Did Mitchell Trubisky improve from his rookie season to his second season?
The numbers seem to indicate that he did.
But taking the stats out of the equation, did he grow as a passer under head coach Matt Nagy while learning a new offense?
The film indicates he did as well.
This isn’t even up for debate. Not at all. If you really watched Trubisky play in 2018 and your takeaway is that he regressed, then — like I’ve been saying for months now — you either haven’t the slightest bit of football intelligence or you’re a troll (maybe both).
He’s not a finished product by any means, and he still makes some mistakes that many young quarterbacks do, but he’s growing.
I thought he played decent football as a rookie when considering the offense he was in and the lack of receivers around him, but this year with a new offense and new talent, I thought he started to show the type of player you move up in the draft for.
Many Bears fans — and some NFL analysts — wanted to compare the addition of head coach Matt Nagy to Chicago to what the Los Angeles Rams did by hiring head coach Sean McVay in 2017. I always thought it was a fair comparison. You had each franchise going from an old school, defensive minded head coach, to a new and innovative offensive mind. Each franchise hired their new head coach in hopes of developing their second year quarterbacks.
The Rams traded up to number one overall in 2016 to take Jared Goff, and they sent their first-round pick in 2016 (15th overall), two second-round picks in 2016, a third-round pick 2016, a 2017 first-round pick and another third-round pick from the 2017 draft. The Rams received back from the Titans, that top pick in 2016, a fourth-round pick in 2016, and a sixth-round er in 2016.
Goff was bad as a rookie on Jeff Fisher’s Rams’ squad.
The Bears moved up to the second overall spot in the 2017 draft to take Trubisky, and they sent their number one, plus a third-round pick in 2017, a fourth-round pick, and a 2018 third-rounder.
Trubisky didn’t exactly light it up in John Fox’s predictable offense.
However, both the Rams and the Bears improved immensely under new leadership that second season, and each QB saw improvements in their play as well.
They say a quarterback usually makes a big jump as a player in his second year as a professional, and I alluded to Trubisky’s numbers earlier, so I wanted to share them here.
A bit about the table before we move on.
- PR = The traditional passer rating the NFL has been using for years.
- QBR = The ESPN created quarterback rating that takes many factiors into account, including success of each play, rushing stats, penalties and more. ESPN altered their formula at some point after debuting the analytic, and it’s gaining steam as a valid number. You can learn all about the “stat” here,
- Comp % = Completion percentage
- TD % = Percentage of times a TD is thrown.
- INT % = Percentage of times an interception is thrown. In the difference category, a negative number actually equates to a positive result.
- Sack % = Percentage of times a player is sacked. In the difference category you’d also like to see a negative result from he first year to the next.
- YPA = Yards per attempt
- YPG = Yards per game. On some players I only calculated yards per game per start because their partial games would have skewed the difference totals.
While there’s no way to know if Trubisky would have improved that much under Fox’s leadership, I think it’s safe to say he took to Nagy’s coaching.
Since 2019 will be Trubisky’s second year in the same offense, I wanted to look at some of the numbers from other quarterbacks working in a similar system for a second consecutive season. Matt Nagy comes from the Andy Reid coaching tree, who came from the Mike Holmgren coaching tree, who came from Bill Walsh’s West Coast Offense coaching tree. Walsh may have mastered the WCO and taught it to his disciples, but the offense has undergone changes through the years. The terminology is relatively the same, but some of the principles have changed with each offensive mind that has spun from his tree.
The last several years have seen Reid’s version of the WCO start to adopt some of the concepts that have been popularized in the college ranks. His success has given way to several head coaches though the years, but I wanted to focus on the offensive branches from his tree, and take a look at how the quarterbacks in “his” system have fared in year two.
I think by knowing the type of statistical jump other QBs have had from the first year to the next in Reid’s offense, that will give us a good idea of what to expect for Trubisky in 2019.
Keep in mind that this is a numbers exercise. I’m not going through the tape to check on fundamentals or mechanics, but I think a snapshot of a few numbers will paint a good picture for us. I’ll give some seasonal context, but for the most part this will be all about the stats.
Let’s start way back in 1999 with the first quarterback that was all Andy Reid’s, Donovan McNabb.
Before being hired by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1999, Reid had served the previous seven years with the Green Bay Packers, and in 1997 and 1998 he was Green Bay’s quarterbacks coach under head coach Mike Holmgren.
Philly fans hated the McNabb pick, but he turned into a 6-time Pro Bowler during his 11 years with the Eagles. Check out how he grew from the first to the second year in Reid’s offense.
|YPG in starts||130.3||210.3||80|
McNabb appeared in 12 games as a rookie, but he only started 6 of them, hence the yards per game in starts. The quarterback he split time with that season was Doug Pederson, but more on him later. In 2000, McNabb started all 16 games as he helped the Eagles to an 11-5 record, and he made his first Pro Bowl. While his numbers as a passer drastically improved his second year in Reid’s offense, his Pro Bowl appearance had something to do with his 629 yards rushing.
McNabb was Reid’s QB1 until 2010, when another athletic QB took over in Philly. In 2009 the Eagles signed Michael Vick after a two year suspension and he barely played for Reid. He only threw 13 passes and had 24 rushing attempts as he was more of a gimmick player that first season being coached by Reid.
|YPG in starts||n/a||251.5||-|
But in 2010, Vick started 12 games, he returned to the Pro Bowl, and he had his best season as a passer while racking up career bests in passer rating, QBR, completion percentage, and TD passes. Andy Reid took a 30-year old Michael Vick and he helped him become a better quarterback.
Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?
Brad Childress was Reid’s offensive coordinator in Philadelphia from 2002 to 2005, and prior to that he spent two years as his quarterbacks coach. In 2006, the Minnesota Vikings hired Childress to be their head coach, so he took the Reid offensive philosophy and started to teach it to rookie 2nd-round draft pick, Tarvaris Jackson. Brad Johnson was Childress’ number one quarterback in 2006, but in 2007 the Vikes turned the reigns over to Jackson.
Let’s see how he improved from one year to the next.
|YPG in starts||131.5||159.3||27.8|
Jackson wasn’t as talented as McNabb or Vick, and he never made a Pro Bowl, but he did steadily improve under Childress’ coaching. That first year he only had 2 starts while appearing in 4 games, but in year two he started all 12 of the games he played in.
Let’s circle back to Coach Reid and look at his first year in Kansas City.
In 2013 he had Alex Smith as his starting QB after Smith spent 2005 to 2012 in San Francisco. Reid helped get him to his first Pro Bowl in 2013, and Smith was a more efficient QB that second season with Reid. And by the way, Smith’s QB coach these two years was Matt Nagy.
Most of Smith’s numbers increased, but he was the only guy that saw his yards per game drop a bit.
The last quarterback I want to look at is also the most recent. Doug Pederson went from being Reid’s offensive coordinator in K.C., to being the head coach of the Eagles and just like his mentor before him, he got a rookie quarterback to work with from the start. Carson Wentz was picked second overall in the 2016 draft.
|YPG in starts||236.4||253.5||17.1|
Wentz really blossomed that second year in the same offense, and he was being mentioned as a possible MVP candidate before he was injured. He was having another good statistical year this season before the injuries caught back up with him. He was also the only player that had a small dip in completion percentage.
So every QB we looked at saw their passer rating increase in the second year in the same system. Being comfortable in the offense won’t just be a be a plus for Trubisky, but for the entire offense as well. The better Allen Robinson II, Taylor Gabriel, Trey Burton and the other receivers all know their jobs, the better Trubisky can do at his job.
At the end of the season press conference, head coach Matt Nagy said that, “What I’m most excited about is when we get to OTAs, and we get to training camp, I can’t even begin to explain how pumped up I am to take what we just put together this past year and fine tune it to our players, and our coaches, and our scheme. And then just get it down to what we think gives us a better opportunity to be much better next year.”
He talked about how the players had to essentially learn a new language this last offseason, and they had to concern themselves with little things like where to line up, but “they all know that now, we’re speaking the same lingo,” Nagy said. “When we show up for OTAs (in 2019), remember I kept saying (Football) 101, now we’re on to 202.”
I wouldn’t expect a +22.6 passer rating increase like Wentz did in his second year in the system, but if Trubisky did do that, then we’d be talking about a guy in the mix for MVP.
And speaking of MVP, there is one other quarterback that saw a significant increase in his numbers in his second year working with Andy Reid. And, by the way, he was also coached by Matt Nagy as a rookie, but since Patrick Mahomes only played in one game in 2017, I didn’t want to include him in this exercise.
I’m not sure how much of a jump Mitchell Trubisky will make, but I’m certain he’ll grow in year two of Matt Nagy’s offense.