The Chicago Bears have a fantastic defense, playmakers on offense, and were one of the best teams in the NFC last year. They were also a prime candidate for regression this season. That’s because they have one huge weakness — and it’s at the most important position.
Mitchell Trubisky is not improving as a quarterback, and there is little reason to expect things to change.
After returning from a shoulder injury in Week 7, the third-year quarterback had another lackluster performance in a 36-25 loss to the Saints. Unfortunately for Chicago — the team that moved up to draft him with the No. 2 pick over Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson — it would be quicker to list the things that Trubisky is doing right. In watching his last four games, many patterns emerged; none of them were good.
Trubisky has very little awareness in the pocket, his throws are all over the place, he constantly locks in on his underneath receivers, he doesn’t know when to run, and it seems like he’s getting worse. He’s looking more and more like a massive swing-and-miss for the Bears.
These are problems he’s had all season, but we’re going to focus on the Saints game to illustrate it.
Trubisky’s stats are not pretty
Trubisky finished the Week 7 game against New Orleans with a decent stat line: he completed 63 percent of his passes for 251 yards and a pair of touchdowns. However, he needed a career-high 54 attempts to get there, giving him a paltry 4.6 yards per pass average.
Not only that, but most of his production came on the final two drives of the game. He went 14-for-19 for 132 yards and the two touchdowns in garbage time, and 20-for-35 for 119 yards for the rest of the game.
After charting every incompletion he threw in the Saints game, the numbers get more depressing.
Of his 20 incomplete passes:
- Three were thrown away under pressure
- 16 were bad passes (overthrown, underthrown, into coverage)
- One was a good throw the receiver couldn’t bring down in bounds
While that’s just one game coming off a shoulder injury, it shows up on his stat sheet over the past three seasons. This year, he’s 25th in the league in passer rating (82.8), and is tied with Josh Rosen for the lowest yards per pass average (5.2). In his career, those numbers aren’t much better at 86.8 and 6.8 yards, respectively. For comparison, Watson and Mahomes have passer ratings over 100 and average more than 8 yards per throw.
Now let’s check the tape.
The film is somehow WORSE than the stats
The first thing to highlight is simple: the complete lack of touch Trubisky has on his passes. He misses his receivers in every possible way.
On a third-and-2 against the Saints, the Bears went for a deep pass. They certainly have deep threats who can make the catch, like Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel. What they don’t have is a quarterback who can make the throw.
Trubisky overthrew Anthony Miller by a good five yards on this one. Although Trubisky was hit on the play, it’s (arguably) a late hit and when he made the decision to throw that ball, he wasn’t under pressure.
How about we go in the other direction now?
The Bears ran a play-action bootleg, and Trubisky had all the time in the world to uncork a big shot. Robinson had room if Trubisky could put a deep shot to the outside shoulder, but he didn’t do that. Instead, he fired a limp lob of a pass that was both on the wrong side of the receiver and laughably underthrown.
His poor decision-making doesn’t always involve a bad throw, though. While I like that Trubisky tends to keep his eyes downfield, he absolutely crumbles in the face of pressure. He never steps up in the right direction, and he’s not quick enough to get away with trying to extend a play:
The offensive line struggled at times against the Saints, and in this example, they were thrown off by the corner blitz. But it’s how Trubisky reacted to the pressure that stuck out to me. He hesitated on a downfield throw, then sort of collapsed.
Initially, it looked like he might roll out to his left, which would have been smart because it would have put bodies between him and the pass rusher. However, he gave up on that in favor of taking the sack.
Hesitation is another running theme. As you’ll see below.
This is during one of the garbage-time drives that ended in a touchdown, but this first-down play really jumped out. Trubisky looked to his left, where he had two guys deep and one underneath, started the throwing motion, and then pulled it back. That pause was enough for the pass rush to get to him, and he dumped it off to the running back for a big loss of yardage.
Even in garbage time Trubisky can kill a drive
Trubisky’s best numbers came late against the Saints, but even then he didn’t look great. Early in the fourth quarter with the Bears trailing by three scores, Trubisky had a three-play sequence that sent Chicago fans heading for the exits.
On second down, Trubisky hesitated, hesitated some more, contemplated his hesitation, then threw a pass that was out of reach of his open receiver. I get why it was a low throw — the defensive back wasn’t far away and if he put air on it, it’s a dangerous pass. But that lack of touch when a throw needs to go low or high is a Trubisky staple.
Here’s what they went with on third down:
I like this formation! The Bears went all-out with an empty backfield, and four of Trubisky’s receivers were running deep routes. Yet with time to throw, Trubisky never even looked downfield. He locked in on his underneath option, Tarik Cohen, who was well short of the first-down marker.
They were in four-down territory at that point, so let’s see what Trubisky could pull off on fourth-and-3.
Upon first viewing, you might think it was the pressure that forced throw to no one, but it really wasn’t the case. Trubisky, instead of stepping to his left, rolled to his right, where he overthrew his man by a mile.
Trubisky isn’t very accurate when he’s throwing from the pocket — moving and throwing off his back foot is much, much worse.
A lot about what the Bears are doing on offense needs to change. In the Week 7 loss that dropped them to 3-3, there were too many third-down passes where the primary receivers were well short of the sticks. They only rushed the ball seven times total. A Cordarrelle Patterson two-yard rush and a fumble by David Montgomery comprised the only two rushing attempts the Bears had in the entire second half.
That falls on the playcaller, who in this case is head coach Matt Nagy.
But Trubisky has looked too bad too often for a change of scheme or coordinator to really be beneficial. You can’t scheme around your quarterback being unable to go through his progressions, or a quarterback who misses wide-open receivers about as often as he connects with them, or a quarterback who hesitates on every other dropback.
None of this is new, either. It’s more than just one game. I truly don’t like anything about Trubisky’s mechanics as a quarterback. He’s shown he can be a game manager when the defense is dominating, but in the face of even a little bit of adversity, he reverts back to a checkdown machine who can’t even hit those passes with consistency.
I don’t see how the player we’ve seen this season — or in his career — can ever become the franchise quarterback the Bears hoped he’d be.