A clip went viral during the Bears – Packers game in week one. A third down from the Green Bay three-yard line; Chicago was up 7-0 at the time. Mitch Trubisky had run a play action from shotgun with a boot and at the top of his drop had, what seemed to be, a wide open Trey Burton for a touchdown.
Now clipping a play like this isn’t exactly fair. It circulated twitter rapidly. Bears fans were depressed and angry, Bears haters were laughing, and analysts were giving the real perspective: there’s no way to actually know what’s going on in a still frame. All that said, here’s the full play: Youtube Link
In reality, it’s a throw Trubisky should’ve made. However, it’s not the missed touchdown that should upset Matt Nagy and the Bears staff. The cause for concern is in the symptoms of the play, a lack of mental processing and pocket awareness has haunted Trubisky thus far in the season.
NFL pass rushers are big, fast, and angry. Even with the head-scratching sack rules that make quarterbacks nearly untouchable, there’s nothing these guys like more than burying a quarterback in the turf. The best quarterbacks are the guys who can make the throws with bodies flying all around them, the guys that know when to step up, when to hold their ground, and when to bail.
These are things Mitch struggles with. More so than any non-rookie passer I’ve watched this year, Trubisky tends to see ghosts in the pocket – bailing when he still has a clean pocket and before routes have time to develop.
There was a third-and-10 play midway through the Packers comeback that made me scratch my head. Trubisky made the right decision to step up at the top of the drop, but he quickly decides to tuck the ball away. The play had barely begun to develop, he was ten yards behind the line of scrimmage and already made up his mind to run. With Mike Daniels already buried in the ground, Trubisky had time to step up, stand in and let his men run a scramble drill to get open. He had no chance of getting the first running.
Now, let’s watch this clip: Bears vs Seahawks
For a minute here, let’s try to forget about the mind-boggling decision to throw the ball at the end of this play and look again at the pocket. It’s perfect! Why bail? You’re not going to see a cleaner pocket than this in the NFL. If you can’t find a way to work from the pocket, you’re never giving your receivers (or yourself) a chance.
You don’t have to be Peyton Manning to play quarterback in the NFL, but the ability to process information rapidly is critical. Very often in this league, your first option isn’t going to be open. Even the best in the business misdiagnose coverages at the line of scrimmage or get fooled by a backside blitz. You have to know what to do when everything doesn’t go as planned. This is one of Trubisky’s biggest issues.
In effect, Trubisky is a read-and-run passer. On many plays it’s one read, then bolt; if his first guy isn’t there, he’s running. Now, sometimes, like with this play, it works. Trubisky beats the rush and scrambles for the first down. However, you can clearly see when he steps up in the pocket, there’s three guys open to his right: Howard in the flat, Robinson coming back, and Burton breaks after initially being covered. This play works for the first down, but results don’t always justify the decision.
Reason for Optimism
I’m aware that by this point it seems like I’ve gone 600 words deep into why Trubisky is garbage and all the Bears fans are saying ‘holy shit is this what we signed up for?’ Before the downward spiral, there’s some good news. Mitch has a lot of the things you can’t teach about playing quarterback.
He’s accurate. Trubisky does a great job of placing the ball in spots where only his guy can make a play on it. On receiver screen passes and running back swings – a critical part of Nagy’s system through two weeks – his ability to get the ball out quickly and to the spot right ahead of the receiver, allowing them to move upfield quickly is fantastic.
I’ll leave you with this, a play that really emphasizes what Mitch can do well moving forward if he can nail down the mental aspect of the game. First read is left, it’s not there. He works his way right and puts the ball where only his guy can get it. But look at his left foot, how he slides it from left to right with his eyes. Now that, Bears fans, is good quarterback play.