Is Bears QB Mitch Trubisky fixable? Is fixing him worth it?
Along with his boss, Bears coach Matt Nagy delivered a defense of his quarterback Tuesday, laying out three ways he must improve this offseason:
Bears general manager Ryan Pace read the room better than his quarterback does defenses when he was asked Tuesday why he believed in Mitch Trubisky despite the inconsistency he’d shown all season.
“It’s just part of the growth process sometimes,” Pace said. “As much as we don’t want to hear that, it happens.”
Bears fans certainly didn’t want to hear it.
“I think, again, you see moments this year: ‘A-ha, there it is,’ right?” he said. “And then we see the inconsistencies and the dips, you know? We need to figure out why that’s happening and work hard to solve that. And that’s part of what this offseason’s about.”
More simply, the offseason is about two questions: Is Trubisky fixable? And is fixing him worth it?
The latter is complicated by the Bears’ playoff window, Trubisky’s looming fifth-year option — which the team needs to exercise by May — and the fact he could bring his bosses down with him were he to struggle for another year.
The former is murky, too. Were fixing Trubisky’s mistakes simple, it would have been done by now, given that the franchise is structured to, above all things, develop a quarterback. Nagy was hired to mentor Trubisky.
Three other 2019 assistants had been quarterbacks, quarterback coaches or offensive coordinators in their career. Even the backups — Chase Daniel and Tyler Bray — were signed to create an incubation room for Trubisky.
Pace said he knows “it’s not always easy with a young quarterback,” but he said he trusts Nagy to make Trubisky better. He even bestowed upon Nagy an honorary degree — one some Bears fans might quibble with.
“The goal is for them to all see things the same way,” he said. “And it’s hard when you’ve got a guy who has a master’s [degree] in this area and you have a young quarterback that’s developing.”
Nagy also defended his quarterback, explaining three areas he must improve this offseason:
The Bears’ offense is all about timing. Nagy said the routes are matched precisely to the footwork of the quarterback.
That’s why the mechanical fine-tuning the Bears want from Trubisky has nothing to do with his arm. Rather than drift away when he throws, Trubisky needs to step into his throws.
“There were times throughout this year where focusing on trusting the center of that pocket, pushing forward,” Nagy said. “And now he’s a running threat. He becomes a runner. So if they want to play two-man [coverage] or they want to play different coverages where he can take off with his legs, he can do that. So that’ll be, mechanics-wise, nothing from the shoulders up. It’s more so just footwork.”
Nagy said he wants Trubisky “to be a master of understanding coverages.”
He needs to recognize stunts, blitzes, linebacker rotation and other subtleties.
“Let’s now put that all together and understand how defenses are going to try to trick you,” He said. “And let’s not get tricked.”
Nagy wants him to spend the offseason studying what coordinators did to him in 2019 — and what they could dream up in 2020.
“That’s not hard. It’s just a matter of continuing with that commitment of doing it and then learning how to do it great,” Nagy said. “I think that he’s right there. It’s just a matter of doing it and then taking that and transferring it to the field with practice and games.”
The Bears were ahead 28-3 in Week 3 when, on third-and-12, receiver Anthony Miller ran a wheel route out of the left slot. He sprung wide open down the left sideline for what could have been a 32-yard touchdown. But Trubisky, knowing the Bears had a comfortable lead, checked the ball to tight end Trey Burton for no gain on the other side of the field. The Bears kicked a field goal.
Nagy wanted him to look deep.
“He’s not the first quarterback in the history of the NFL to make that play,” Nagy said.
The fact Nagy offered that story at all is notable. He spent all season criticizing his quarterback only in the vaguest terms. But the sting was removed when Nagy chose a no-harm, no-foul situation. The Bears beat the Redskins by 16.
Nagy contrasted the decision with Trubisky’s short completion to Allen Robinson on third-and-two in Week 17, which forced the Vikings to use their timeouts and let the Bears bleed the clock before a game-winning field goal.
“He’s learning,” Nagy said. “I think that’s growth.”
The time for growth, though, is growing short.
The Bears must decide by May whether to pick up Trubisky’s 2021 option, which would pay him more than $20 million. The option is guaranteed only for injury, so the team still could decide to walk away from him next year — as long as he’s healthy — with no penalty. Or it could use the fifth-year option as the starting point for an extension at this time next year.
The last choice has never seemed so unlikely, but Trubisky will have another season to change minds — presuming Pace’s “Mitch-is-our-starter” routine wasn’t a pre-free-agency bluff.
Even if he improved in 2020, Trubisky would have to turn into a star for the Bears to feel comfortable giving him a contract anywhere near the extension the Rams gave Jared Goff: four years for $134 million.
If they blanch at that price — and they should — and let Trubisky play out his fifth-year option, the Bears could be in the market for a new quarterback after 2021. If they sense that day is coming, it’s their responsibility to develop someone to take Trubisky’s place, starting next year.
NFL teams figured out long ago, though, that the fastest path to the playoffs is to splurge on the other 21 starters while paying a quarterback his rookie contract. Next season is the last time Trubisky will come cheap. His value lies as much in his $9.2 million cap hit as it does in his potential for improvement.
Pace admitted as much when asked why he again would pair a developing quarterback — to put it kindly — with a roster ready to win now.
His answer: Fixing Trubisky would be worth it.
“I think the dividends that can pay off if it comes to fruition,” he said. “And, again, we’ve seen this before with young quarterbacks and with the trials and tribulations they go through. It’s part of it.
“Sometimes if you stick with it and you see it through and you’re dedicated to the development of the process, that can be very beneficial to the organization long-term.”