After one huge step, Mitch Trubisky can’t go back to where he was before
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Some people are being greedy on the subject of Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky. But you? Never!
You wouldn’t dare ask more from him, which you think is the very definition of considerate. You simply want more of the same. And it’s not even the six-touchdown game you want. That would be ridiculous (sort of). You simply want continued excellence from him going forward. Is that asking so much?
Actually, yeah, it is.
Let me lower the bar for you. It’s my specialty.
This isn’t about what we hope to see from Trubisky the rest of the season; it’s about what we hope never to see again. That would be the Trubisky of the first three games of the season, as well as the final 12 games of 2017. The Trubisky who didn’t look confident in the pocket. The Trubisky who threw into double coverage. The Trubisky who missed open receivers downfield.
That’s not negative thinking; it’s realistic thinking. Believing that Trubisky is Drew Brees now because he put up huge numbers against an atrocious Buccaneers defense is a fantasy.
But if Week 4 somehow freed him of the bad tendencies he exhibited in the first 15 games of his NFL career, that would be a big deal. I would say I’m more skeptic than believer in that regard, but you never know the effect a massive game can have on a player’s confidence. Wherever you fall on the Mitch debate, it’s hard to argue with the perception that he didn’t possess a ton of self-assurance before the Bucs crawled into Soldier Field on Sept. 30.
No one saw that performance coming. No one saw six touchdowns, 354 passing yards, zero interceptions and an almost-perfect passer rating. Coach Matt Nagy said he knew from the week of practices leading up to the game that Trubisky would have a great performance that Sunday. I believe him, though I have yet to hear an NFL coach say that his quarterback had stunk during practice and that he knew his quarterback would stink during the game, which he did.
So what now? I don’t need great from Trubisky. I’ll take good. I’ll even take pretty good. That’s fair. Pretty good would be a decent jump from what he had been before the game against the Bucs, which is to say somewhere between not good and average. Two weeks ago, the debate still raged about whether Trubisky had it in him to be a good NFL quarterback. Remember? Of course not. The Bears are 3-1, and you’re not into ancient history.
This being a social-media-driven world, his crazy numbers against the Bucs convinced many of you he had gone from the second pick overall of the 2017 NFL Draft to the Second Coming. Many of you suddenly had known it all along — #sureyoudid.
Here’s what I’d like to see from Trubisky on Sunday against the Dolphins and for the rest of the season: Steady progress from where he had been before the game against the Bucs. A line on the production graph mostly moving up. Certainly not a return to what he had been before.
No more happy feet in the pocket. More vertical passes, which is a matter of Nagy’s play-calling as much as it is Trubisky’s decision-making. He has completed 70 percent of his passes this season, which sounds like it means something really, really positive but doesn’t. It means that most of his completions in the first three weeks of the season were for short gains.
If he’s going to build on the good feelings of Week 4, he needs to keep throwing touchdown passes. To which you reply: Well, duh!
OK, but he managed to find the end zone only twice through the air before the six-touchdown game. That’s weak production, which was why lots of people were wondering whether he had ‘‘it’’ — that hard-to-define something that separates excellent quarterbacks from everyone else.
We still don’t know.
The list of NFL quarterbacks who have thrown six touchdown passes in a game includes some of the all-time greats: Tom Brady, Brett Favre, Otto Graham, Dan Marino, Steve Young and Aaron Rodgers, among many others. But it also includes Matt Flynn, who had a mediocre career.
It’s just as likely that Trubisky will have a down game in the next few weeks as it is he will another successful one. Probably more likely. It’s impossible to look at what he has done in his short career and not see more difficulties ahead. It happens to every young quarterback. It should be expected.
If he can start putting together more good games than mediocre-to-poor ones, that would be a huge step forward. How he responds the week after a poor game will be a gauge of where he’s truly at in his development.
Many of you want to see Carson Wentz and Jared Goff out of Trubisky now. You want to see the switch flip for him the way it did for those two young quarterbacks in Year 2.
On the dark end of the spectrum is the fear that Trubisky will be a one-hit wonder who never again has a game that comes close to Sept. 30, 2018.
Me? I’ll take something in between, as long as the arrow keeps pointing up. A modest goal.