Growth For Trubisky A Process Requiring Patience

September 26, 2018 - 3:49 pm
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. (670 The Score) -- The main artery of Halas Hall, which connects the locker room to the practice fields and meeting rooms, is filled with motivational messages in bold navy and orange. 

There are staples from coach Matt Nagy -- BE YOU -- that were painted on the walls with the arrival of his new regime. But Wednesday, there was one written on a small marker board that quarterback Mitchell Trubisky passed by after addressing his process of growth.

Good is the enemy of great. ― Jim Collins

It's a message that should resonate with the 24-year-old Trubisky, who's currently addressing the weight of expectations that he carries by first fighting his own high hopes. Trubisky came up as a quarterback studying the likes of Drew Brees because that's the kind of player he aspires to become.

The Bears are 2-1 and sitting in first place in the NFC North early on despite the play of the quarterback whom they believed could deliver this kind of success. Trubisky is struggling with pre-snap calls and recognitions and then appears overwhelmed when the snap is received, as his footwork and mechanics become unhinged and the ball too often sails from its intended target.

Put another way, Trubisky is experiencing the kind of growing pains that Nagy expected at this point.

"I’m still trying to master this offense one day at a time," Trubisky said.

Nagy went on record early in training camp to say this new offense -- with its complex system, plays that evolve into other plays and all the new players operating in it -- would scuffle a bit early in the regular season. That has certainly been the case for the Bears, who rank second in time of possession but 27th in red-zone efficiency (40 percent). They're 26th in the NFL in averaging 293.7 offensive yards per game.

Meanwhile, Trubisky has the second-lowest passer rating of any quarterback from a clean pocket with a mark of 76.6, per Pro Football Focus, illustrating the discomfort that he currently has operating the offense with precision. 

The kind of big plays that Nagy schemed in Kansas City haven't found their way to Chicago because of Trubisky's early struggles. Instead, the Bears are mixing short passes with a greater emphasis on the running game. It has reached a point to which Nagy is considering scaling back the offense.

"When you feel like it's getting close to that breaking point or too much, you got to pull back," Nagy said Monday.

For Nagy and Trubisky, it's a balance of "breaking point" against "breakthrough," words they have each used in assessing the potential of this offense. Behind the scenes, Trubisky logs long hours attempting to master this offense -- everything from self-scouting to walking through his drops in the living room with fullback Michael Burton, with whom he resides.

While Trubisky is doing everything he can in believing in that breakthrough, it's only natural for a coach like Nagy to wonder whether the young quarterback is being overloaded. Trubisky is a second-year pro who's 28 college and NFL starts removed from high school.

Trubisky went into great detail explaining the checklist with which he works through on each play. It goes something like this: break the huddle, identify where the ball could go, make the calls and get players aligned, declare the "Mike" linebacker and spot whether it's a zone or man coverage presented, recognize a blitz that's either clear or disguised and then go from there. He takes the snap, works through his steps and does what the fans see on television.

"Then you just take a deep breath and play football," Trubisky said. "It’s easier said than done. But we’re still in this process growing within this offense and the more reps you get, the more you calm down, the less thinking you’re doing, then you just go out and play. 

"The more reps and more experience you get in the offense, that checklist gets smaller and smaller because some of those things, you don’t even have to think about them anymore."

Added Nagy: "He's never had that before in some of these opportunities. Now he's getting a chance to see it."

Perhaps there's a chance at that feel-good game that Trubisky could desperately use come Sunday at Soldier Field, where the Bears will face a Buccaneers defense that's tied for last in the league with 362.7 passing yards allowed per game. Tampa Bay has also surrendered 30.3 points per game and seven passing touchdowns thus far.

The spotlight that follows Trubisky's every throw is shining brighter these days. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who studied under Nagy's watch last season, has 13 touchdown passes through three games. He was selected 10th in the 2017 NFL Draft, eight slots after Trubisky.

The Bears made the bold move to trade up a slot and select Trubisky over alternatives like Mahomes and Deshaun Watson -- who went 12th to the Texans -- because they believed the his work ethic and talent would make Trubisky the best quarterback in this class. The work ethic shouldn't be questioned, while the talents are clear only with individual moments. 

Take the 39-yard strike from Trubisky to top target Allen Robinson from Sunday as positive evidence. But then there was that third-and-goal play late in the second quarter in which Nagy bunched four receivers to Trubisky's right and Robinson alone to the left. There was no hesitation for Trubisky, who threw a poor fade route to Robinson and misfired. He also missed that the Cardinals had three defenders on the four targets out wide. It was a chance to exploit the defense and yet another exhibit of turning six points into three.

For Trubisky, the issue is processing the details of this offense, taking that to his pre-snap assignments and working through each play with the comfort required to be successful. He still has a believer in Nagy, who like general manager Ryan Pace became enamored with Trubisky's potential ahead of that draft.

"He’s doing special things in our offense at this position right now," Nagy said. "With where we’re at, how long we’ve been together or how short we’ve been together, to me right now all he needs to worry about is what my special is. I’m happy with where he’s at. I know he’s going to just continue to keep growing."

Whether there's greatness in store for Trubisky remains to be seen. For now, it's an ongoing process that requires patience.

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.​​