Mitchell Trubisky has had a rough couple of weeks since returning from a left-shoulder injury. In fact, he’s had a rough season altogether. Trubisky appears to be regressing after showing real signs of growth in 2018. His performance last week against the Saints was simply not competitive. His play on Sunday in a 1-point loss to the Chargers didn’t improve much. The Bears are now in the basement of the NFC North as a result.
So what exactly is wrong with Trubisky? We’re seeing a few things. A large part of it is mechanical. His footwork is sloppy, and this impacts every area of his game. Take the below play. This should have been a touchdown pass on a slant to Allen Robinson (#12).
At first glance, it looks like Trubisky did a decent job of reading the coverage and putting the ball on his receiver’s back shoulder away from the underneath zone defender. But a closer look reveals that Trubisky took some false steps on what was supposed to be a 3-step drop.
This delayed the ball coming out on time, which closed the passing window and brought Robinson’s route further into the middle of the field. Trubisky had to make a tougher throw, and the result was an incompletion. The Bears ultimately settled for a field goal on this drive.
Later in the game, clinging to a 16-10 lead in the 4th quarter, the Bears were able to get speedy wide receiver Taylor Gabriel (#18) matched up downfield on linebacker Thomas Davis (#58). Trubisky once again missed a sure touchdown.
Again, look at his feet in slow motion here. Trubisky had a clean pocket to throw from and no pressure threatening him whatsoever. Yet look at how his front leg came off the ground and finished behind him as he released the ball.
Instead of throwing with a firm base, where it is easier to replicate mechanics and ensure accuracy, Trubisky did his best Aaron Rodgers/Brett Favre impersonation. Rodgers and Favre are rare animals, exceptions to the rule. They can consistently make throws with both feet airborne. It’s just the way they throw. The same is not true of Trubisky, who had similar misfires the week prior against New Orleans.
Consistency is what makes a great quarterback. There’s a reason that Tom Brady doesn’t miss when he gets a receiver as wide open as this, and it ain’t because he’s clutch, or a winner, or any other media platitudes. It’s because someone like Brady does all of the little things right, starting with his feet. Right now, Trubisky is not executing those tiny but critical details that are required to play the quarterback position at a high level, and the Bears are paying the price.
Where else is Trubisky’s sloppy footwork costing him? At the top of his drops. He often does not plant his back foot to throw. He doesn’t set his feet, but instead, they keep moving. This makes it difficult to hit his receivers within the timing of the play. It makes it difficult for him to work through his progressions calmly from the pocket.
Trubisky either doesn’t trust his line or he doesn’t trust his ability work through his reads and deliver from the pocket. Either way, he doesn’t look comfortable right now, and this is causing him to leave plays on the field.
Take this below 3rd-and-15. There aren’t many good 3rd-and-15 plays out there. We’ll never know if this was a good one, though, because Trubisky never even attempted to plant at the top of his drop.
That was against a 3-man rush with minimal pressure, and Trubisky was on the move before he even finished dropping. We’ve seen this way too often this season, and it is making it difficult for the Bears to gain any consistency as an offense.
Other areas of concern for Trubisky are his inability to quickly read the field, move through his progressions, make a decision and react. He hasn’t shown the ability to do this on a regular basis from the pocket. This hurts the timing of the passing game and nullifies any well-designed plays.
Trubisky’s 4th-quarter interception was a perfect example. Out of shotgun he carried out a play fake and then took a 7-step drop before trying to hit the wheel route on a post-wheel combination.
Look how long it took for the ball to get out of Trubisky’s hand. It appeared that he took a couple of extra steps at the top of his drop (footwork was once again a main culprit). The result was that cornerback Casey Hayward (#26), who the play was designed to attack, had time to identify the post-wheel route combination.
Hayward was easily able to pass off the post to the free safety and play the wheel. Look how much time he had to react to the ball in the air.
Timing is so important in attacking zone coverage. Good timing puts defenders in conflict where they have to make a choice between multiple routes, generally leaving one open. Poor timing enables defenders to more easily navigate route combinations and successfully cover multiple routes, as you saw on this play.
Trubisky is not a bad quarterback. He is a capable athlete. We’ve seen him step into his passes, throw with conviction, and make plays with his legs. In fact, we saw some of that on Sunday against the Chargers. He has talent that is worth harnessing and not giving up on. Is he Patrick Mahomes or Deshaun Watson? No, and it doesn’t appear he’ll end up on either of their levels. The Bears clearly made the wrong decision in the 2017 NFL Draft.
With that being said, Trubisky doesn’t need to be Mahomes or Watson. He has a great defense. He has playmakers around him on offense. This is where we need to see Matt Nagy prove his offensive guru status. We don’t normally like to criticize playcalls, but there are situations where he needs to put Trubisky in better position to succeed. Calling runs on 3rd-and-goal from the 9, one-receiver routes on sprint-outs at the goal line, and designed throws behind the line of scrimmage in short-yardage situations doesn’t create a lot of opportunity for your quarterback.
There is no question that many of Trubisky’s issues aren’t correctable. However, many of the current gaps in his game, like footwork, are. If you don’t believe he can turn it around overnight, go back and watch Eli Manning from 2004 through 2007 Week 16. Then watch him from week 17 on. He went from throwing off his back foot regularly to leading his team to an improbable Super Bowl run in the blink of an eye.
The team around Trubisky is very comparable in design to what Eli had. If Nagy can help Trubisky improve on the little things about his game and put him in better position to succeed, the Bears are more than capable of going on a run of their own.
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