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.”
Here are J.J. Stankevitz's grades from the Bears' Week 2 victory over the Seahawks at home.
We’ll start with the bad for Mitch Trubisky: He overthrew a wide-open Taylor Gabriel on the first play of the Bears’ second drive, then didn’t step into his throw on a deep shot down the sideline to Allen Robinson, which was underthrown and easily picked off by Shaquem Griffin. The second interception Trubisky threw looked to have more to do with good “shot-blocking” execution by the Seahawks, who had a safety and a linebacker jumping to deflect a short pass that round up being tipped into the arms of a Griffin. But with the Bears driving late in the first half, Trubisky fired an egregiously ill-advised pass to the front corner of the end zone that should’ve been intercepted. In the first half, there still were some instances of Trubisky seemingly having “happy feet” and not looking altogether comfortable in the pocket.
But the good for Trubisky was how he operates the offense on the Bears’ first drive, which went 10 plays for 96 yards and ended when he made the correct read on a shovel pass option to Trey Burton for a three-yard touchdown. He did everything asked of him on a critical 11-play, 66-yard scoring drive midway through the second half, too. That drive ended with an excellent throw to Anthony Miller while rolling to his left for a touchdown.
Overall, Trubisky’s final line of 25 completion on 34 attempts for 200 yards with two interceptions and two touchdowns and a passer rating of 83 feels about right. There were more encouraging signs from Trubisky in Week 2 than in Week 1, but that underthrown ball to Robinson and the lucky-to-not-be-picked-off throw in the first half drive this grade down a bit.
RUNNING BACKS: C-
From a pure production standpoint, Jordan Howard rushing for only 35 yards on 14 carries was disappointing, even if the Seahawks were selling out to stop the run. Howard did have three catches on four targets for 33 yards, including an 18-yard catch on which he showed impressive concentration. Tarik Cohen made a great catch on a broken play toss from Trubisky, but only had eight yards on four carries.
On some level, though, there just wasn’t much there for these running backs. And credit Howard for trying to get what he could — he spent, on average, 2.56 seconds behind the line of scrimmage; in 2017, he averaged a shade over three seconds behind the line of scrimmage, according to NFL’s Next Gen Stats.
WIDE RECEIVERS: B
Both Gabriel and Robinson could’ve had big-chunk gains had Trubisky made good throws on those two missed opportunities in the first half. But while Robinson averaged 8.3 yards per catch, he accounted for six first downs, and Gabriel made a number of plays in the second half. Miller ran an outstanding route to beat cornerback Akeem King for his first career touchdown, too.
TIGHT ENDS: C+
Trey Burton caught all four targets that came his way, including that shovel pass touchdown, while Dion Sims did plenty of good things as a run and pass blocker on the Bears’ 11-play, 66-yard touchdown drive in the third and fourth quarter. The run blocking as a whole probably could’ve been better from this group, though, with Seattle selling out to stop the run. Burton also picked up a first down in the red zone running the read option in the first half.
OFFENSIVE LINE: C+
Only two offensive linemen allowed pressures, according to Pro Football Focus: Charles Leno (2) and Bobby Massie (1). The pass blocking was solid but the Bears needed more from their run game, which falls on this group as well as Howard.
DEFENSIVE LINE: A
The objective for Jay Rodgers’ unit was to contain Russell Wilson, and this group did so successfully. Wilson only had 17 yards on three rushing attempts and was sacked six times, including by nose tackle Eddie Goldman. Goldman, Akiem Hicks and Jonathan Bullard all notched tackles for a loss, too.
OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS: A
Khalil Mack dominated again, with a sack-strip for the second consecutive game as he terrorized Seahawks right tackle Germain Ifedi. Aaron Lynch had a disruptive game, too, recording his first sack of the season as well as a hurry and tackle for a loss. Leonard Floyd didn’t do much to pressure Wilson but was fine in coverage and notched a defended pass.
INSIDE LINEBACKERS: A
Danny Trevathan played one of his best games in a Bears uniform, coming through with a late-game sack-strip of Wilson and finishing with a monster stat line: A team-high eight tackles, two sacks and two hurries, as well as a tackle for a loss and that forced fumble. Roquan Smith had a bit of a slow start but after self-admittedly shaking off some rust, he finished with seven tackles and a pass break-up while, from a more qualitative view, looked like a difference-maker on this Bears’ defense.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: A
We’ll be interested to hear Vic Fangio’s take on how Kyle Fuller defended Wilson’s 19-yard touchdown toss to Tyler Lockett in the back corner of the end zone — should Fuller have got his head around to make a play on the ball in the air, or was his attempt at dislodging the ball from the receiver’s hands the proper technique? Either way, that’s now twice Fuller has been beat by excellent throws this year, which on one hand isn’t his fault but on the other, he’s being paid to be able to defend those throws.
Prince Amukamara’s pick-six, though, covers for whatever mistakes may or may not have been made by this unit earlier in the game. Also worth noting: Eddie Jackson recorded his first sack in the NFL (he figured it was his first sack since he brought down Dak Prescott his sophomore year at Alabama) while Bryce Callahan and Sherrick McManis both executed some well-designed pressures dialed up by Fangio. Callahan had a good day in coverage, too.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A
Cohen gets dinged for a fair catch on a punt at the four-yard line, but he later caught a Michael Dickson punt at the seven and dashed 32 yards on his return. Pat O’Donnell had a punt downed at the one that almost resulted in a safety. Credit Anthony Miller with successfully recovering a drop-kick onside kick to seal the Bears’ win, too.
Nagy’s playcalling on a crucial 11-play, 66-yard scoring drive that started midway through the third quarter and ended early in the fourth was excellent. He set up easy, short-chunk completions for Trubisky and attacked the edges of a Seahawks defense that had clogged up the middle of the field for most of the game. The Bears were on schedule on that drive and efficiently chewed up 6:15 to get in the end zone.
Once again, the script Nagy and Mark Helfrich came up with led to a first-drive touchdown. And Nagy called two smart timeouts: One facing a third-and-five at the Seattle 27-yard line with about four minutes to go in the second quarter (which led to a first down completion) and another to regroup his hands team with Dickson ready to attempt a rare drop-kick onside kick.
Fangio’s defensive plan to use his defensive line to contain Wilson and bring pressure from guys like Callahan and McManis worked well. And it was clear, from an overall standpoint, that the Bears weren’t experiencing negative aftereffects of that loss to the Packers — instead, this was a team motivated by how they lost that game.