Most of Chicago has dreamed about NBC analyst Cris Collinsworth’s premise: Had Cody Parkey never double-doinked his playoff kick, how differently would we think about Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky?
In the fourth quarter against the Eagles, Trubisky went 6-for-10 for 115 yards, a touchdown and a 137.5 passer rating. In the first three quarters, he went 20-for-33 for 188 yards, no touchdowns and a 76.3 passer rating.
‘‘He would have been remembered for this gutsy second-half performance that won the game for the Chicago Bears and advanced them in the playoffs,’’ Collinsworth said. ‘‘The excitement level about Year 2 [with coach Matt Nagy] would have been even greater, even if they’d lost the next game.’’
Instead, Trubisky’s offseason produced mixed feelings. After a Pro Bowl appearance as an injury replacement, there’s intrigue about the leap he could make with Nagy and the new weapons at his disposal. But his struggles against the Bears’ defense in training camp and his lack of preseason-game snaps scream caution.
What will Trubisky be?
The Sun-Times talked with four prominent NFL analysts — ESPN’s Dan Orlovsky, Fox’s Charles Davis, CBS’ Trent Green and Collinsworth — about Trubisky’s potential in his second season under Nagy:
A good fit
Young quarterbacks, Orlovsky said, are like people who need glasses but don’t know it. Everything they see looks a little cloudy.
A good coach, he said, is like LASIK surgery.
‘‘It all of a sudden makes sense,’’ said Orlovsky, a former NFL quarterback. ‘‘You all of a sudden have that moment of clarity. I think you saw that with Mitch last year.’’
That comes into better focus in the second season of the player-coach partnership.
‘‘The first time you can see clearly with LASIK, you’re not comfortable enough to challenge your eyesight,’’ Orlovsky said. ‘‘You’re just happy to see the red, yellow and green of the stoplight. But now you can challenge his understanding of color, the blur of a defense, the leverage of a defender.
‘‘He took a huge step forward, and I expect him to take another step.’’
Ask any analysts about Trubisky, and they immediately turn to his partnership with Nagy.
‘‘Nagy — it’s one of the greatest things to ever happen to him,’’ Davis said.
Orlovsky said it takes three things for an offense to hum: a talented quarterback, a good scheme and a coach who knows how to call it. The Bears, he thinks, have all three.
Trubisky has ‘‘traits that are functional and usable,’’ he said. A second year together should make Nagy’s system second nature.
‘‘In Year 1, you’re worried about progressions and getting all the words right,’’ said Green, who calls Chiefs preseason games and knows Nagy from when he was an assistant with them. ‘‘In Year 2, it all slows down. Eventually a play comes in, and you just visualize it: ‘This is where I’m looking and going with the football.’ ’’
Is he accurate?
There’s something people get wrong about Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, Orlovsky said. He’s not some jumping, prancing dervish when he throws. Instead, his feet are pushing into the turf with such force that he bounces up when he throws.
Trubisky must have the same anchor with his right foot.
‘‘He needs to screw his back leg into the ground more before he throws, and that will generate more force,’’ Orlovsky said. ‘‘It will also generate control more, if you imagine that stabilization.’’
After watching the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes, Green said he isn’t so sure.
‘‘The offense I ran — ‘Air Coryell’ under Norv Turner, Mike Martz, that family — the routes and throws were all based on your feet,’’ he said. ‘‘I don’t know if that’s the case anymore. Mahomes keeps making throws in the air.’’
The Bears are working on Trubisky’s fundamentals with the belief that that will improve his accuracy. He struggles with passes longer than 10 yards. Orlovsky said his weight is too far out on his front foot on deep balls.
‘‘Mitchell, mechanically, can take a massive step,’’ Orlovsky said. ‘‘We’re not talking about accuracy where there’s a question mark, like with [the Bills’] Josh Allen, when you go, ‘Hey, dude, you’ve never been accurate in your life.’ Or [the Ravens’] Lamar Jackson.
‘‘But I don’t find [Trubisky] to be inaccurate.’’
The verdict among analysts was that Trubisky’s accuracy has room for improvement. There’s a belief that accuracy can’t be taught — you either have it or you don’t — but those blessed with it can hone the skill in the NFL.
‘‘He’s an accurate thrower, much more than anyone gives him credit for,’’ Davis said. ‘‘But he’ll have to improve some of that. Part of that accuracy, frankly, is understanding that you don’t force balls downfield when it’s not there.’’
When he drafted Trubisky, general manager Ryan Pace praised the pinpoint control he showed in his lone season as North Carolina’s starter. That hasn’t been as apparent in the NFL.
‘‘I really don’t worry about his physical skills,’’ Collinsworth said. ‘‘I think accuracy is something he’ll naturally improve upon in this next year.’’
How much will he run?
Collinsworth still remembers the first drive Nagy plotted at home against the Vikings last season. It featured five players who ran the ball and two who caught it.
‘‘It was like watching the Globetrotters,’’ he said. ‘‘They were going in seven different directions.
‘‘It really plays to Trubisky’s style because that leads to play-action, that leads to bootlegs, that leads to run opportunities with the quarterback. Those are some of the things he does best.’’
Trubisky’s 421 rushing yards last season ranked fifth among quarterbacks. The fear that he could run, however, creates other opportunities.
‘‘Always be a threat but don’t always go,’’ Davis said.
Trubisky trusts his legs in times of trouble. As he ages, Collinsworth said, he’ll learn to use his legs to create throwing lanes and new angles.
‘‘His mobility skills are off the charts,’’ Collinsworth said. ‘‘When you watch, he has sort of a sixth sense of feeling pressure and escaping. Some of those big runs he made had a lot to do with them winning football games.
‘‘As he evolves more and becomes a little more of an Aaron Rodgers-Russell Wilson scrambler — where he scrambles to throw and not as much to run — I think he’s even going to get better. I think that’s just part of the natural evolution of playing quarterback.’’
What is he?
Collinsworth proudly said he attends the ‘‘Terry Bradshaw School of Quarterback Analysis.’’ Bradshaw, a former Steelers star and now a Fox analyst, preaches patience.
‘‘I used to get all worked up in their first and second year,’’ Collinsworth said. ‘‘He goes: ‘Come on, Cris. They’re just young ’uns. Give ’em a chance.’
‘‘That’s right. You tend to see these leaps. Matt’s a heckuva coach, and we’re all excited to see what his next step is going to be with that offense.’’
Part of what makes analyzing Trubisky difficult, however, is the lack of source material. He started only 13 games at North Carolina before being picked No. 2 overall in the 2017 NFL Draft.
‘‘We’re not going to be able to evaluate the way we did before,’’ Davis said. ‘‘Kids aren’t going to play the same number of games in college. Kids are going to sit out more. It’s not the same as it used to be. There might be more mistakes, but I don’t think that he is one of them.’’
Trubisky’s first season, which came under coach John Fox, is almost forgotten — ‘‘I still want to call this Year 2, but it’s not,’’ Collinsworth said — and his inactivity the last two preseasons leave even less to consider.
Entering the season opener against the Packers, the only defense Trubisky has faced for any sizable stretch has been his own. And he has lost — often — to the Bears’ dominant unit.
Permission to panic?
‘‘You can’t look at some of the defenders they have and not go, ‘OK, it’s not going to get any worse than this,’ ’’ Collinsworth said. ‘‘It’s just not. Those guys were as good as it got in the league last year.’’
Davis said it’s fair to compare Trubisky to Mahomes, the reigning MVP, and the Texans’ Deshaun Watson, two quarterbacks the Bears passed when they picked him.
Both landed in more stable situations than Trubisky did, Davis said. And no one in the league compares favorably to Mahomes, whom Davis calls a ‘‘force majeure.’’
But with Nagy at the controls and new weapons at his disposal, Trubisky could land just outside the upper tier of NFL passers if everything goes right this season, Orlovsky said.
‘‘I always say there’s five or six great quarterbacks in the NFL,’’ Orlovsky said. ‘‘And the next six or seven kind of float around because of who’s around them because of the play-caller. Are they healthy?
‘‘Mitchell is going to fall into that window for me this year. He’s got such a good play-caller and [has] such healthy people around him that I see him coming into that top-12 conversation this year.’’
Davis said he likes Trubisky’s athleticism and said he has a ‘‘fine arm,’’ but he adores his makeup.
‘‘Football means an awful lot to him,’’ Davis said. ‘‘He’s a very serious-minded young man. Yeah, he can have fun. But I think every time he has fun, he’s weighing it: ‘Is it fun, or should I be watching film?’ ’’
That suits him well, given the scrutiny in Chicago.
When Giants rookie quarterback Daniel Jones was booed at a Yankees game in June, Davis was reminded of Trubisky hearing it from Bulls fans days after his own selection.
Neither man, he said, should be defined by those expectations.
‘‘It’s a rite of passage when you are not the unanimous of acclaim in terms of the pick,’’ Davis said. ‘‘But how your career turns out is going to tell the tale.’’