Mitch Trubisky as effective as any dual-threat QB in NFL right now
Mitch Trubisky remains very much in the formative stages of his development as an NFL passer. The Bears winning their division and him being named a Pro Bowl alternate en route to one of the best statistical seasons ever by a Bears quarterback is a huge credit to Trubisky, Nagy and all the quarterback’s and coach’s peers.
It’s also a testament to GM Ryan Pace, who obviously had the courage of his convictions to make the bold trade for Trubisky last year but also the foresight to assemble an ideal Year 2 QB incubator. Remember, the franchise’s most important asset languished arguably in the league’s worst situation for a rookie signal caller last season.
But Nagy himself is the first to admit that Trubisky is only scratching the surface of his potential as a passer. He said just this week essentially that Trubisky remains on the ground floor of a four- or five-story building in terms of his scheme mastery. That’s always been the timeline, and considering there’s already been more good than bad and very obvious progress from September until now, it should only enhance fans’ excitement for what Trubisky potentially can become.
Yet as a runner, one could argue Trubisky already is as adept as any quarterback in the league — at a time when dual-threat quarterbacks have never been more prevalent. Trubisky is one of five with at least 400 rushing yards entering Week 16, with Marcus Mariota, Blake Bortles and Russell Wilson all within striking distance. For comparison, over the previous decade, an average of 2.8 quarterbacks per season reached 400 rushing yards, and only once — in 2013 — have there been more than five.
Trubisky, with 402 yards on 60 attempts, ranks fifth this season among quarterbacks, trailing rookies Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen, Cam Newton and Deshaun Watson, the latter two having started two more games. He’s also undoubtedly been a better thrower than both rookies and perhaps Newton, too. But in terms of efficiency and value, has there been a better running quarterback this season? We’d argue the answer is no.
Trubisky leads the NFL in both yards per carry (6.7) and first-down percentage (45) among all ball carriers with at least 60 attempts. That second number is particularly important, and we can use this past Sunday’s seminal win vs. the Green Bay Packers to illustrate the point.
“Mitch made some great plays with his legs in the pocket where it broke down and then made the pass,” Nagy said Monday of Trubisky’s outing vs. Green Bay. “Or made a scramble on a third-and-long there in the fourth quarter.
Indeed, Trubisky been a lethal weapon as a chain-moving runner, and he seems to produce a backbreaking run on second- or third-and-long every week. Sunday it was a 14-yard gain on third-and-10. Against the Rams, Trubisky picked up 13 on third-and-11 early on when he was really struggling with his accuracy in his first game back from injury.
All told, Trubisky has converted on second- or third-and-long (six or more yards to go) as a runner on eight of 19 attempts that don’t include kneel-downs. Especially on third down, when the defense gets conservative and concedes most everything in front of the line to gain, those conversions can really have a crippling effect on a defense.
Of course, Trubisky also has made plenty of big throws on the move after buying extra time using his legs, a skill of his that was lauded entering the league. His off-script conversions on third-and-7 and second-and-13 Sunday to Adam Shaheen and Taylor Gabriel, respectively, were among his biggest plays.
Trubisky might not have Jackson’s sub-4.4 jets or Newton’s Superman run strength, but his innate ability to escape trouble and know when to tuck and when to throw has been an integral element in the Bears offense.
“Well, some guys have it. Some guys don’t,” Nagy said. … That’s just having a sense and a feel for your timing and your QB clock that you have. He has a good awareness in the pocket.”
While Khalil Mack on Sunday was becoming the only Bears defender not named Richard Dent with at least 12 ½ sacks in a season, Trubisky became the most prolific single-season rushing QB in franchise history not named Bobby Douglass.
It seems that analysts line up to critique Trubisky’s deficiencies as a thrower. Isn’t it only fair, then, that we point out his unique talents as a runner and the role it’s played in how far he and the Bears have come.