By Anthony Treash
Let’s not completely blame Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Pace for the massive mistake of drafting Mitchell Trubisky. Just about everyone was wrong on Trubisky. ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay both had him as the top quarterback in the class, and so did PFF.
Trubisky has looked noticeably worse in 2019 than his two prior years, though he was still bad in those two seasons. Nonetheless, some have been defensive regarding Trubisky, excusing his poor play as part of the process for a rising NFL quarterback (i.e. the people looking at passer rating, QBR and Pro Bowl appearances as evaluating methods).
Attention Pace and the Bears franchise: It’s time.
It’s time to cut your losses and admit Trubisky is a sunk cost. And if you’re still on the fence as to whether or not a move should be made for another QB, PFF presents why this is a necessary.
The Mitchell Trubisky era needs to end
Since coming into the league in 2017, Trubisky has ranked among the 10 worst quarterbacks in the NFL in each of his three seasons (66.4 grade in 2017 was 25th, 63.6 in 2018 was 30th and 45.7 in 2019 is currently last). Combine those three seasons, 33 quarterbacks have recorded 1,000 snaps and Trubisky ranks 32nd among those 33 in PFF grade. In that same timespan, there have been only five QBs to throw over 40 percent of their passes 10-plus yards downfield as uncatchable: DeShone Kizer, Josh Rosen, Tyrod Taylor, Josh Allen and Trubisky.
Trubisky’s biggest enemy seems to be himself on intermediate throws (10-19 yards downfield) as he ranks, over his career, second to last in each of the following categories: PFF passing grade (56.6), yards per attempt (8.3), passer rating (68.8) and uncatchable pass rate (33.2 percent).
It was clear that former Bears head coach John Fox and his regime did all they could to make Trubisky a below-average starter through the simplest NFL offense known to mankind. The innovative mind of Matt Nagy, who came from the Andy Reid coaching tree, was brought in to form a complex offense that defenses could not read immediately and to hopefully make Trubisky a high-end starter. Trubisky clearly could not handle it. Under Nagy (2018 and 2019), Trubisky has been abysmal throwing downfield. On throws of 10-plus yards, he has thrown the second-worst uncatchable pass rate at 46.2 percent and also ranks dead last in PFF passing grade at 56.3. Not to mention, his intermediate range passing grade is dead last, too, at 44.
Trubisky is holding Nagy’s play-calling and offense back as a whole. Play-action passes are far more efficient, yet Nagy can’t run those plays with Trubisky. Since 2018, these are the four lowest QB passing grade when running play-action: Joe Flacco at 66.6, Josh Rosen at 60.2, Ryan Tannehill at 59.2 and Trubisky at 46.1.
At 25 years of age and two and a half seasons of some of the worst QB play we have ever seen, the time has come for the Mitchell Trubisky era in Chicago to conclude. There’s still hope for the Windy City – as long as Pace is content with admitting he got this one wrong. Without further ado, PFF presents options the Bears have to consider in order to get them back into Super Bowl conversation:
Trade for Nick Foles
Jacksonville receives: 2020 second-round pick and 2021 third-round pick
When a team trades away one of the league’s best cornerbacks in Jalen Ramsey for two first-round picks and a fourth-rounder, it’s apparent that it’s building a team for a few years down the road. Entering the year though, the Jaguars had a different mentality, as they paid 2017 Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles $88 million over four years to be their starting QB. After an injury in Week 1, the Jags’ sixth-round selection this past NFL draft, Gardner Minshew II, was brought in to be the team’s starter while Foles recovers from a broken collarbone. Known for his unprecedented look, the young rookie has taken the league by storm and has become one of the best pure passers.
Minshew has fumbling issues, however, when he throws, he has been one of the best in 2019. On throws of 10-plus yards, Minshew is PFF’s 10th highest-graded QB at 89.9. Minshew also has posted a solid eight big-time throws to just three turnover-worthy plays and ranks fifth in passer rating on these throws 10-plus yards at 123.2 (behind Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers, Kirk Cousins and Patrick Mahomes). With that and being the eighth highest-graded passer from a clean pocket at 85.9, it’d be hard to turn your head away from a rookie on a four-year deal that costs under $3 million in total over that period over a guy who costs $22 million per year when you know your franchise isn’t going to the Super Bowl soon.
Before spending the 2017 and 2018 seasons in Philadelphia, Foles had a one-year stint in Kansas City where he served as the backup to Alex Smith. The Chiefs had a couple co-offensive coordinators under Reid: Brad Childress (now senior offensive assistant for the Bears) and Nagy. Seems like Foles in Chicago makes a lot of sense.
Everything Trubisky is bad at, Foles is good at. He is solid out of a clean pocket, recording an 83.6 PFF grade over his career and sharp on his downfield throws. Since 2017, Foles has an elite 90.1 PFF grade on his throws 10-plus yards (which is around the NFL average). He isn’t Patrick Mahomes or Deshaun Watson, but he’ll be good enough to lead Nagy’s innovative offense to success.
Trade for Marcus Mariota
Tennessee receives: 2020 fifth-round pick and 2020 sixth-round pick
The 2015 second-overall pick, Marcus Mariota, is in the last year of his deal with the Titans and was recently benched for the volatile Ryan Tannehill. You hate to see it – unless you’re a Chicago Bear fan. If Chicago is determined to bounce back and play to win the Super Bowl this season, trading very little for Mariota, an impending free agent, is an intriguing route to go.
Mariota may not be the guy in Tennessee, but he is far and away a more polished QB than Trubisky. Mariota didn’t have the best start to his career after posting a PFF grade in the 60s in his first two seasons, but he rebounded nicely in 2017 with a 76.2 and followed that with a 76.8 in 2018. In that two-year span, Mariota’s deep passing was sharp with the 12th best deep-passing grade, 30 big-time throws to just five turnover-worthy plays and a 42 percent accurate pass rate that ranked ninth.
Trade for Cam Newton
Carolina receives: 2020 second-round pick and 2020 fifth-round pick
In the two games Cam Newton appeared in for the Panthers this season, Newton was bad. However, there were reports of him playing through injury. We’ve been down this road with Cam before. In the first nine weeks of 2018, Newton was the 11th best quarterback from a passing perspective, with an 81.4 passing grade. Subsequently, the same shoulder that needed offseason surgery in between the 2016 and 2017 seasons bothered him once more and caused his passing grade from Week 10 on to fall to 53.2, ranking 28th.
His 2015 MVP season that resulted in an 86.5 overall grade could very well could be replicated given the right situation and if his health is order. Moreover, a quality of Newton’s that has to intrigue Nagy and the Bears is the fact he has vast experience in an RPO system and has been fairly successful in it. When he opts to pull on an RPO and pass, Newton has the third highest PFF passing grade since 2016 . His nine passing touchdowns throwing from an RPO are tied for the most and he has kept the interception column at a clean zero on those.
Nagy plays to his quarterback’s strengths. With Newton, the Bears can increase the use of play-action — the most effective passing plays in the book — as it is one of Newton’s greatest strengths. Since 2015, Newton’s 88.1 play-action passing grade is the 11th best in the NFL (Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers are 12th and 13th for what it’s worth) and his 35 play-action touchdowns are the fifth most.
Give a healthy Newton the weapons (Chicago has these), a great play-caller (Chicago has one) and a good defense (Chicago has one) and you may see that 2015 MVP season come to fruition once more.
Trade for Teddy Bridgewater
New Orleans receives: 2021 third-round pick
Like Mariota, Bridgewater fits in this trade now or sign in offseason boat as he is a free agent following the 2019 season. After intense rehab to get back from a severe knee injury that cost him his leg, two-glove Teddy finally got his opportunity to showcase his play after New Orleans Saints starter Drew Brees went down in Week 2 with a thumb injury. Bridgewater was rusty his first couple weeks, but over the past four weeks he has been lights out, ranking fourth among quarterbacks in PFF overall grade at 84.3.
The No. 1 quarterback in PFF passing grade on play-action passes is Teddy Bridgewater at 92.9. In addition, Bridgewater has thrown three big-time throws and has zero turnover-worthy plays out of play-action, while also throwing just one uncatchable pass across his 37 attempts (a rate 4.5 percent lower than any other quarterback).
Trubisky has shown a lack of patience on long-developing plays. Since he came into the league, he is PFF’s lowest-graded QB on plays where the time-to-throw eclipses 3.1 seconds. That has been Bridgewater’s specialty in 2019. On those long plays, Bridgewater is the fifth highest-graded QB at 80.2 and has thrown the third lowest rate of uncatchable passes while posting the third highest adjusted completion percentage.
For more statistical NFL analysis, go to PFF.com
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