For the next two weeks, Full Press Bears will be exploring every positional group on the Chicago Bears with the annual Taking Inventory series, evaluating their previous season and determining their projections, along with some requirements for success. Today, we begin with the quarterback.
In some respects, this previous season could and almost should technically constitute as a supposed “breakout year” for the sophomore franchise quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. The stark leap in production certainly backs this claim, seeing as he tripled his touchdown totals and added an almost a twenty point boost to his quarterback rating. Toss in a Pro Bowl alternate appearance with an 11-3 record and the UNC product has developed exactly as a former number two pick should.
Yet, he still has plenty of room left to grow.
First and most obvious, willing the Bears past the first round of the playoffs should be the end goal and, quite honestly, should also be the most extravagant achievement of this upcoming season. Quarterback wins may not be an acceptable statistic in of themselves, but playoff wins usually can be pretty telling in basing definitive tier lists and lines in the sand. Matthew Stafford will never be greater than Tom Brady, Y.A Tittle will never be spoken in the same breath as Joe Montana.
And considering the infrastructure in place (which will be explored more fully in the coming renditions of Taking Inventory), Trubisky should begin racking up playoff wins. Now, dropping his first playoff game against the Eagles can’t fall squarely on his shoulders. In fact, Trubisky, on a couple of occasions, soundly thrashed the Eagles defense and, in the process, kept the Bears from going under. Without a masterful six play, eighty-yard scoring drive midway through the fourth quarter, ill-fated kicker Cody Parkey doesn’t even get the chance to score the walk-off.
Trubisky proved he possesses the talent and skill but merely in short bursts. His deep ball placement may sometimes be spotty, but when his occasionally precise bombs shine through, they shine bright. Also ranking as one of the most aggressive quarterbacks in the league, his skill combined with fearlessness provides a ton to build off of.
This season, the focus must be expanding these moments to full quarters and games. And most of this will land on Matt Nagy. Not necessarily to develop Trubisky any further, but to capitalize on his strengths and put him in the best possible positions.
The overt trickiness that comes prepackaged with Trubisky lies in his easily forgettable inexperience. He started two seasons in high school. Then he started only thirteen games in college. As of result, he often lacks proper decision making and poise in the pocket. The Bears understood they drafted a skill set, not a complete player when trading up for him. Therefore, the offense, like all other modern offenses, needs to bend around his shortcomings and base itself in his strengths.
When Trubisky turns in a masterpiece, Nagy ran a less complex playbook. In his six touchdown explosion against Tampa Bay, all but one of his scores came off of slants, wheels, or shovel passes. All extremely simplistic, single-read routes that don’t ask much from Trubisky’s decision making.
Almost as if he gets overwhelmed under pressure, Nagy needs to lay out bite-sized options to allow clear progressions for Trubisky to calmly go through. Is it somewhat amatuer? Probably, but Trubisky simply doesn’t possess the IQ or poise to be given total hegemony of the offense like a Brady or a Manning yet.Either way, this strategy will free up Trubisky’s arm and allot his mind to focus on making the throw, disincluding whom to throw to in his long list of responsibilities.
But inexperience can’t be an excuse for much longer and Trubisky can’t just be a puppet on a string, purely as a result of his exceptional scrambling ability. Naturally, recklessly scrambling out of the pocket can’t be drawn up on a chalkboard and therefore needs to be somewhat break-glass-in-emergency. And because of his general inexperience, Trubisky rarely knows when or not to tuck and go. Similar to a wasteful baby rattlesnake without the awareness of how much venom to inject, Trubisky’s overall readiness to dash sometimes kills drives and puts himself in unnecessary danger.
Even in poor decisions, his scrambling ability was impressive enough to still get himself out of the self-inflicted harm’s way. For example, scrambling a total of seventy-one yards, dipping and dodging multiple defenders, to dive in the end zone for an eight-yard score against the Patriots. The next step, obviously, will be becoming slightly more conservative but this will come in time and Nagy simply cannot omit this dynamic from the offense.
Some of Trubisky’s finest moments as a pro have come courtesy of his scrambling. Without the green light, the third-and-four game-clinching scurry against the Lions in Week Ten doesn’t happen. This will be the balance that Nagy must nail. Scripted enough to not confuse Trubisky, but enough freedom to unleash his scrambling ability. If nailed properly, the offense could be downright unstoppable.
Really, the top tier offensive arsenal might be everything quarterbacks dream of and there should be no reason both Trubisky and Nagy can’t take full advantage. During a recent media day, Trubisky stated “we’ve got a ton of weapons on offense. It’s a lot of fun for a quarterback,” highlighting his understanding of what could be brewing offensively for the Bears.
Chicago now has eyes on a championship and the lights haven’t ever been brighter for the third year pro. But it all rests on the game planning. Trubisky might just have the raw talent to be a Super Bowl quarterback (after all, Joe Flacco does have a Super Bowl MVP in his trophy case) but fifteen meager points won’t be enough to propel the Bears to the promised land. The chips are all in place but it’s on Trubisky to deliver. Whether or not the Bears will a Super Bowl with this core will depend on him.