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Bears’ newest QB battle: Trubisky vs. Trubisky

The last thing the Bears need this season is Good Mitch/Bad Mitch — and they already saw both against the Lions. The decision for Matt Nagy: Is this part of the growth process or just a big tease?

Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky had a 59.6 passer rating in the Bears’ first seven drives against the Lions, but a 139.4 rating in the final four drives — with three touchdown passes — to lead the Bears to a 27-23 victory Sunday at Ford Field.
Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky had a 59.6 passer rating in the Bears’ first seven drives against the Lions, but a 139.4 rating in the final four drives — with three touchdown passes — to lead the Bears to a 27-23 victory Sunday at Ford Field.
Leon Halip/Getty Images

The Bears still have two starting quarterbacks — and they’re both Mitch Trubisky.

A polarizing season-opening performance provided fodder for both sides of the Trubisky argument: a sluggish, off-target first 42 minutes for his detractors, and for his supporters, a three-touchdown flurry in the final 18 minutes that led the Bears to victory.

“Mitch can be better with some of his decision-making, and he needs to, and he will,” coach Matt Nagy said. “What we keep going back to is, ‘OK, then you get to the fourth quarter and you end up having three really good throws for touchdowns. He was 8-for-10 and at some critical times made some critical throws. The biggest thing we have to get to is the consistency throughout the game. We’ve got to be more consistent, and we need to help the offense in general to do that.”

“What we keep going back to” is the operative phrase there. One game into his third season in Nagy’s offense and his fourth season with the Bears, Trubisky still is searching for that elusive consistency — not only from game to game, but from quarter to quarter. He’s out-Rexing Rex Grossman.

If Nagy’s analysis of Trubisky sounds familiar, it’s because it is. Here’s Nagy on Trubisky after last season’s opener, a 10-3 loss to the Packers at Soldier Field:

“There [were] a couple of conviction throws, but there [were] a couple that could have been a bit better — he’ll be the first to tell you that. We’re trying to get to that point where those conviction throws happen all the time.”

And here’s Nagy on Trubisky after the 2018 season opener, a 24-23 loss to the Packers in which Trubisky had a 112.5 rating in the first quarter and a 62.7 rating over the final three quarters:

“He played the way I knew he could play. He made some plays. Now we left some out there, too. But that’s gonna happen. Mitch is going to learn. He’s going to keep growing — he understands that. First thing he said to me on the bus was, ‘How can I get better?’ That’s the best part about him and where we’re at right now.”

It’s possible Trubisky was just shaking off the rust of the COVID-19 offseason and found a rhythm just in time against the Lions. It’s possible he can parlay that momentum into a stellar 2020 season as Nagy’s revamped offense takes hold.

But it’s also possible Trubisky is still Trubisky — and that the groove he found coincided with the absence of Lions starting cornerbacks Desmond Trufant and Justin Coleman (hamstring injuries) and benefitted from a team with a history of fourth-quarter collapses under coach Matt Patricia, whose man-to-man defense seems to play into Trubisky’s hands.

You can’t blame Nagy for believing in his guy. But at some point in this third season, Nagy has to leave open the possibility that his faith and hope in Trubisky is obscuring a big-picture reality that Trubisky simply is what he is — a talented quarterback who needs too much going his way to be consistently effective. Is this part of the growth process, or just a big tease?

“[Judging] quarterbacks on wins and losses is a huge deal,” said Bears passing game coordinator Dave Ragone, the only coach on staff who has been with Trubisky all four seasons. “But in reality, [it’s] how they do in critical situations and when they have the ball in their hands and they have to make plays.

“I thought you saw in Mitchell this week . . . he made plays at the end to win the game, and the guys around him made those plays to win the game. I completely understand [the] question. I get it. The reality for me [is that] it’s about winning in this league and making winning plays, and I thought he did that Sunday.”