Life is about to change for Mitchell Trubisky.
The 23-year-old Chicago Bears starting quarterback produced only mixed results as a rookie, passing for 2,193 yards (59.4 completion percentage), 7 touchdowns and 7 interceptions over 12 starts, but better days may be on the horizon.
Part of last year’s problems stemmed from Trubisky’s inexperience. The second overall pick of the 2017 draft started only 13 games in college at North Carolina before he left for the NFL.
Trubisky’s supporting cast of wide receivers and tight ends also didn't help much. Chicago’s best two skill-position players -- outside of running backs Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen -- were Cameron Meredith and Zach Miller, both of whom suffered serious knee injuries in 2017. Kendall Wright led all Chicago wide receivers with 59 catches. The next closest, Joshua Bellamy, had only 23 receptions. Miller topped all Bears tight ends with 20 catches, and he missed the final eight games due to injury.
As far as the offense in general, the Bears ranked 29th in points scored (16.5), 30th in total yards (287.4) and dead last in passing yards (175.5).
Chicago attempted to right some of those wrongs in free agency by signing wide receivers Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel and tight end Trey Burton, all of whom are expected to create favorable mismatches for Trubisky.
The Bears also upgraded their offensive system when they hired Matt Nagy away from Kansas City.
Nagy’s offense is likely to put more stress on Trubisky, whose strengths appear to be athleticism, mobility and accuracy when rolling outside of the pocket. But Chicago -- by virtue of where they drafted the quarterback -- clearly feels Trubisky can handle the increased responsibility.
“[Matt Nagy’s system] puts a lot on the quarterback,” said new Bears backup quarterback Chase Daniel, who played under Nagy in Kansas City.
“Just barely talking to Mitch right after I signed [last week], he’s up for the task, and that’s something that, I think, when a quarterback takes accountability in any offense, especially this offense, it’s going to thrive and the players are going to gravitate toward him like they already have toward Mitch.”
Daniel stressed that a quarterback must have above-average intelligence to function properly in the Chiefs' system, a scheme originally designed by Kansas City coach Andy Reid and that Doug Pederson took with the him to the Super Bowl-winning Philadelphia Eagles two years ago.
“[The quarterback needs] a brain,” Daniel said to reporters at Halas Hall last week. “It's very quarterback-intensive. It's not just go out there and throw to the open guy. I mean, we're going to spend a lot of time in the classroom, a lot of time in walk-throughs, a lot of time just going through the specifics of this offense. It's very specific from a quarterback perspective in terms of splits by receivers, what route does a tight end have on this concept, where the running back is, the depth of a running back, how many yards on a ZD bend. It's very quarterback intensive, and as a quarterback we're supposed to know that stuff. I'm looking forward to teaching Mitchell.”
According to Daniel, Nagy worked hard to cultivate a good reputation among Chiefs quarterbacks. Before being promoted to offensive coordinator in 2016 -- Nagy officially took over play-calling duties at the end of last year -- Nagy exclusively coached Kansas City’s quarterbacks from 2013 to 2015.
“For me, he’s so relatable,” Daniel said. “He played the position of quarterback so that helps with quarterbacks. He understands it. He sees it from a different perspective than any other coach who is not a quarterback. For him, he’s just himself. He doesn’t try to impress anybody. He’s just going to be himself. He’s going be even-keeled. He’s up-tempo. He’s aggressive as a play caller so I think quarterbacks sort of gravitate toward that.
“You could tell last year in Kansas City, they were throwing the ball down the field, and that’s something that we’re going to do here I’m sure. I’m just looking forward to seeing Matt really take that next step, right, as a head coach in his career. So that’ll be fun for me.”