Bears Offseason Outlook: Quarterback

After showcasing progress in 2018, what's next for Mitchell Trubisky?

Chris Emma
January 30, 2019 - 12:26 pm
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Editor's note: This is the first in a series of positional breakdowns as the Bears enter the offseason. Click here for all of them as we move along.

(670 The Score) It was a year ago this time that coach Matt Nagy began to plan for what quarterback Mitchell Trubisky could become and where the Bears could go.

Nagy was hired to the Bears in part because of how he could help mold Trubisky, the second overall pick in 2017 who needed a better scheme and more structure. What followed was a sophomore season for Trubisky that was marked by personal progress, a Pro Bowl appearance and the Bears winning the NFC North crown.

Trubisky's development has left the Bears feeling optimistic. And as the team's attention turns to 2019, we start our positional breakdown with Trubisky and the quarterback spot.

Who's back: Mitchell Trubisky, 24; Chase Daniel, 32

The Bears are in their window of contention as Trubisky is on his rookie contract for the next three years -- assuming his fifth-year option is picked up -- and paid at a club-friendly rate through 2020.

What kind of second contract Trubisky could earn remains to be seen and may become more clear during the 2019 season. Should Trubisky take the next steps that Nagy has in mind and the Bears enjoy more success along the way, he should be locked in as Chicago's quarterback for the long term. In the meantime, the Bears will enjoy the financial flexibility that his rookie contract provides.

A 10-year NFL veteran, Daniel remains under contract with the Bears for a second season. He started two games in 2018 as Trubisky dealt with a shoulder injury, going 53-of-76 for 515 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. The Bears were 1-1 in those Daniel starts.

As an extension of Nagy's coaching staff, Daniel has also been a key veteran figure in guiding Trubisky.

Free agent: Tyler Bray, 27

Bears general manager Ryan Pace will face one minor decision regarding the quarterback depth chart this offseason with Bray set to become a free agent. The Bears brought in Bray to be a steady veteran presence -- similar to Daniel -- and kept him on the roster through the practice squad later in the season.

Pace and the Bears will re-evaluate the importance of Bray's role and either retain him on a new contract or search for an alternative in quarterback depth.

2018 review

Trubisky's second season began slowly, as he had just two touchdowns and three interceptions through three games and took responsibility for the Bears' season-opening loss to the Packers, a contest in which he felt his late-game mindset was poor.

But Trubisky took off during the Bears' blowout win against the Buccaneers on Sept. 30, completing 19 of 26 passes for 354 yards and six touchdowns. He continued to build on that performance in a positive manner, with some inconsistent games mixed in.

Trubisky was 289-of-434 for 3,223 yards, 24 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 14 regular-season games, over which the Bears went 11-3.

"He conquered the next-play mentality," Nagy said of Trubisky during the Bears' seasoning-end press conference. "He conquered that. He conquered the steps of 101 progressions. By the end of the year, he was reading it one-two-three (progressions), run. That, he conquered. Now, I think level two next year is going to be him really recognizing pre-snap what he's about to see from these defenses. 

"Last year, he was so focused in on, 'What we do we do on offense? Hell, I've never run this offense before. What does that mean?' Now, he knows it all and can take that next step of figuring out, 'OK, here they come. They got a blitz, cover-0. Now, I know what to do, what to check to, I know the protections, all of that.' That's going to be the big one for him."

The lasting image of Trubisky's campaign came in the Bears' loss to the Eagles in the wild-card round on Jan. 6. Trubisky led a go-ahead six-play, 80-yard touchdown drive early in the fourth quarter to put the Bears ahead. With the Bears trailing 16-15 and only 56 seconds remaining, Trubisky then led Chicago to 33 yards across five plays to set up kicker Cody Parkey for a potential game-winning 43-yard field goal.

Parkey missed it, rendering Trubisky's work not enough.

2019 outlook

The finer details of quarterback play will ultimately define Trubisky in the eyes of Nagy, and that work begins with the Bears' offseason program in April. Pace and his front office brass will follow that lead in assessing Trubisky and what he could become.

Public perception of Trubisky has been mixed during his first two seasons, with a rookie year of mixed results coming under the watch of a lame-duck coaching staff and then positive-but-inconsistent marks in 2018. Will he perform more consistently next season?

Nagy has often reminded that Trubisky was experiencing a big learning curve in his first year in a new offense. Beyond that, the success of Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes -- the likely MVP who also was a first-round pick in 2017 and tutored by Nagy for one season in Kansas City -- sometimes shined an unfair shadow of skepticism over Trubisky.

In 2019, Trubisky and the Bears would love to see the kind of Nintendo numbers that Mahomes posted. A more realistic expectation is that Trubisky consistently is the reason why the Bears are winning games next season.

With all 11 starters returning on offense and the same head coach, offensive coordinator and position coach in place, Trubisky will have every opportunity to continue his development and take his next big step in 2019.

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