Matt Nagy finds himself in an interesting position, having coached both of the quarterbacks selected in the first 10 picks of the 2017 NFL Draft. He tutored Patrick Mahomes behind the scenes with the Kansas City Chiefs last year, and now is tasked with developing Mitch Trubisky into the successful franchise quarterback that’s eluded the Bears for so long.
Trubisky and Mahomes are and always will be inexorably linked, as all quarterbacks picked in the first round of a given draft are (add Houston’s DeShaun Watson to that 2017 group, too). And so far, the comparison hasn’t been favorable to Trubisky.
Through two games in 2018, Mahomes has thrown more touchdowns (10) than Trubisky has thrown in his entire career (nine). Mahomes how holds the NFL record for most touchdown passes through the first two games of a season, a record previously held by Drew Brees and Peyton Manning. The Chiefs’ offense is the talk of the NFL; the Bears’ offense, meanwhile, have proven to be a work in progress in two nationally-televised primetime games.
Nagy, on Tuesday, offered his take on why comparing Mahomes to Trubisky isn’t quite an apples-to-apples thing. Specifically: While Trubisky was learning and operating a completely different offense designed by John Fox and Dowell Loggains in 2017, Mahomes was digesting Nagy’s offense in Kansas City, giving him a significantly larger knowledge base on which to work in 2018.
“He’s had a full year, more than a year to sit behind it and learn and understand and watch tape with those quarterbacks last year and get to see all the talk, all the discussions of where you go on this play and that play, whereas Mitchell hasn’t had that,” Nagy said. “He’s being forced into this thing right away, and so that’s where these growing pains are going to occur. That’s where — I just want to make it clear to him and to everybody, if you’re realistic about it, it does take a little bit of time and in the mean time, as you saw last night, we have a defense that can help us out during this process. And so the sooner we get it and it starts clicking, then the better, but that’s the difference between the two, and it’s obviously neat to see Patrick doing so well right now.”
Every quarterback is different, and every situation is different, but Mahomes’ instant success coupled with the massive Year-2 gains made in 2017 by the Rams’ Jared Goff and the Eagles’ Carson Wentz does put Trubisky’s growing pains in more of a spotlight. While Mahomes and Wentz are/were in their second year in an offense, Goff made the Pro Bowl in Year 1 of operating Sean McVay’s offense.
Things can change quickly, though. A year ago, the question wasn’t if the Bears screwed up by not drafting Mahomes, it was if they screwed up by not drafting Watson, who lit the NFL on fire with 21 total touchdowns in seven games before tearing his ACL. Through two games in 2018, Watson only has three touchdowns to two interceptions for an 0-2 Texans side as the takes have shifted to pitting Trubisky against Mahomes.
This isn’t to say that the Bears got it right or wrong with Trubisky. We don’t know that yet. The Bears believe they got it right, but Trubisky still needs to prove them right. Others believe Bears got it wrong, but two — or 14 — games is too small a sample size to make that sweeping declaration.
There are things in Trubisky’s game that can be picked apart and scrutinized that go beyond the box score, but the counter-argument presented around Halas Hall is that these things take time. And that’ll continue to be the case in Chicago, no matter how much instant success Mahomes has in western Missouri.
“I think a lot of outsiders will because it’s easy to compare two people because they were drafted in the same draft, top 10, one ahead of the other, so those comparisons are easy,” Nagy said. “But what’s real behind that is what I just said. You have one guy that has had plenty of time now to learn it, and when I say plenty of time trust me, (Mahomes is) learning this thing too. So he’s just had an extra year to go through it. I don’t think that’s fair to Mitch to be put in that position, and so I know Mitch doesn’t put that on himself. We certainly don’t do that. Hopefully in the end both of them have great, long careers in this type of offense.”