Finally, after months and months of analysis, hot takes, Twitter arguments, scrutinized practices, optimistic quotes and three meaningless preseason snaps, we’ll finally get to see what Mitch Trubisky can do in a game that matters.
Perhaps you saw progress in Trubisky last year. Perhaps you saw a guy on his way to being a bust.
Perhaps you saw swagger and confidence. Perhaps you saw Blake Bortles 2.0.
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There’s been a rush to be right about Trubisky over the last few months, when really it’s okay to admit we don’t have a complete picture of the 2017 No. 2 overall pick. He did some good things last year. He also did plenty of bad things.
And, come Thursday night, none of that will matter anymore.
But here’s where the Bears stand: This is an organization, from the front office to the coaching staff to the players, confident in its quarterback. They’ve seen the strides Trubisky has taken in the eight months since he last played a down of meaningful football. They believe in his ability to not only operate Matt Nagy’s offense, but operate it at a high level.
That playcalling coach-quarterback relationship is at the center of the Bears’ 2019 hopes. And those are hopes involving a February trip to Miami, with the expectation of hoisting the Lombardi Trophy at the end of it.
“It's just him understanding where this offense can go when you understand everything about it,” Nagy said. “So when I say that, him answering a question right away rather than have to think about it. We ask him a question, he understands why that question was asked.
“So this whole week coming into this game versus last year, there were so many unknowns last year, so many. And this year he knows how I call a game. Remember last year, I had no idea what his favorite plays were. Now I know what he likes.”
Ask anyone around Halas Hall and he or she will tell you how easy it is to notice Trubisky’s comfort in and knowledge of Nagy’s offense compared to last year. Or about how much better Trubisky can be with command of the offense, allowing him to digest the opposing defense in front of him as he walks to the line of scrimmage.
“We use the words incremental growth,” general manager Ryan Pace said. “That’s exactly what’s happening with Mitch.”
There are no excuses, though, for Trubisky in 2019. The right coaching staff appears to be in place. Guys like Jordan Howard and Kevin White were replaced by do-all running back David Montgomery and intriguing chess piece Cordarrelle Patterson. The roster around him is better than it was in 2018, and is laughably better than it was in 2017.
More narrowly: Plenty was made about the dangerous, or downright awful, throws Trubisky made last year. He threw 12 interceptions; in the first half of the Bears’ eventual playoff loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, he was lucky to not throw three. But consider this: Football Outsiders’ adjusted interceptions statistic had Trubisky “expected” to throw 16 interceptions, a rate of 3.7 percent. Patrick Mahomes, the reigning NFL MVP, had an expected interception total of 21 with an interception rate of 3.6 percent.
Maybe that’s a case of cherry-picking numbers. It’s easy to do with Trubisky, given he didn’t pass the eye test in 2018 and admittedly didn’t during 2019’s training camp either.
But, generally, it’s hard to imagine Trubisky being worse in 2019 than he was in 2018. Statistically, there isn’t much difference in production from Year 2 to Year 3 among quarterbacks over the last decade:
*Numbers are for QBs with at least 12 starts in each season
Read that how you will. On one hand, there isn’t a noticeable leap in production for third-year quarterbacks as compared to second-year quarterbacks, all while the Bears are expecting an uptick in Trubisky's numbers. On the other, there’s no reason to believe Trubisky will be worse. It’s more likely he makes those incremental gains Pace talked about than takes a step back.
Either way, this is all speculation. We’ll finally begin to see actual results on Thursday.
And those results could determine if the Bears can make a Super Bowl or not.
“His teammates believe in him,” offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich said. “We believe in him as coaches and have total confidence in running everything at this point.”
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