‘Truly obsessed’: Bears QB Mitch Trubisky wants to cross ultimate goal off list
Mitch Trubisky plans his life in half-hour chunks. He taps away at the calendar app on his cellphone, plugging in dates and times for his workouts and appointments.
MitchTrubiskyplans his life in half-hour chunks. He taps away at the calendar app on his cellphone, plugging in dates and times for his workouts and appointments.
It’s not enough for the Bears quarterback to cross each completed item off the list, either. In the notes function on his calendar,Trubiskypastes a particular emoji to indicate a completed task — a green box with a white check mark inside.
“I like to be organized, I like to stick to my schedule,” he said. “That’s how I stay focused.”
There’s satisfaction, he said, each time he pastes in the little check mark.
“It’s just like, you make a goal list — you write your goals down, you check it off once you get there and you make a new one,”Trubiskysaid. “I think it’s the same thing with my schedule. It helps get me organized.
“I’m a little OCD. That’s how I do it.”
His coaches know how his mind works. That’s why they insisted, at the end of last season, that he try to take time for himself — away from football — during the offseason. The best hobbyTrubiskycould come up with was watching movies.
Trubiskydoesn’t schedule his downtime in the phone. He simply unwinds when there’s nothing on the books.
“I don’t actually write in, ‘Relax,’ ” he said.
He seems like the kind of person who would.
“We talked about it last year, being obsessed,” coach Matt Nagy said. “He’s truly obsessed.
“But I do feel like it’s important that you give yourself, as players and coaches, an opportunity to just step back and reflect a little bit. And then when the time comes, you get a week before training camp, before you know it, it’s going full steam ahead.”
That time is now. The Bears’ full roster reports to training camp in Bourbonnais on Thursday to launch the franchise’s most anticipated season in what feels like forever.
The Bears’ goal-oriented quarterback wants to cross the ultimate task off his list.
• • •
In the span of two sentences, safety Eddie Jackson calledTrubiskythe following: a smooth criminal, a silent assassin and James Bond. Running back Tarik Cohen — who, like Jackson andTrubisky, made his first Pro Bowl last year — joked that he saw a different movie character in his quarterback.
“He reminds me of Ace Ventura,” he said, laughing. “Nah, I’m playing. Mitch is a cool guy. I see why he said James Bond. Because when he dresses up, he gets really dapper.”
When he dresses down, too. During the Bears’ 100th-season convention in June, former quarterback Jim McMahon giftedTrubiskyhis two signature accessories: a headband and sunglasses.Trubiskywore them during the entire roundtable with McMahon, even pausing the discussion in the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center’s main hall to tease a Bears fan dressed like Mike Ditka.
“The accountability vs. [the coach] — it’s monotonous to hear me all the time. When it comes from your leader and your guy, that’s like me saying it 10 times.”
“Coach Ditka! What’s up? How you doing?”Trubiskysaid. “You should have let Jim throw the ball more.”
Trubisky’s laugh line, delivered in front of a few thousand fans, was a touchdown.
Entering his third season,Trubiskyhas put his personality on display like never before. It’s more than just OCD scheduling — he’s quicker to joke in public. He speaks in paragraphs, not sentences. He dressed like Ditka before a game last season and ran around with kids in two Chicago-area football camps last month.
He has shown the confidence of a man comfortable in his own skin.
That extends to the field.
“Even though some people might say Pro Bowl honors don’t matter, I think they do,” cornerback Prince Amukamara said ofTrubisky, who was an injury replacement in the game. “I think they help with their confidence. And it was well-earned, well-deserved, what he got last year. And I’m sure that’s helped his confidence a little bit, because he’s been great this offseason.”
• • •
At this time last year,Trubiskywas in the middle of Football 101, learning Nagy’s offense before their first regular-season game together.
This offseason, though, it was the quarterback who did the teaching. Nagy marveled at howTrubiskycut him off in a meeting to explain the specifics of how receivers should best run a “go” route.
“Do you understand how powerful that is when it comes from a player?” Nagy said. “The accountability vs. me — it’s monotonous to hear me all the time. When it comes from your leader and your guy, that’s like me saying it 10 times.”
That didn’t happen as much last year.
“Now, that confidence creeps up and you understand,” Nagy said. “You feel good about what you’re saying because you know it. That’s where he’s at right now.”
It was natural forTrubiskyto be more concerned with self-preservation last season.
“When you’re going through that the first time, you kinda tend to go internal,” offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich said. “You try to survive with what’s your world — not, ‘Hey, dude, I need you right here to do this.’ And that’s much more of what he’s done, what the other receivers have done, what the other running backs have done that have been here. They’ve done a great job with these young guys of coaching them up.”
The confidence comes from experience. Each Bears player had the luxury of watching their own film cut-ups this offseason. A year earlier, they watched Chiefs players running Nagy’s plays.
“Everything just kinda slows down,”Trubiskysaid. “The game slows down, the installation slows down. Your mind’s not going as fast.
“It’s just been almost a sense of relief that we’re getting better and better. We’re coming closer as a team. There’s no substitute for experience, so having that experience in games played and in this offense. It’s hard to describe how exactly it’s different, but it’s better. It’s a lot better.”
Last year at this time,Trubiskyhad to think about the personnel grouping, the formation or any one of the dozen things on his pre-snap checklist.
“Now, it’s just: chest up, communicate,” Helfrich said. “ ‘Hey, you get over here. Now.’ ”
Having players who better fit Nagy’s system helps. A healthy Allen Robinson helpedTrubiskydevelop this offseason, though fellow receiver Anthony Miller being sidelined after shoulder surgery hurt.
The Bears’ new running backs — draftee David Montgomery, former Seahawk Mike Davis and even receiver/returner Cordarrelle Patterson, who will get carries — giveTrubiskybetter passing options than Jordan Howard ever offered.
“All we want to do is be better,” Helfrich said. “And as long as that keeps happening — we’re moving in the right direction in every phase of quarterback-ology — he needs to keep making those strides. That’s a many-faceted deal. There’s other people involved in that, coaches and players. So far, so good.”
The air aroundTrubiskyhas changed.
“Hopefully, in every way,” Helfrich said. “And we’re not talking about some guy that we want to drastically change, right?
“We want to bring out everything that’s in him. And more.”
The Bears’ offense can be better.
For the team to contend for a championship, it must be.
The Bears averaged 343.3 yards and 222.8 passing yards per game last year, each ranking 21st in the NFL. Their 5.4 yards per play were 20th.
They ranked ninth with 26.3 points per game, but that was padded by their six defensive touchdowns.
“Just in the sense of stats and what we did — I mean, just think about, basically, kind of a rookie going into a rookie offense,” receiver Taylor Gabriel said. “Us having a second year under our belt, the terminology is expanded. It’s more detailed.
“We know what Mitch wants. Mitch kind of can feel our speed, the tempo of what we’re doing. So we’re connecting and we’re going outside the playbook of what Nagy has kind of drew up on the lines.
“We’ve kind of been going to what Mitch wants us to do: ‘OK, you want us to do a back shoulder [throw], you want us to do this.’ So it’s kind of turning to our offense.”
That evolution played out on the back fields of Halas Hall this offseason, withTrubiskypitted against his own vaunted defense.
“I think that as soon as we line up, we’re seeing the coverages that we want,” Robinson said. “We’re getting into the stuff that we want. We know the spots that we need to be in. The timing, everything. Stuff like that has been good for us.”
Trubiskydissects a defense at the line of scrimmage better than he ever did last year.
“He’s confident in what he’s looking at,” Gabriel said. “He’s not just trying to figure out what the play is. Now he gets to look up and look at the coverage. It’s just a drastic change from last year.”
Trubiskycompleted two-thirds of his passes last year, a Bears record for any quarterback with more than 200 attempts in a season. But in keeping with the pass-happy evolution of the league,Trubiskyranked 14th among his peers. His 95.4 passer rating was 16th in the league.
Trubiskyis notoriously self-critical, which Helfrich called “a great thing at times” but also a curse. Incompletions and interceptions aren’t alwaysTrubisky’s fault, but he treats them as such.
“Sometimes,” Helfrich said, “he needs to just flush it and move on and blame it on somebody else.”
WhileTrubisky’s overthrows last season were alarming, Nagy said the team’s analytics show that his accuracy has been “more than fine” during OTAs.
Trubisky’s improvement before the snap this offseason has done wonders after it. Accuracy, Nagy said, starts at the line of scrimmage.
“Anybody that tells you — that knows football and knows good quarterbacks — a lot of the reasons why they’re successful is because they know how to create protection and help their O-line create protection,” he said. “To have matchups to be able to make the throws, so that they can be more accurate.”
Cohen put it simply.
“He has the reins now,” he said.
• • •
When someone askedTrubiskywhich statistics he puts the most stock in, he reacted like a player still haunted by the Bears’ first-round playoff loss to the Eagles.
“Wins and losses,” saidTrubisky, who went 11-3 in the regular season as a starter last year. “Getting to the playoffs and trying to win every game.”
The answer impressed Nagy. It’s perfectly human to fall in love with stats —Trubisky’s six touchdown passes against the Buccaneers accounted for one-quarter of his season total and his 354 passing yards for almost one-ninth of his 3,223 last year — but there are more lofty goals.
“You go back and you look at quarterbacks in this league that have been judged,” Nagy said. “Everyone is going to talk about: Did they win? And did they win Super Bowls? Right?
“That’s what I think you get evaluated on as a quarterback. So that’s all he wants to do, is win and win Super Bowls. And then the stat stuff, that’s all fluff.”
McMahon, of course, won his Super Bowl. His advice forTrubiskylast month: Bond with your teammates off the field, and you’ll be better on it.
“Building lifelong relationships, kind of like what I witnessed at the Bears 100, especially the championship team,”Trubiskysaid. “How close they were, how they loved being around each other. There’s a similar feel to the relationships I have with my teammates now.”
And, he hopes, for years to come.
Though his rookie option would put him under Bears control through 2021,Trubiskywill be eligible to negotiate a contract extension next year. He shares an agent with Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz, who signed a new deal last month, and has insight on how the process unfolded.
Trubiskywants to stay in Chicago long-term.
“I think we’re building something great here,” he said. “I love the city, I love the fans, I love where I live, I love coming to work at Halas Hall every day and I love my teammates.”
The Bears know he’d like to stay.
“It’s pretty obvious,” he said.
That, of course, is an item for next year’s calendar.