ go.'”
An untrained eye might look back at Week 5 of the 2017 NFL as nothing more than the starting point of Trubisky’s career as a starting quarterback. But for Trubisky, it might be where the awakening to become obsessed began. Even if he didn’t realize it back then.