Though he may not be the most important offensive player for the Bears’ 2018 playoff run, tight end Trey Burton may end up proving to be the most valuable. Burton, who signed a four-year contract with the Chicago a little over a month after winning Super Bowl 52, has what the vast majority of this Bears roster does not: experience making plays on the NFL’s biggest stage.
He was, as you surely know, the quarterback for the infamous “Philly Special” play that’s come to define last season’s champs.
“I couldn’t give you a percentage, but it will always be part of my life, my family’s life, no one can ever take the Super Bowl away from us,” Burton said when asked about the play’s role in his career. “It was an unbelievable time. But now I’m here. I’m excited to be here.”
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That experience -- and Burton’s composure in it -- make up a sizeable part of why head coach Matt Nagy considers Burton one of the team’s (admittedly softer-spoken) leaders. Many of the players who will be playing playoff football for the first time, including quarterback Mitch Trubisky, have already talked with him about what to expect.
“I would say everything is magnified,” Burton said. “People from the outside make every play and every second, they put it on this huge pedestal where in reality it’s just a football game. We’ve been playing 16 or 20 or 21 of them this year, and it’s nothing different than that.”
For Trubisky specifically, Burton talked about how he feels it’s his job to keep the 2nd-year QB loose. Trubisky has talked more than once this season about his battles with early-game adrenaline, and what gets the blood pumping more than the first home playoff game of your career in front of 60,000 people?
“I just tell him to have fun because you can get caught up, especially as a quarterback,” he said. “What people are saying you know, what's going on in the offense, bringing the whole team together, you know what people think about you, you can get easily, easily get caught up.”
“Especially as a young guy and I'm not saying he does but it's something that you easily can do. So I feel like my role to him is just to remind him to have fun.”
In an offense that’s targeted Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, and Tarik Cohen more often than Burton, it’s easy to overlook the fact the tight end’s having the best season of his career. He set career-high marks in targets (76), receptions (54), yards (569), touchdowns (6), and yards per game (35.6).
“[In Philadelphia] His volume of plays was like 25 percent play-time, 30 percent, 33, somewhere around there,” Matt Nagy said. “Now he’s up in I want to say the 80s, 85, and that’s a lot. Everything that he’s done, that’s new to him. So considering that and taking into what he’s doing and the leader that he is with these guys and the calmness that he gives the players in the room, he does everything the right way.”
“He’s one of the smartest guys in the offense. He always knows where to be, how to run a route,” Tarik Cohen added.
On Wednesday, Burton noted the (actually uncanny) amount of similarities between the 2017 Eagles and the 2018 Bears. Both teams, he noted, rely on a strong, opportunistic defense coupled with a well-schemed and efficient offense. There are the trick plays and the well-documented parallels between head coaches, too. Burton wasn’t the go-to option for either team, but one of the similarities he chose not to mention was the profound impact he’s had on both.
Even so, it’s been a quietly strong season for one of the Bears’ quiet leaders. When asked about his impact on the team, Matt Nagy was crystal clear: “He’s exceeded my expectations.”