Chicago is used to their quarterbacks being divisive.
After all, it was here the phrase, “the back up is the most popular quarterback in town” was coined.
It was also here where this fan base was split, for eight long seasons, on whether Jay Cutler was the worst thing to happen to the QB position or just needed a better system and coaches.
So, it’s no surprise then that Mitchell Trubisky is working on dividing the fan base in just two seasons.
Some fans think he’s already a bust, with others saying he’s already great, but I think the vast majority of fans, the smart ones, are more in the middle. Trubisky is poised for a breakout year in 2019 and it’s not until after this season that there will be a real idea of if he can be a true franchise QB, or if he’s an average QB that needs a strong supporting cast.
Either way, it’s way, way too early to start throwing superlatives around or starting anointing Trubisky with titles such as “elite.”
But that’s not the business the internet is, is it?
This week two stories came out that illustrate how off base some of the takes are on Trubisky.
Falling under the “far too negative” category comes Pro Football Focus, who claim that advanced stats say that Trubisky is bound for a big regression in 2019 and that his success in 2018 was a product of coach Matt Nagy being such a good coach. Say what?
While it’s possible (likely?) that he makes process-level improvements, namely that he’s more accurate and avoids negatively-graded plays more frequently, it’s probably unlikely that they will be enough in and of themselves to overcome the statistical regression that his data begs. Add in the likelihood that the Bears are not the clear-cut best defense in the NFL in 2019 and things will just be harder for Chicago and their young quarterback. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
He was 30th among quarterbacks in adjusted completion percentage, an accuracy measure that carries when looking at our ball-charting data, where he rated 30th in percentage of throws labeled “accurate” and 31st in percentage of throws labeled “catchable, but inaccurate” (as in he had relatively few of the former and many of the latter).
How could this be? First, it’s pretty clear that Nagy’s influence on the offense was a nontrivial one, covering up for much of the young quarterback’s deficiencies. Using our coaching rankings, he was top-10 offensive play caller from wire to wire in his first year. His main influence on the Bears’ passing offense was that, like in Kansas City, Nagy schemed Trubisky open throws at a rate 10 percentage points higher in 2018 than in 2017.
There’s no denying that Trubisky wasn’t as accurate as we’d want a QB to be, however, Trubisky was in a first year offense, with a nearly brand new cast of receiving options and was in his first season as a full-time starter.
That’s a lot of excuses, but it also explains why, especially early in the year, Trubisky seemed so lost. It also seems disingenuous to write off Trubisky’s successes as simply a product of his coach scheming guys open. Every offensive coach is working to do that, but the QB still has to read the defense and find the open player.
On the other side of the spectrum, comes this tweet, which swings the pendulum way too far the other way.
Is Mitch Trubisky close to dethroning Aaron Rodgers as best QB in NFC North? https://t.co/WnemmH662N— Touchdown Wire (@TheNFLWire) June 6, 2019
Now, to be fair, they are just asking the question, begging the reader to click on the story and I’ll be honest, it worked on me.
Inside the article, they still have Aaron Rodgers as the No. 1 QB in the division, rightfully so, and they list Trubisky as No. 2.
Trubisky’s sample size is extremely small and you can make quite the case one of the other veterans deserves this spot more. But not much separates the final three players and Trubisky took a major step forward in 2018 in Matt Nagy and Mark Helfrich’s first year in Chicago.
He’s poised to break out in his third season in the NFL. Trubisky boasts a big arm, but showed the league how athletic he was, rushing for 421 yards (fifth among quarterbacks) and provided another threat defenses needed to account for.
However, even that might seem a little high. They have Matt Stafford third, but Stafford has a 5,000 yard season and seven 4,000 yard passing seasons under his belt. He’s been to two more playoff games than Trubisky and the same number of Pro Bowls.
But Stafford is what he is. We know what he’s going to be; a statistical QB that can’t get over the top alone.
Which isn’t that different than the $84 million man in Minnesota. Statistically Stafford and Krik Cousins can wow people, but in crunch time they come up short far too often. We haven’t seen Trubisky in enough of those situations yet to say we know he’s better, but he’s had flashes, most recently in the playoffs.
My point is, let’s just pump the brakes. Stats can be used to say anything, we know that, so both of these pieces have their merits. But the fact is, it’s far too early to write off Trubisky as inaccurate and bound for regression, as well as it’s a bit much to say that Trubisky is ready to take the mantle from multiple-MVP and Super Bowl Champion Aaron Rodgers.
It’s not out of the question that an aging Rodgers, whose battled a lot of injuries in recent years, could be entering the back half of his career, but until Trubisky has some more playoff experience and wins under his belt, that comparison is just not fair.
I know it’s June and writers are all trying to get clicks and fill in the content void, but for goodness sake, stop with these hot takes. It’s much more accurate to say Trubisky is average to above average with plenty of room for growth.
I know I’m pumped to see what he does this year, but let’s not grasp at straws for this.