Matt Nagy | Mitchell Trubisky
© Mike Dinovo | 2018 Dec 16
Matt Nagy | Mitchell Trubisky © Mike Dinovo | 2018 Dec 16

I still love to read.

With the demands of everyday life, however, my time spent reading is less and less each year. Every holiday season I add more and more books to my wish list, and every year the stack on my nightstand simply grows taller and taller. Whether due to family obligations, household obligations, or just a preference for spending my free time traversing around Skyrim or Lemoyne and greater Saint Denis rather than putting my nose into a book, I have found myself reading less and less with each trip around the sun.

Of course, during the football season you can add another demand for my time, which makes it even tougher to read.

But still, even if it is just a few minutes before the head hits the pillow, I try and find a way to squeeze in a few pages.

The books I tend to read are almost always of a historical bent, as non-fiction is more of my thing. The current book I am working through is a new release from Admiral James Stavridis, USN (Ret.). Stavridis spent more than 30 years in the United States Navy, rising to the rank of a four-star admiral. He served as the Supreme Allied Commander at NATO and also commanded the US Southern Command. Upon his retirement he served five years as the dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, from which he obtained his PhD. His newest work is titled Sailing True North: Ten Admirals and the Voyage of Character and Stavridis examines ten historical admirals, their leadership style and their character. 

Even while reading, however, the football mind is never turned off. Doubly so during football season.

We will return to Admiral Stavridis in a moment but this is, after all, a piece about Mitchell Trubisky. In the wake of the Chicago Bears’ most recent loss, 22-14 at the hands of the Philadelphia Eagles, the heat around Chicago’s young passer is rising to a level previously unseen. Chicago entered halftime with zero points on the board and had fewer yards of offense (nine) than their hosts had points (12).

Yes, Trubisky and the offense picked things up in the second half and made a contest out of the affair, but the problems that have plagued the passer this season remain and show no signs of abating. Scanning through Twitter it seems that conventional wisdom right now holds that head coach Matt Nagy faces a choice: Either fix his quarterback and lose his locker room, or bench his quarterback and perhaps save his locker room.

Quite the pickle.

Now we can return to Stavridis for a moment. This is a man who commanded a Navy destroyer, a destroyer squadron, and an aircraft carrier battle group in combat. He...he has some sea legs underneath him. Quoting from Sailing True North now: “As I like to remind young leaders, the World War II fleet admiral Ernest King once remarked, ‘The sign of a great ship handler is never getting into a situation that requires great ship handling.’” 

If Nagy wants to stick with Trubisky and make him be an effective quarterback, he needs to stop putting him into situations that require effective quarterbacking. 

The more and more I study quarterbacks, the more I have come to realize that quarterbacks simply are who they are coming out of college and while you can smooth over the rough edges, they are in large part the passers we see on their collegiate film. Yes, there are exceptions to the rules, and yes scheme fit and coaching matters, but there are more instances of quarterbacks living up to the standards they set in college, than there are of them becoming something vastly different.

Let’s look at this play from Sunday against the Eagles:

Trubisky (#10) is in the shotgun and the Bears run a simple half-field read here: On the left side of the formation they have a slant/flat concept, and on the right side of the formation they run a curls concept. What is one of the traits that we so often highlight as having critical importance to playing the quarterback position? Processing speed. Here, Trubisky first reads the slant/flat on the left, then quickly snaps his eyes to the right side to look at the curls concept, and despite having options open to him, he never gets the ball out and takes a sack. Despite having options downfield. 

By options, I mean all three routes to the right were open, to varying degrees.

When I saw this play, my mind snapped back to the runup to the 2018 draft. Looking back to that quarterback class I had three passers graded above Trubisky: Deshaun Watson, Patrick Mahomes and DeShone Kizer. My concerns about Trubisky, as you can see in the link, were two-fold. Second was his mechanics - and I believe we have beaten that horse to death over the past two years together - but first was his decision-making/processing speed.

One play that gave me serious pause about him was a throw against Virginia that I discuss in that piece. Well, if you were wondering dear reader if we were going to break that down together, well, you are in luck. Watch this video breakdown of my thoughts on that throw:

(The particular play is the first one in this video).

This video is from February of 2017. It breaks down Trubisky running a curls concept and being fooled by...something in the secondary. It shows Trubisky then taking a sack as a result.

Again, not much has changed.

So if Nagy wants to stick by Trubisky and try and make him effective over the remainder of the 2019 season, how can he do it? Perhaps by heeding the wisdom from Stavridis, and by limiting the amount of “quarterbacking” he has to do and relying on him more as an athlete.

Here was Chicago’s first big play of the afternoon against the Eagles:

This is a play-action design that moves the quarterback out of the pocket and gets him into space. Trubisky has really just two routes to choose from: The out-stop pattern from tight end Adam Shaheen (#87) or the deep post to Taylor Gabriel (#18). Trey Burton (#80) aligns as a fullback, and he slices across the formation in front of the quarterback to help protect him. Really, Trubisky has three options here: He can throw to Gabriel deep, he can throw to Shaheen back along the left sideline, or he can run with blockers in front of him.

With the process simplified, the results are better, and he has the option of an “out” by using his legs and athleticism.

Seeing this play reminded me of something we would witness from time to time a season ago: Nagy using his quarterback’s athleticism to get him into the flow of a game. Remember Trubisky’s big outburst a year ago against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers? Here is a play from their opening drive:

Facing a 2nd and 10, Nagy calls an inside zone read play but uses an Arc block in front of Trubisky (#10). Should the QB decide to pull the football, he’ll have Trey Burton (#80) in front of him blocking for him. That’s exactly what happens. Trubisky keeps the football around the right edge and Burton leads the way, and the QB picks up an easy 23 yards on Chicago’s opening drive. One they would cap off with a Trubisky touchdown pass to Burton on the very next play.

If Nagy is going to go down with the ship - you’ll excuse a nautical reference there - then play to what Trubisky is right now, and perhaps always was. Move him around, use him as a runner, and give him simplified reads with the ability to tuck and go. Perhaps his processing speed is not where it needs to be. Perhaps his mechanics from the pocket will never be fixed. But get him on the move and suddenly flaws are minimized:

In the third quarter of their Week 3 win at Washington, the Bears use Trubisky on a play-action rollout play, tasking him with throwing while on the move to his left. These are usually difficult throws for a right-handed quarterback to execute, especially with pressure bearing down on him as it is here.

But even when pressured like he is, Trubisky takes the time to get his left shoulder pointed to his target before releasing this pass to Gabriel. That subtle mechanical movement enables him to get enough velocity on this throw. 

Suddenly the issues with processing and mechanics are gone when he is outside and, for lack of a better phrase, being an athlete playing quarterback. What he is right now, and perhaps always was.

The assignment I was given this week was to come up with a schematic approach to riding it out with Trubisky. WIth talk of benching him and/or moving on from him in the offseason coming over the Chicago airwaves, is there a way moving forward conceptually? Here, I guess, is the answer. Make Trubisky the best modern version of a Wing-T quarterback you can. Rely on his athleticism. Use him more as a runner. Get him out of the pocket as much as you can, with more defined reads and the option to run. Will it look pretty? Perhaps not. Will it be the kind of modern offense we are used to seeing from NFL quarterbacks? Definitely not. Will it even work? Maybe not.

But how much are things working right now?

The decision is up to Admiral Nagy. He has the helm.