A Jared Goff-sized measuring stick looms for the Bears’ Mitch Trubisky
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Mitch Trubisky must be sick of getting compared with other quarterbacks. Whenever the Bears face a top QB, out comes the measuring stick. It’s happened over and over this season, with more analysis devoted to Trubisky’s relative strengths and weaknesses than to war and peace and why Meghan Markle’s father didn’t escort her down the aisle at the royal wedding.
Mitch and Aaron Rodgers. Mitch and Russell Wilson. Mitch and Tom Brady. Mitch and Kirk Cousins.
Mitch and Patrick Mahomes.
What’s that? The Bears haven’t played Mahomes and the Chiefs this season? As if that’s going to get in the way of our comparing and contrasting!
Someday, other quarterbacks might find themselves being compared with Trubisky. I’m guessing that would be a glorious day for him. A day filled with song and laughter.
That day is not this day.
The 8-4 Bears play the 11-1 Rams on Sunday night, and although Trubisky will have his hands full with pass-rush monster Aaron Donald at Soldier Field, he’ll be competing with Jared Goff, the quarterback on the other side of the field. Both players and all the coaches and teammates who surround them will say that this is a meaningless exercise, that Trubisky and Goff aren’t playing one-on-one basketball.
If those words were any emptier, they’d have boarded-up windows.
This is a chance for Trubisky to take a big step on a big stage, with one of the best quarterbacks in the game serving as a frame of reference. Goff is great. Trubisky wants to be great. The biggest question for Sunday is whether Trubisky’s throwing will be affected by the shoulder injury that kept him out of the past two games. Let’s hope not. We want a show.
The Bears were hoping that Goff’s story last season would become Trubisky’s story this season – that of a sky-high draft pick (Goff No. 1 overall in 2016, Trubisky No. 2 in 2017) who struggled his rookie season and then had greatness coaxed out of him by a young, innovative, offensive-minded head coach (Sean McVay for the Rams, Matt Nagy for the Bears). It hasn’t turned out exactly that way. Goff was consistently excellent in his second season in the league. Trubisky has been up and down this year, though more up than down. With four games left in the regular season and the possibility of a playoff appearance ahead, there’s still time for undisputed greatness to reveal itself.
You have to be careful whenever NFL coaches praise their opponent leading up to a game. They’d gush over porridge if porridge were the enemy on Sunday. But McVay, the 32-year-old boy genius, told the Chicago media during the week that he has seen Trubisky making some of the same strides Goff did last season. Which was nice of the coach.
“You talk about Jared and the game slowing down, I think (Trubisky) is throwing the deep ball extremely accurate on time,’’ he said. “Then you clearly see the athleticism where, if something is not there, he can step up and make people pay with his legs.’’
The biggest difference between the two quarterbacks right now? Goff throws deeper more often. Now in his third year, he’s averaging 9.1 yards per pass attempt and 13.7 yards per completion this season. Trubisky’s numbers in the same categories are 7.7 and 11.8. Some of that has to do with the Rams’ more powerful offense, which features more talented skill-position players than the Bears have.
But some of it has to do with Nagy limiting Trubisky’s options for throwing the ball down the field. The Bears’ offensive attack sometimes seems built as much on sleight of hand as the quarterback’s right arm.
Are all the trick plays a way to bide time while Trubisky improves as a pocket passer? Or do they serve simply to satisfy Nagy’s creative itch? Ask again in a few years.
There used to be lots of questions about Goff, who came under heavy criticism during his first season in Los Angeles. Then he turned into a great quarterback, and we all felt a little silly for wondering if he’d been worthy of being the first overall pick.
Lest you think Goff is beyond criticism today, know that his home passer rating is more than 30 points higher than his road rating. On the other hand, his road passer rating (92.8) isn’t far behind Trubisky’s (97.7) or Brady’s (96.8) overall rating.
Back to McVay’s effusing all over Trubisky.
“You can feel his command,’’ he said. “You can feel the players believe in him, and I think that’s as big as anything else. He has got a nice play energy that exudes the confidence, and the players feed off of him. Then the playmaking ability, whether it’s pushing the ball down the field or creating on his own certainly is something that has to be accounted for.’’
Yes, but does Trubisky have greatness in him? Let’s find out more on Sunday.