Mitch Trubisky? Improved? It’s in the admiring eye of his beholder, Bears coach Matt Nagy
If Nagy believes that Trubisky has gotten better this season, the Bears’ problems might be deeper than an offense that can’t advance the football.
Coach Matt Nagy has watched more football film in his lifetime than most of us have watched just about anything — television, sunsets, our weight, etc. So to question his football judgment might seem borderline absurd to some.
But when Nagy says he has seen improvement from quarterback Mitch Trubisky this season, as he did Wednesday, it’s fair to suggest that the man is seeing things. Whether he’s hallucinating, trying to alter public perception, backing his besieged quarterback or being sincere, I can’t tell.
NFL news conferences are exercises in narrative-shaping, so sometimes it’s hard to know what the truth is and what the speaker wants the truth to be. But if Nagy really, really believes that Trubisky has improved this season, the Bears’ problems might be deeper than an offense that can’t advance the football.
From the Bears’ awful performance in the opener against the Packers until he injured his left shoulder against the Vikings in Week 4, Trubisky has gotten better, Nagy said.
“There was [improvement] — progression-wise, playing faster, seeing at the line of scrimmage that he’s getting into checks . . . way quicker than what he was, not even at the beginning of this year, but last year,’’ he said. “That’s kind of how we judge that.’’
Trubisky’s shoulder seems to have improved, and he said that he’s going to do everything he can to prove to the Bears’ medical staff that he’s healthy enough to play against the Saints on Sunday. Fans can spend the next few days debating whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing.
If Trubisky can’t play, Chase Daniel will start, and fans can shift their unease in his direction. Trubisky practiced Wednesday, but the Bears are giving reps to both quarterbacks.
Whatever happens, it looks as if the team is using different criteria to judge Trubisky than everybody else is. Most of us see that he ranks near the bottom of many of the more meaningful NFL stats — passer rating (81.0), yards per pass (5.5), passing yards per game (147.0) and touchdown passes (three). All those numbers are down from a year ago, but Nagy said the “incremental’’ improvement he and general manager Ryan Pace had wanted to see from Trubisky is occurring.
Wherever that improvement has been hiding itself, it was part of Nagy’s jumping-off point for declaring Sunday’s game an opportunity for the team to put it all together offensively. Forget those other five games. That was then.
“We’ve just got to do it now,’’ he said. “We’re at a point where it’s time to go out there and play and to execute and to just be together — all of us.’’
The Saints have a tough defensive line — “salty,’’ Nagy called it — and this might not be the best team to face when your shoulder is still healing. But Nagy said that there would be no restrictions on Trubisky if the team’s doctors clear him to play. That would include no limits for Trubisky on running the ball.
“Run as much as you can, just don’t take extra hits,’’ Nagy said. “His legs are a huge weapon for us, so I’m an idiot if I take his legs away because there are a lot of quarterbacks that don’t have his legs. Trust me, go to the 31 other defensive coordinators and ask about how concerned they are about him running the football. It’s a weapon.’’
The Bears are choosing to focus on all the shiny parts of the Sept. 23 Washington game, the one in which Trubisky threw three touchdown passes and completed 25 of 31 passes. What did you expect? That they’d admit that he had his best game of the season against a bad defense? That they’d be honest about their offense? That they’d acknowledge that their offensive line can’t block anybody, even on Twitter? Of course not.
Back to that Washington game.
“You kind of felt like that was a turning point for me and this offense to hopefully jump-start the Vikings game,’’ Trubisky said. “And then kind of moving the ball down the field [against Minnesota], and six plays into it you come out [with an injury]. It’s definitely frustrating, but you just go back to how I prepared mentally to go into that Washington game and try to get right back on with that mindset.’’
The frustrating part for some of us who have watched Trubisky since his 2017 arrival is the Bears’ emphasis on peripheral things, not results. So we hear about his improvement in realizing what defenses are trying to do against him. Or about his ability to play faster than he used to. We don’t hear much about big plays. Or points that come in clusters.
Someone asked Trubisky what he wanted to focus on this week.
“Just go back to what I know how to do: Work as hard as you possibly can, make sure everyone’s buying into the plan,’’ he said. “You look at the results, but you can’t dwell on those because we know what type of talent we have on offense.’’
“It’s just a matter of sticking to the process,’’ he said.