While we held out hope that the Chicago Bears would have the worst-to-first turnaround that ultimately happened in 2018, our hope – more than pretty much anything – was that quarterback Mitch Trubisky would show positive signs of development in his second season as a starting quarterback.
The raw numbers are what they are … and they’re not bad. In fact, they’re quite good. Trubisky threw for 3,223 yards, 24 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions, completed 66.6 percent of his passes and posted a 95.4 passer rating. In short, Trubisky threw for more yards, tossed more touchdowns, increased his average yard per attempt, bumped up his percentage of throws that went for touchdowns, and improved his passer rating. All of these numbers point to one undeniable thing – say it with me now, friends – improvement.
One blemish on Trubisky’s second-year record is that the only stat he didn’t show improvement was with INT%, a number that jumped from 2.1 percent to 2.8 percent. That’s not great, but Trubisky threw more from a volume and distance perspective, so it should come as no surprise that more balls were intercepted. That’s just how math works.
It’s not like the Bears have closed off the playbook for Trubisky, only six teams have thrown more deep balls than the Bears this season …
— NFL Matchup on ESPN (@NFLMatchup) January 3, 2019
… and it’s not like the Bears haven’t been successful in completing them either. Only the Chiefs, Colts, Falcons, Bucs, and Browns finished with a higher percentage of completions on passes of 20+ downfield.
It’s hard for me to think it’s a coincidence that Trubisky showed an increased ability to make easy throws he was missing earlier in the year or that he really started to take to Matt Nagy’s coaching in the second half of the year.
And it’s not as if the Bears are racking up the YAC. In fact, Bears pass-catchers are tied for the fifth fewest average yards after the catch per reception:
Teams with the most Yards After the Catch (YAC) for the 2018 season.
— NFL Matchup on ESPN (@NFLMatchup) January 2, 2019
It’s hard evidence like the stuff above that makes it difficult for me to wrap my arms around Trubisky ranking 30th among 33 qualifying NFL quarterbacks on Pro Football Focus’ grading scale. There is clearly a disconnect between the site’s evaluation of how Trubisky has played the position and that of how traditional metrics paint his season. Heck, there is is a disconnect between Trubisky ranking in the middle of the pack of “big-time throw percentage” and checking in among the top-10 of quarterbacks who have thrown passes of 20+ yards. It all circles back to the challenges in scouting, developing, and evaluating quarterbacks. There is no cut-and-dried proven method, which I suppose makes for fun debates and analytical pieces.
In the end, we’re talking about a player who has put more good tape than bad out there into the universe in 2018. But the playoffs might as well be a whole different season, so I’m curious to see what this game (and hopefully, many more) will teach us.
To be clear, development hasn’t been linear. But that was expected. Trubisky has had his ups and downs, times where he has corrected some undeniable flaws, and occasions where he has fallen into some old habits. NBC’s Cris Collinsworth referred to him as the king of the wow plays during the team’s Sunday Night Football game in Week 11 against the Minnesota Vikings, but he also had moments that made you go ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. It’s all been part of the Year of Mitch. And what a year it has been! Here’s hoping it doesn’t end on Sunday.