Mitchell Trubisky: Is the clock ticking for Chicago Bears quarterback?
Bears fell to 4-6 with a loss at the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday night
By Cameron Hogwood
Last Updated: 18/11/19 5:53pm
Chicago Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky underwhelmed again in Week 11 as the clock continues to tick down on his starting role at Soldier Field.
"No 1 quarterback for me, for Josh [Bears director of player personnel Josh Lucas]. No 1 quarterback for Mark [director of college scouting Mark Sadowski]. Dowell's [former Bears offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains] No 1 quarterback. Over-the-top scout's No 1 quarterback. Area scout's [then Chris Prescott] No 1 quarterback."
Those were the words of Bears general manager Ryan Pace at the 2017 NFL Draft, reflecting on a seemingly well-backed decision to trade up and select Trubisky as the second overall pick.
Words fuelled by delight over securing a priority target? Or words designed to reassure over a divisive decision Pace had to back in front of a room of camera's prying eyes?
"That's conviction, on a quarterback," Pace added.
While the jury remains out on Trubisky three years later, it may well be closing in on a decision at the expense of the 25-year-old.
If the Chicago brass isn't beginning to run out of patience with Trubisky, then the fans certainly are.
Pressure is salient in a cut-throat NFL, as are fine margins.
Pressure is heightened and fine margins become finer when working under an unwavering spotlight eager to remind Trubisky that he was drafted before both reigning MVP Patrick Mahomes and Houston Texans star quarterback Deshaun Watson.
Mahomes and Watson are now considered two of the most gifted players in the league. It's a storyline that Trubisky was never going to escape and one the Bears must answer for over the coming years.
The Bears sit 4-6 and third in the NFC North after their 17-7 loss to the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday night, their fourth loss in the last five games.
Trubisky is currently ranked 28th in quarterback passing yards with just 1,580 at an average of 175.6 yards per game. He is also tied at 26th with Teddy Bridgewater and Case Keenum on nine touchdown passes (Trubisky has played two more games than both of them) and is 33rd on average yards per pass attempt with 5.6.
The potential displayed throughout the Bears' 2018 route to the play-offs hasn't materialised and neither Trubisky or head coach Matt Nagy are benefitting from one another.
Post-draft fears over Trubisky's ability to take Chicago forward are threatening to become true, but that likely won't convince the organisation to turn its back on him mid-season.
For the Bears to give up a first-round pick, a third-round pick, a fourth-round pick and a 2018 third-round pick in order to secure Trubisky's services is why. Whether they believe in him or not, they have a No 2 pick to try and justify and a significant investment to stand by. To bench him would be to admit defeat.
Where do the problems lie?
Let's not forget the Bears were a 12-4 team last season and a Cody Parkey field goal away from beating the Philadelphia Eagles to progress to a Divisional Round match-up.
Had that been the case, discussion surrounding Trubisky right now might be somewhat kinder. It's for the belief this was a 'win now' team that their under-performing signal-caller finds himself under so much scrutiny.
Whether it be coach Nagy or those upstairs pulling the strings, the Bears appear to have shifted from playing to one of Trubisky's primary strengths in his ability to roll out and operate outside the pocket.
Heading into Week 11, he had scrambled just 15 times so far this season, tied for 22nd with three other players, compared to 36 in 2018 which was tied for fourth with Jameis Winston.
With regards to rushing figures, he has registered just 58 yards off 15 attempts on the ground in 2019 following a 2018 campaign in which he ran for 412 yards and three touchdowns off 68 attempts.
Trubisky was never a pocket passer at North Carolina and if that's what the Bears are trying to mould him into then it isn't working.
Not only has a reduced ground game left an already conservative quarterback short of confidence and struggling to supply inspiration, but it is exposing questionable play-calling that is proving inconsistent with the offensive ingenuity Nagy displayed at times last year.
By taking away Trubisky's rushing threat and reducing play-action the Bears are settling for short gains, frustrating checkdowns and inaccurate passes in the face of pressure.
The Bears woes on offense also haven't been helped by the 15 dropped catches they have recorded so far this year (most in the NFL) in comparison to their 11 across 2018.
They are also last in the NFL for yards after the catch - whether that's down to poor play design or poor execution, only Nagy and his team know?
The 36-25 defeat to the New Orleans Saints in Week 7 somewhat underlined Trubisky and the Bears' offensive struggles this season.
Trubisky made 34 passes from 54 attempts for just 215 yards and two scores, while across from him Saints back-up Teddy Bridgewater threw 23 completions off 38 attempts for 281 yards and two scores.
It's also worth noting Trubisky registered zero rushing yards or attempts on the day. He was guilty of an over-throw beyond a wide-open Taylor Gabriel on a third-and-five early on before failing to connect with Anthony Miller on a deep route on third-and-two in the second quarter. Two incidents captured where some of the frustration lies with Bears fans.
It took Trubisky going down with an injury in Week 4 for Nagy to show some aggression with the ball, this time through back-up Chase Daniel.
Daniel threw for 426 passing yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions in the two games he played. This followed on from Trubisky's 579 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions in the three games he played prior to leaving the field early against the Minnesota Vikings.
That's not to say Daniel is the answer to the Bears' problems, although it does hint at a lack of trust in Trubisky on Nagy's part.
Something to build on…
Week 10's win over Detroit staged arguably Trubisky's best performance of the season so far and yet it was another game that raised familiar concerns.
The Bears were restricted to 25 yards on 15 plays from their first four possessions, after which Trubisky completed seven of eight passes in an up-tempo offense before capping a 10-play drive with a perfectly-weighted 18-yard touchdown pass to tight end Ben Braunecker in the corner of the end zone. This was an example of the hurry-up attack that doesn't allow time to over-think and that Trubisky is clearly suited to.
Another impressive play arrived on a second-and-seven in the third quarter when he threw under pressure off his back foot to find favourite target Allen Robinson for a big gain.
This was followed by a short touchdown pass to Tarik Cohen, before Trubisky was then able to convert a third-and-nine with a 24-yard touchdown pass to Gabriel after Nick Kwiatkoski's interception.
The Bears had found the end zone on three successive drives, however had seen their nine other possessions in the game finish with punts. Trubisky finished with modest figures of 16 passes for 173 yards and three touchdowns.
That welcomed confidence boost did come with an asterisk, however, with the Lions in the top five in the NFL for most passing yards allowed per game, as well as having the joint-second fewest interceptions with three.
The task for Trubisky then, heading into LA on Sunday night, was turning that deep throw to Robinson into a consistent part of his game and orchestrating positive drives on a regular basis.
However, his woes continued as although the team threw the ball 43 times (third-most all year), Trubisky managed just 190 yards through the air. He completed just 24 of those passes (55.8 per cent) with one touchdown and one interception for a dismal 65.1 quarterback rating as the Bears' playoff hopes took another hit.
He was pulled for Daniel late in the fourth quarter, with the Bears saying it was due to a hip injury.
Pressure isn't going away for Trubisky, especially as a top-class defense grows tired of extensive periods on the field without reward and rumours of Cam Newton's potential availability in 2020 begin to surface.
The chances are that we see Trubisky stay in Chicago next year. In what capacity, who knows?