The Bears are through a week and a half of practices and we’ve learned that the defense is still incredible, the beat writers LOVE the kicking competition and no one knows if anything has improved in the play of Mitchell Trubisky.
Mitch and his development sort of flew under the radar this Summer when Cody Parkey‘s GMA appearance and the sideshow kicking competition dominated most of the offseason headlines. Training camp brought our boy Trubs back into the spotlight and all the reports have been more or less the same we’ve seen the last two years, with every great play there is an equal and opposite awful one. Inconsistency is Trubs game.
But he’s practicing against the league’s best defense! Pfft. This is supposed to be the year he takes “the step” forward and develops into the “First Division QB” that takes Chicago from mediocrity to contender for a decade.
So, is that what they’ll get?
Mitch, through no real fault of his own, is a polarizing figure destined to be measured against the two men Ryan Pace chose to pass up. The 2017 QBs taken after Trubs are routinely discussed as better than him; one (Patrick Mahomes) is an MVP already and looks like he’ll be better than most at the position for a decade, while the other (Deshaun Watson) shows brilliant flashes but has already undergone major knee surgery. You can spend literally hours talking about the merits of all three, and it will never goddamned matter. Please don’t do this. They can’t go back and draft Mahomes. Embrace that fact. Mitch is what they’ve got, and what they do to maximize what they’ve got is all that matters.
Now, how to maximize whatever Mitch is. His organization didn’t do him any favors at the start.
Mitch was essentially thrown into a garbage system coached by John Fox and a staff that knew they were all DOA once Pace took over, but were allowed to weekend-at-Bernie’s the 2017 campaign as the McCaskey’s weren’t about to pay another coach to not work for them. Mike Glennon (WOOF) was only able to help drag Fox’s body around for four weeks before the job was heaped on our young Jonathan Silverman. No Andrew McCarthy around to help carry the weight, Mitch just chucked shit up and hoped *checks notes* Dontrelle Inman or any TE/RB might catch something. Seriously, the top ten list of 2017 Bears reception leaders reads like an Iowa fan’s wet dream with FOUR tight ends. No, none of them were over 20 catches. Man, 2017 sucked.
So you have a young Quarterback that started a single year in college, thrust into a system no one cared about with sub-par players no one intended to keep around. This is a failure. Pace seemingly gets a pass for this, as in it’s never discussed, but this was a major misstep and really didn’t even begin true development for Mitch. Off to a great start.
Year two Trubisky was more fun to watch in Matt Nagy’s system but that lack of coaching in year one shown more often than anyone, I’m sure Mitch included, would like to see. He can’t help but constantly heave the ball off his back foot, but his post-snap reads are where you really see the need for improvement and reps in the offense. Mitch also tends to lean on his mobility, for better or worse. He’ll make an escape and hit a receiver or scramble for big yardage; the next play, he bails on the pocket and attempts a throw across his body that becomes an interceptable ball while he’s locked in on one target the whole time.
2018 Trubisky teased some gorgeous throws while missing wide open targets with regularity. He ranked 30th of 35 qualified QBs for depth-adjusted accuracy(sub required, and recommended. It’s $12, cheapass). Mitch was a fairly high 93% accurate on short (line of scrimmage or behind) throws, but on anything beyond that his accuracy starts declining. Sharply. (Per Pre-Snap Reads data):
1-10 yards – 77.6% (24th/86.5%-1st)
11-20 yards – 54.3% (27th/69.9*nice*-1st)
20+ yards – 38.1% (21st/61.5%-1st)
For every pretty ball dropped in-stride to Tarik Cohen on a wheel route down the sideline there were three terrible overthrows of Taylor Gabriel on a corner post or Anthony Miller on a blown coverage in the seam that arguably result in touchdowns. Those throws have to be made. It’s what good QBs do.
Exciting! Flacco won a Super Bowl…He also makes a living on gaining large swaths of yardage via P.I. Not ideal.
A late season injury only blurred the lines further on where exactly Mitch is developmentally. The offense appeared almost scaled back for baby boy upon return, but the problem areas remained the same. The issues don’t seem to be about understanding the plays, but the decision making and execution of what Nagy and Co. tee up. The Playoff loss was a microcosm of his season – a perfectly timed and thrown ball into a small window to Robinson helped to set up the double-doink sadness, but only AFTER a terrible read that should’ve been intercepted a handful of plays earlier.
How Nagy works now to change Trubisky’s bad habits will define this era of Bears football. Improving accuracy and reads are mandatory, with defensive regression and kicking headaches guaranteed in 2019. It’ll also go a long way in telling if 2018 was improvement over 2017, or just a system with much better players propping Mitch up and dragging him around with them.
The good plays are great. The misses are egregious. That is what Mitch is right now – inconsistent, and the spectrum is VAST. So-so Mitch got them to Wild Card Weekend. Consistent Mitch makes the Bears a real problem for the NFC.