Chicago Bears: the significance of Trubisky’s struggles

Chicago Bears (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Chicago Bears (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

The Chicago Bears won a litmus test game Sunday night against the Los Angeles Rams, no thanks to the play of Mitchell Trubisky. What does this performance mean for him?

In possibly the ugliest football game of the current NFL season (or decade, for that matter), the Chicago Bears pulled off an upset win at home against the Los Angeles Rams, 15-6. The Bears’ defense hushed the critics who said its success came only from playing bad offenses — the no. 2 offense in the NFL managed only six points, though its defense intercepted Mitchell Trubisky three times.

While much of the current media buzz is covering that famous Bears’ defense, I would like to talk about Trubisky’s play and what it means for his progress this season. In the biggest game of his NFL career to this point, Trubisky played quite possibly his worst game.

Against the Rams, Trubisky threw for fewer yards than he did all season (110) with his 2nd-lowest completion percentage (53.3). His QBR on Sunday night was by far his worst of the season (33.3), and his three interceptions marked a season-high.

To make matters worse, the Rams’ defense ranks 14th in the NFL in pass defense and 6th among teams that the Bears have played through Week 14. While the Rams are t-5th in interceptions in the NFL, all three of Trubisky’s picks came as a result of unforced errors on his part.

Fans need not worry about Trubisky’s accuracy issues this season. He was a very accurate passer in college (68.0 completion percentage), and accurate passing isn’t a trait that simply vanishes for a guy of his talent level. His accuracy will improve as he gets more comfortable as a pocket passer and his footwork improves.

His first and third interceptions were simply overthrows, nothing more. While Trubisky denied the notion that his shoulder was still bothering him in his postgame press conference, it is entirely possible that his shoulder was still a bit stiff, as he missed several easy throws throughout the game Sunday night.

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The part of Trubisky’s game that is a bit concerning is his inability to consistently go through his progressions and look off defensive backs. That issue reared its ugly head on Trubisky’s second interception on Sunday night.

In the final minute of the first half, Trubisky dropped back on a 3rd and 10 at the Bears’ 39-yard-line. Tight-end Trey Burton ran a drive route and found a wide-open pocket in the second level of Rams zone defense, but Trubisky never even looked his way. Trubisky stared down Taylor Gabriel the whole way and was easily picked by Nickell Robey-Coleman, who read Trubisky like a book and jumped in front of Gabriel’s out route.

It is that kind of play that is worrisome. Trubisky had plenty of time in the pocket, yet he forced the ball to his first option without looking away. Sunday night wasn’t the first time he has done that; he averages one or two “head-scratching” throws a game.

Where does this issue come from? Lack of experience. At the University of North Carolina, Trubisky started only nine games. He was very good in those nine games, but one can only learn so much in nine games.

In the NFL, Trubisky did not have the privilege of sitting on the bench and learning one offensive system for a season as Patrick Mahomes did. In Trubisky’s rookie season, he had to learn on the fly in the John Fox offense, if you can call it an offense, where the no. 1 receiver on the depth chart was Kendall Wright. Allow me to remind you that the  3-10 Arizona Cardinals cut Wright from their roster this season.

Enter Matt Nagy, and Trubisky now has one of the most complicated offensive playbooks in the NFL to learn. Trubisky has shown in several games this season that he is growing, but with growth comes growing pains.

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Trubisky has a very high upside because of his physical gifts. We know he can run the ball and his arm strength is seldom questioned. He has a good head coach who is quite obviously invested in him, and his inexperience makes him malleable. Before we ban Trubisky to mediocre quarterback purgatory, let’s see what one full season and offseason with Coach Nagy can do for the former Tar Heel.