Every so often, Mitch Trubisky has conjured up the sort of eye-catching “special” throws expected from a former second overall pick. A few popped up in the Bears’ win over the Detroit Lions on Sunday, specifically his 18-yard touchdown strike to Ben Braunecker and a 33-yard deep ball to Allen Robinson with pressure in his face.
Those two throws represent two of the more encouraging moments for Trubisky during his third year in the NFL. Quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone called Trubisky’s touchdown to Braunecker “great,” and was impressed by the throw to Robinson given he got hit after releasing it.
“He lets that thing go with the anticipation, which we’re always preaching to him,” Ragone said. “To me, even though that play wasn’t a touchdown, that throw in general is kind of what obviously we’re hoping more and more of those type plays as the rest of the regular season moves on.”
The question the Bears have to ask themselves is this: Is Trubisky’s ability to make outstanding throws enough to out-weigh the glaring issues encompassing their quarterback and an offense averaging just 18 points per game?
Plenty of teams and coaches have been enamored by “special” abilities in quarterbacks (Jay Cutler, for these purposes, is a prime example). Plenty of coaches, too, have been drawn by the allure of being the guy to finally harness talent that shows up occasionally on highlight reels.
It’s how the Bears can, at the least, talk themselves into keeping Trubisky as their starting quarterback for the rest of 2019. And it’s how general manager Ryan Pace, speaking on WBBM-780 (the Bears’ flagship radio station) prior to Sunday’s game against the Lions, can make this argument as to why he’s confident in Trubisky:
“I think this is all part of playing quarterback in the NFL.” Pace said. “Every quarterback goes through this and it’s just part of the experience. … There’s growth that happens on the field. There’s growth that happens off the field. Other young quarterbacks around the league are going through it, the same thing, and honestly we’re proud of the way that Mitch is handling it.”
“You see it within games right now. You saw it in Philly, it was really a tale of two halves. So he’s fighting his way out of it within games.
“We all know that Mitch can play better. Mitch knows that. He’s just in the process of navigating through this along with the rest of the offense. He has confidence in himself. His teammates have confidence in him. And we’ve just got to fight through this.”
Pace does not speak to the media during the regular season, and is not going to send a message to his quarterback when coach Matt Nagy is sticking behind Trubisky (to put it another way: If he had already determined Trubisky weren’t his 2020 quarterback, he wouldn’t say it publicly).
Between lauding those special throws and — accurately — pointing out not everything in 2019’s offense is Trubisky’s fault, though, there is some groundwork laid for the Bears to build an argument for not changing starting quarterbacks in 2020.
But the Bears need to be careful when it comes to thinking they can harness Trubisky’s “special” ability. Quarterbacks, generally, are who they are after making 32 starts — and Trubisky on Sunday will start his 35th game in the NFL. The late-emerging successes of Alex Smith (who was with Matt Nagy in Kansas City) and Drew Brees (who was with Pace in New Orleans) are the exceptions to the rule, not the rule.
Still, the more “special” throws, the better for the Bears’ (slim) chances of making 2019 a relevant season in their 100-year history. But the Bears in 2020 will need to strike a proper balance between evaluating the occasional high-degree-of-difficulty completion and the routine decisions made by Trubisky.
“Just continue to try to do my job and I think those really good throws will come,” Trubisky said. “And just, when the normal play is there just continue to make that and put my team in a good position to stay on the field, convert third downs and just try and score points, ultimately.”