Whether you take a glass-half-full or glass-half-empty approach, all Chicago Bears’ fan can agree they want a franchise quarterback. That’s why most of our eyes are glued to quarterback Mitchell Trubisky every week.
The ebbs and flows of an NFL season are always nerve wracking, but they’re even more daunting in Chicago following losses. Social media and sports radio turn into hot-take havens that are loaded with extremists on the positive and negative sides of the spectrum. Usually, the microscope is magnified on Trubisky.
Obviously, that comes with the territory. He was the second overall pick in 2017, and the Bears gave up multiple draft picks to move up one spot to select him. The lens is even greater because of a couple of other factors. For starters, the team hasn’t had an All-Pro caliber quarterback since Sid Luckman (no disrespect meant to Jim McMahon).
Perhaps the biggest driving force behind the amped up scrutiny is the performances of Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes. Both quarterbacks were selected after Trubisky in the same draft, and each have played at a consistently higher level. The comparisons aren’t likely to go away any time soon, especially with Mahomes playing at an MVP pace this season.
These circumstances are making some fans draw sweeping conclusions through just six games, and the week-to-week exercise can be exhausting for many fans.
The apologists are boisterous whenever Trubisky has a good game or makes wow plays. The naysayers are quick to jump on all of his of inaccurate throws and skittish behavior under pressure. He’s either a Pro-Bowler or a bust in some folks eyes.
Unfortunately, in the world of instant analysis, those same people can’t let things breathe. Some fans and analysts can’t take a wait-and-see approach. They have to be the first in line to say “I told you so.”
In reality, the truth about Trubisky lies somewhere in the middle.
He’s had plenty of highlights that point to him being a franchise quarterback, and he’s had plenty of plays that make him look like a Jay Cutler clone. Last Sunday’s loss to the New England Patriots was the perfect microcosm. There were explosive runs and passes to satiate his supporters, and there plenty were off-target throws that fueled his critics.
It might be a boring take, but it’s honest. When you breakdown his biggest strengths and weaknesses through six games, there are trends that justify both optimism and concern.
- Command of the offense – He’s shown the ability to digest the play coming from the sideline and get guys lined up properly before the snap. Given the complexity of head coach Matt Nagy’s offense and Trubisky’s rawness heading into the year, that’s very impressive.
- Strong arm – When he sets his feet, he can rip off intermediate passes on a rope or air deep balls down field.
- Athletic – Trubisky can run for first downs when plays break down or extend plays outside the pocket and throw on the move.
- Accuracy – Poor accuracy has been a major red flag through six games. Trubisky sometimes struggles to hit open receivers, especially 20+ yards down the field.
- Jittery in the pocket – Whenever there is pressure or even slight signs of a blitz, he has tendency to get happy feet in the pocket. This throws off his timing, causing him to sail or underthrow passes.
- Reading the defense consistently – When the pressure does come at Trubisky, it either causes inaccurate throws or poor decision making.
So what does these mean in the grand scheme of things? Nothing yet.
He’s 18 games into his professional career, and the jury is still out on whether he’ll be a star or complete bust. The situation he was thrust into last season was disastrous a couple of levels. Former head coach John Fox and ex-offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains were satisfied with handcuffing Trubisky as a rookie, and GM Ryan Pace stocked the Bears offense with pedestrian options last year.
The 2018 season can be viewed as a semi-reset. Trubisky has an offensive-minded coach who is willing to play to his strengths. He also has a solid arsenal of weapons, which includes new-comers Allen Robinson, Trey Burton, Taylor Gabriel and Anthony Miller.
Through six games, the grade is still incomplete because we’ve seen the typical ups and downs.
However, if you WERE forced to gauge his very small sample size, you can assume Trubisky is trending toward the middle-tier class of quarterbacks that include Alex Smith, Dak Prescott and Andy Dalton. These are they type of guys who have the athleticism and tangibles to keep you in games, but they also struggle with accuracy and decision making more than All-Pro signal callers do.
The result: Good but not great.
While Blake Bortles’ comparisons are popping up lately, there hasn’t been enough to see him trending in that direction. While Trubisky’s inaccuracy is similar to Bortles, Bortles has had plenty of poor outings that cost his team wins.
Sure, he’s had the turnovers and bad throws in a few games this season, but we haven’t seen him nosedive to the extent of Bortles. He’s been able to balance out poor performances by making big plays, helping keep the Bears in every game.
A QB similar to Alex Smith, Dak Prescott or Andy Dalton would certainly be the best in Bears’ franchise history. But is that a quarterback worth picking second overall pick? No.
You typically want to select a superstar-caliber player in that spot. Being an above-average quarterback doesn’t justify being a No. 2 pick, especially if Mahomes (No. 10 pick) continues at his All-Pro pace.
That won’t be Trubisky’s fault. Pace will have to answer to the fan base and Bears’ ownership if Trubisky never pans out near or at a superstar level. Still, the comparisons between the two will continue, and the second-year quarterback will need to get near the same level as Mahomes to quiet the discussion.
Fortunately, the good news is that Trubisky’s story isn’t finished. He still is young enough to raise his ceiling and clean up some of those glaring issues. It’s obvious he’s working hard to get there. We’ve definitely seen substantial growth from last season, and there has been some solid improvement from week 1 to now. That’s an encouraging sign going forward.
With 10 games left, it will be interesting to see if Trubisky clears up some of the warts in his game. The situation around him should help. He has a solid surrounding cast and a coach who can help him raise his play each week.
If we see more of the same or notice regression later this season, then the red flags should be raised. Make no mistake. He won’t lose his gig, but there will be much more doubt about his ceiling going forward.
The roller coaster of dealing with a young quarterback is usually rocky, and there will be plenty of more highs and lows through the rest of the season. That’s why sweeping conclusions from week to week aren’t advised. By taking a broader look late in the year or after the season, it will be easier to measure Trubisky’s growth from the beginning to the end of the season.
For now, patience is the virtue Bears’ fans need to practice.