Back in July 2018, I was sitting in the Caesars Palace sports book in Las Vegas with some friends, thumbing through MVP odds for a long-shot candidate, when Patrick Mahomes’ name came up and generated some much-needed consensus.
After all, Mahomes was set to play in a quarterback-friendly offense (with a long-time quarterback guru as his head coach and some unmatched-in-the-NFL offensive weaponry). Indeed, after sitting behind Alex Smith for a year, Mahomes was well-positioned to take what he had learned in his year on the sidelines and apply it as the team’s starting quarterback. Everything was there for something special. I mean, if Smith could put up bonkers numbers in Andy Reid’s system, imagine what a quarterback with Mahomes’ natural talent could do.
Apparently, we weren’t the only ones who felt this way about him. Because in May 2018, Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller was hearing from scouts, coaches, and NFL player personnel types who were buying the Mahomes hype.
One year later, a different quarterback (under similar circumstances) is catching the eyes of coaches, scouts, and personnel directors around the NFL and is believed to be poised for a breakout campaign: The NFL is preparing for Mitch Trubisky to have a breakout campaign for the Chicago Bears.
A one-time Matt Nagy co-worker sees Trubisky as the ideal quarterback for this scheme, saying: “Obviously, Mahomes and Watson would fit what Matt does. But Trubisky works so well for that scheme because he can run the RPO stuff, and he’s solid enough to take some hits. You don’t have to worry about him getting banged up as much as you would a Watson or Lamar Jackson or Alex Smith.”
In addition to the arm talent Trubisky possesses, remember that the Bears’ QB1 spent some time as a running back in his youth. And if you ever watch him run with the ball, you can see how his technique looks more like a traditional ball-carrier than a quarterback who can run with the ball. Between Trubisky’s general running ability, more-specific running back skills, and general build (6-3, 222 pounds), it’s easy to understand what this former Nagy co-worker sees in the Bears’ starting quarterback.
An AFC scouting director raved about Trubisky, telling Miller: “Hindsight is always perfect, right, but I loved him [coming out]. He was so accurate, crisp and athletic. (North Carolina) didn’t utilize his legs enough. I think (Matt) Nagy will open that up more this year.”
Trubisky’s talent has never been a question. Bleacher Report’s quarterback rankings in 2017 had Trubisky as the top-rated player at the position in a class that also included Mahomes and Deshaun Watson. But BR’s scouting eyes were hardly alone. Pro Football Focus placed Trubisky at the top of their quarterback rankings, as did Lance Zierlein (NFL.com), Mel Kiper Jr. (ESPN), Todd McShay (ESPN), Terez A. Paylor (Kansas City Star), Dieter Kurtenbach (FOX Sports), and Charlie Campbell (WalterFootball.com), among others.
Beyond the prospect hype, athleticism, supporting cast, and high-end coaching aspects that are driving the Trubisky hype train this year, there is one quote that caught my eye when it came to Trubisky following Mahomes as the next “it” guy in the NFL. In last year’s Mahomes hype piece, a Chiefs coach told Miller: “We’ve been watching him for a year and he just keeps getting better and better. Sure, there are mistakes, but there are also plays I’ve never seen a quarterback make before.”
So on the one hand, Mahomes was making mistakes heading into his second year in the same offense. But he was also making special plays. Does any of that sound familiar to Bears fans?
Much has been made about Trubisky’s summertime miscues throwing deep balls in Bourbonnais and problems being accurate in the pocket. Those are two undeniable hangups keeping Trubisky from reaching his potential right now. But another undeniable thing is Trubisky’s excellence outside the pocket and ability to make special plays when things around him are chaotic. If Trubisky can figure it out in the pocket, it would go a long way toward the predicted breakout happening in front of our own eyes.