When you think of the new era of quarterbacks in the NFL, who do you think of? Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes surely comes to mind immediately, but what about a name not many across the league truly think about? Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.
Entering his third year in the NFL, the University of North Carolina product is on the rise in the NFC, with a solid offense and stellar defense alongside him in Chicago that could each take the conference, and the league, by storm.
Sure, the Bears’ 2018 campaign ended in heartbreak, with a double-doink off the crossbar still ringing through the ears of fans across Illinois. But, a new year brings along a clean slate for Trubisky and head coach Matt Nagy.
It may seem like the Ohio native was swept under the rug by some throughout 2018, and even still as he looks to dethrone Aaron Rodgers as the top quarterback in the NFC North. Why is that, though?
He threw for 3,223 yards in 2018, compiling 24 touchdowns and 12 interceptions to go with his 66.6% completion rate, and, according to ESPN, was on pace for 3,950 passing yards before he was forced to deal with a shoulder injury that took him out for a few games. Oh, and the Bears’ offense had been projected to be the league’s third-lowest team when it came to expected pass rate.
He’s projected by ESPN to come in with less passing yards than last year, despite the potential for his first full season of football in the NFL if he can stay under center for 16 games.
With weapons like Taylor Gabriel, Trey Burton and Tarik Cohen to throw to, Trubisky has some speedy receiving options running around on the field for him to capitalize on. Plus, he has an ability to move around the pocket and throw in uncomfortable situations that helps separate him from a lot of quarterbacks in the league.
Don’t believe me? How about we look back on Trubisky’s performance when the Bears battled the Patriots at Soldier Field in a Week 7 in 2018.
Not many people like to put any focus on that game, despite the close 38-31 final score, the Patriots’ stout defense that eventually led them to a Super Bowl LIII victory over the Rams, and an incredible throw by Trubisky that almost sent the game to overtime.
With time expiring, Trubisky chucked a ball from his own 45-yard line while escaping out of the pocket, delivering a perfect Hail Mary to receiver Kevin White down inside the five-yard line. Had White been able to push forward for one more yard, the Bears could’ve potentially taken down the soon-to-be Super Bowl champions at home.
Trubisky threw the ball 50 times in the game, completing 26 passes for 333 yards and two touchdowns. Two interceptions won’t help you very much in a game that comes down to one touchdown, but a respectable effort nonetheless from a second-year quarterback at the time.
Many noticed Trubisky’s talent while watching his comeback attempt that week, including Patriots quarterback and six-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady.
“Yeah, he made some great plays,” Brady told me after the game. “Even that last one, that last throw was an incredible throw. Rolling left, had a guy in his face, and he’s obviously got the ability to throw it and he made some great plays out of the pocket running. He played really well.”
Brady wasn’t the only New England name to take notice of the young Bears quarterback, with Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, a seven-time Super Bowl champion in his own right, heaping some praise for the young star before the Week 7 battle.
“He’s done a good job for them,” Belichick said during a press conference. “Athletic kid, big, strong, good arm, can throw the ball, make all the throws, tough, can stand in there, a hard guy to tackle. Some of the running plays he’s involved in. He seems to be probably more comfortable with the offense each week. They do a little more.”
When you’ve got arguably the greatest quarterback of all time praising your work under center, along with arguably the greatest coach the league’s ever seen, you must be doing something right. But, how about the league’s best linebacker for some bonus points?
“He’s a franchise quarterback,” Von Miller said before the Broncos and Bears went head-to-head in the 2018 preseason. “He can do a little bit of everything so you have to be prepared for everything.”
That praise came before his impressive 2018 campaign, so we’ll see if there’s an update to that when the Bears and Broncos meet again in Week 2 of the 2019 regular season.
You can look at the statistics, and evaluate the praise that’s come from all angles for the young quarterback. But, a real positive in Trubisky’s game is his ability to spread the ball across the field.
Whether it’s dumping it off to a running back like Cohen, hitting Gabriel on a slant route or finding Burton in the end zone, there’s options across the field for Trubisky to evaluate. With all of that action, it’s easy to confuse yourself and overthink things, but Trubisky’s done a solid job at managing the pressure and delivering smart passes, evident by his decent touchdown-to-interception ratio last year.
For reference, as Trubisky went for 24 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, Tom Brady went with a 29-11 ratio in 2018. In his second real season in the NFL? He went for 28 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. That ratio sound familiar?
How about Andrew Luck? In his second season, he went for 23 touchdowns and nine interceptions. The next year? He came out firing and went for 40 touchdowns with 16 interceptions.
Sure, Trubisky isn’t like his divisional rival in Aaron Rodgers with his 25-2 ratio, but who can match that? Even Rodgers went for 28 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in his first full season in the league, and Trubisky hasn’t even had one of those yet.
It may seem insane to compare Trubisky to great quarterbacks like Brady, Luck and Rodgers, and who knows if he can ever match the talent level of any of those three. But, with his ability to spread the ball and some young talent around him, it’s always possible for a breakout year in a unique year for the NFC North.
“The Bears got a good defense, but I do believe the offense is really underrated,” former Bears head coach Mike Ditka told the Chicago Sun Times last year. “Mitch gets the ball to everybody.”
Add in the element that the Bears defense should be in for another big year, potentially getting Trubisky the ball more offensively, and we could have ourselves a new darkhorse for the 2019 season.
He likely won’t be the best quarterback in the league this year, and maybe not even top five when you factor in Mahomes, Brady, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Philip Rivers. But, give me a quarterback who can escape the pocket, throw on the run, rush when he needs to and spread the ball around successfully any day of the week, especially when you’re looking for a young star to lead your offense for years to come.
Combine all of those elements, and you have a good prediction for the breakout candidate of the 2019 season.