We entered the 2018 season hoping Mitch Trubisky would show visible and evident progress in his second year as the Chicago Bears’ starting quarterback.
Because while we could write about comparisons to Jared Goff and Carson Wentz or think up ways Matt Nagy could mold a developing signal caller like his mentors Andy Reid and Doug Pederson (or even a contemporary such as Sean McVay) until we’re blue in the face, we knew there was no magic wand to be waved, making everything better. The proof needed to be on the field.
Now that the smoke has cleared after the Bears’ Wild-Card Sunday loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, I have come to the conclusion that the progress has been there for Trubisky. Just look to the tape of Trubisky’s fourth-quarter throws for more.
When the Bears needed points late, they turned to Trubisky and he delivered. If you ever wondered why Trubisky was a first-round pick out of North Carolina in 2017, he showed it in crunch time. Just check out the stat line down the stretch: 6/10 completions, 103 yards, 1 touchdown, and 0 interceptions comes out to a 128.3 passer rating.
(As an aside: Sunday’s showing brings Trubisky’s fourth-quarter stats in the last four games to 22/30 (73.3% completions), 220 yards, 2 TD, 0 Int, 7.3 yards/attempt, 115.9 passer rating. Giggity.)
Perhaps it was whatever caused him to limp off the field and into the medical tent during the first half or natural growth, but Trubisky didn’t rely on his athleticism and scrambling ability to make plays and get the Bears in business. Trubisky was left to trust his instincts and his arm … and the results provided a pleasant surprise.
To put up those numbers in that moment is nothing to look past. These are throws Trubisky wouldn’t have attempted, let alone make back in Week 1. I mean, tell me this throw didn’t give you feels:
— Armchair NFL (@ArmchairNFL) January 7, 2019
Do you know how much swag (and skill, of course) you need to execute that shoulder fake and execute that throw. If Josh Bellamy stays on his feet, the Bears score a touchdown on that play. They would do so a few minutes later, but trimming time off the clock in the progress.
And what about this pitch-and-catch:
What a throw by Trubisky and catch by AR15 pic.twitter.com/WEbKkRKVDE
— uSTADIUM (@uSTADIUM) January 7, 2019
That’s the kind of throw you expect the No. 2 overall pick to make in that moment. And that’s why you sign Allen Robinson in the offseason. This is the exact scenario GM Ryan Pace envisioned when putting this thing together. And it was undone by a kicker. Yuck.
But let’s go back to the positive vibes. Because what was most encouraging was watching Trubisky go off after a slow start and disappointing first half. Take a moment to think about how far he has come in that respect.
Trubisky is known as a rhythm passer. Get him lathered up early, move with some tempo, and watch him thrive. So from a defensive perspective, the goal with Trubisky is to disrupt his timing early and get him out of sorts. The Eagles did that last Sunday. There was no rhythm or tempo, nor was he able to build up a lather by successfully completing quick, easy throws, while deep shots were essentially taken away. But at least we had this first-half completion to Tarik Cohen to hang our hats on:
— The Bears Report (@TheBearsReport) January 6, 2019
During his rookie season (or even earlier this year), Trubisky would not have found “it” after a slow start and the Bears offense would have scuffled the entire game. So watching him get it into gear after making some second-half adjustments is a true silver lining.
I don’t want you to re-watch Week 1, because no one should have to do that. But for a moment, take some time to remember that game. Think back to how Trubisky failed to feel pressure coming at him, or what he looked like as he struggled to read a defense, or the inability to see open guys or make a risky throw. Well, that guy wasn’t the same one playing 17 weeks later.
Unfortunately, Trubisky’s heroics ended up being overlooked – like Allen Robinson’s – because of things that were out of his control. This isn’t the first time this has happened to Trubisky, either. Remember when he led that fourth-quarter drive against the Lions as a rookie to get the Bears into field goal range, only to watch Connor Barth miss what would have been a game-tying attempt? Or when he led a come-from-behind scoring drive against the Dolphins after the bye back in October, only for it to be erased when the defense allowed a touchdown on the first play from scrimmage to Albert Wilson. That was a good read and a sweet throw. It ultimately could have been a narrative-changer for how we view Trubisky, but a different Cody Parkey miss derailed those conversations before they could even get on the track.
It’s not as if Trubisky hasn’t led late scoring drives in winning games. He did it as a rookie against Baltimore en route to becoming just the second rookie quarterback to beat the Ravens on their home turf in the team’s 22-year franchise history. Rookie signal callers were just 1-14 when Trubisky and the Bears traveled to Baltimore in 2017. And with this throw to Kendall Wright, Trubisky etched his mark into Bears lore.
All of this to say that none of his second-half shenanigans erase a poor first half. The Bears could have jumped on the Eagles early with a more effective offensive game plan and better reads and throws from Trubisky. A stellar showing after halftime doesn’t make a sub-par first two quarters go away. But it does show that Trubisky has the capacity and ability to make in-game adjustments and lead his team in the guts of the game. That is something we didn’t see early in the season and weren’t sure we’d ever see. Face it, it’s not as if the Bears were in a bunch of those types of situations at the end of the year.
To be clear, Trubisky still has work to do and development to make. There are still things to learn, particularly in making quicker and more decisive reads as well as improving his overall accuracy. But the progress we sought to find this season was made. So let’s press onward to 2019, where Trubisky will seek to prove that his second-year leap was just one stepping stone on the way to bigger and better things.