As apart of an ongoing series, Taking Inventory aims to assess every position set on the Bears, taking a peek at the previous season and provide a sneak peek into projections for the certain group. For day one, we take a gander at the quarterback crew.
To label Mitchell Trubisky’s rookie campaign a blunder or a disappointment would be unfair. All things considered, trapped beneath a system so bent on commanding the run game will never produce all-star level numbers for a passer nor will it coax much growth. So little pressure on him to effectively and efficiently manage an offense like a quarterback is expected to in the pros didn’t exactly prompt many highlights out of him.
So, more of a misapplication than a misstep on his part.
After all, he did ride the bench until flaming failure of a free agency decision Mike Glennon forced John Fox’s hand in Week Five. A game in which thrust Trubisky under the prime time lights of Monday Night Football against a Vikings team that, excluding a brutal second quarter, nearly went toe-to-toe with the eventual Super Bowl champions. Though unimpressive numbers, he kept the Bears kicking one wild reverse at a time.
Ignoring the final drive to win it collapsing into a merciless rookie inexperienced fueled pick, what he did with what he had incites hope and when Fox gave him the chance, occasionally glimmered with the skill set and leadership that enticed general manager Ryan Pace enough to trade up for. A perfect bootleg that ended with a 26-yard completion to Tre McBride called back due to holding. A “sweet” (Trubisky’s words, not mine) double reverse for a two-point conversion.
Though the rest of the season hadn’t hit the highs we may have expected, it was quite characteristic of his first game. He never put up astounding numbers. The only time he surpassed the 300-yard mark in a game came tagged with three interceptions and a 66.8 quarterback rating. Like a brilliant artist barred with financial woes, Trubisky rarely had the opportunity to display what he is capable of but when the chance arose, he delivered.
Trubisky’s rookie season really cannot be dissected through numbers or comparisons. In such a restrictive system with so few options, it would be unjust to judge him in that respect. Rather, we must judge him on the moments that flashed his talent and expect the new offensive regime to hone in and focus those moments into bonafide talent and superstar pedigree.
He proved his pristine touch on passes in a 27-yard touchdown dime to a contested Dion Sims. He cemented a clutch factor with a 19-yard scramble on a fourth-and-thirteen to set up a would-be game-tying field goal against the Lions. He showed his deep ball accuracy on a 46-yard bomb to Josh Bellamy against the Packers. For a quarterback who started thirteen college games, giving us even a taste of his skill set translations has to be enough for now, at least.
Which leads us into this upcoming season, his dubious hopeful sophomore campaign. Pace has made building the offense from Trubisky up a mission for the Bears. Every decision had been made to support him and foster as much progress as football will allow.
The Bears had a void at receiver. Pace finessed Pro Bowler Allen Robinson from the Jaguars. He acquired speedster Taylor Gabriel for the deep threat and traded up for the finest route runner in the draft in Memphis’ Anthony Miller. Complementing the red zone efficiency, he added Super Bowl hero Trey Burton. To replace Josh Sitton in the interior line, Pace selected Iowa center-turned-guard James Daniels.
Despite the painfully shallow pass rush after purging nearly every reliable option in the offseason, Pace waited until the later rounds to find help. And he still grabbed another receiver in the seventh round. Even the coaching had been dictated by the pursuit of Trubisky progress.
In order to take full advantage of Trubisky mobility and throw on the run ability, Pace filled the offensive coordinator spot with Mark Helfrich, the former Oregon head coach notorious for wickedly fast offenses and creative playbooks. And for the jewel of the offseason, the head coach position went to former Kansas City Chief offensive coordinator Matt Nagy.
A prototypical quarterback whisperer, the sturdy Alex Smith blossomed into a dark horse MVP candidate under his wing. Smith’s yards per game average from 178.5 yards to 231.4 yards and brought his interception rate from 2.9 percent to 1.4 percent. He will bring a Kansas City offensive scheme that placed fifth in the league in yards per game and sixth in points per game with a 33-year-old Alex Smith at the helm.
While it may not be a Carson Wentz-level rise in store for the UNC product, the Bears demand significant leaps in both production and in the win category fueled by Trubisky. With so much banking on him, expectations will inadvertently be through the roof by both fans and the front office. After so many years in the basement and nearly a decade since the last playoff appearance, patience could begin to wear dangerously thin.
Though little suggests infernal incompetence outside of his pure rawness, a ton does rest on Trubisky’s shoulders. A brilliant season from him propel the Bears to relevance while idling in his development will undoubtedly cause the team to tumble to the bottom once again. Pouring this much into a player conveys the faith Pace and company have in Trubisky and unless proven otherwise, should translate into tangible success in the coming seasons.
In Trubisky we trust.