The Chicago Bears were expected to compete for the Super Bowl this season. With Mitchell Trubisky playing this way, they have no shot.
It didn’t take long for the NFL world to decide that the Bears whiffed on quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. Entering the 2017 draft, Chicago traded up to select the former North Carolina quarterback, ahead of the likes of Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes. But after two seasons, that move is looking worse and worse by the day.
However, it wasn’t always viewed that way. Heading into the 2018 season, the Chicago Bears made the bold move to trade two first-round picks to the Oakland Raiders to acquire Khalil Mack. They then made him the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history because they believed they were ready to compete for a Super Bowl right away.
Despite a heartbreaking loss in the wild card round to the Philadelphia Eagles, that trade seemed like the right decision as the Bears are one of the most talented teams in the NFL. Chicago was in the top-10 in scoring as completed 66.6 percent of his passes for 3,223 yards, scoring 27 total touchdowns while throwing only 12 interceptions. He wasn’t perfect, but he certainly seemed like a quarterback on the rise.
However, there is now a concern in Chicago that Trubisky might not be the future at the position. In five games this season, Trubisky is averaging a putrid 5.2 yards per attempt and has a passer rating of 82.8. What is worse is that it’s clear the offense isn’t performing up to standards, and he isn’t elevating the play of his teammates. Instead, it appears that he is actually holding them back.
Today, we are going to examine what possible options the Bears have at the quarterback position. Let’s first start with Trubisky himself to identify why he is struggling as a passer.
One of the biggest problems with Trubisky is that he just isn’t making many plays down the field. Most of his completions happen at or near the line of scrimmage, specifically on the right side. According to Radar360, Trubisky is averaging just 2.6 air yards per completion. Only three quarterbacks (Mason Rudolph, Josh Rosen, and Luke Falk) are averaging fewer yards in the air than Trubisky. That is a tell-tell sign that something is very wrong in Chicago.
On top of not throwing the ball down the field, Trubisky also has a bad habit of only targeting the right side of the field. Take a look at his passing chart from the 2019 season via the NFL’s Next Gen Stats:
— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) October 21, 2019
As you can see from the graphic, Trubisky has only completed 12 passes beyond 10 yards this season. What is more concerning is how infrequently he attacks the sideline, completing just four passes all season beyond 10 yards on the edges of the field.
This is quickly becoming a problem for the Bears as teams don’t have to worry that Trubisky is going to beat them down the field. Opponents can play with all 11 defenders near the line of scrimmage, which limits the run after the catch ability of players such as Tarik Cohen, Trey Burton, Taylor Gabriel, etc.
If the Bears are going to improve as an offense, they will need Trubisky to become a more aggressive passer. However, that might not be in his nature as a passer. If that is the case, what can Chicago do? Could they try to run an offense similar to Baltimore, which only asks Trubisky to make 12-15 completions per game? That’s certainly possible, but that takes away some of the potential upside of this offense.
The best plan of attacking going forward for Chicago might actually be to employ a pass-heavy offense on first and second down. Too often, the Bears find themselves in obvious passing situations because of poor runs on first and second down. If Chicago opened up their offense a little more earlier on downs, even with a struggling Trubisky, they might find a more efficient offense that allows him to get into a rhythm.
However, the fear is that head coach Matt Nagy might go in the opposite direction, relying on the run more to take the ball out of the hands of Trubisky. If that does happen, don’t expect Trubisky to become a more efficient or confident passer anytime soon.
If Chicago ever concludes that Trubisky isn’t the franchise quarterback this team needs, the options in how to replace him are limited, especially this season. There aren’t many quarterbacks available that would be a significant upgrade over Trubisky, and Chicago doesn’t really have the draft capital to make a trade, either. And with the Bears scheduled to be over the cap in 2020, it’s not like they will have the cap space to sign a quarterback next season.
Ultimately, the Bears are going to have to ride out the Trubisky rollercoaster for this season and likely 2020 as he is still on his rookie deal. While we are indeed at the low-point of his career, it’s not impossible that he bounces back from this rough stretch. If Chicago wants to compete at all this season, they are going to need that to happen.
The Bears and Trubisky have ten more games to right the ship in Chicago, and this stretch might determine what the team does at quarterback long-term. The stakes are high in Chicago, but that is the case anytime you spend the No. 2 overall pick on a quarterback. Trubisky has to improve sooner rather than later, or Chicago will have to make a tough decision about his future next offseason.