Mitch Trubisky had himself a good 2018 season. Yes, it wasn’t perfect. He left a lot of big-play opportunities on the field and made some questionable decisions with the ball. Still, to set a franchise single-season record for passer rating and make the Pro Bowl? That is a major step in the right direction. It’s why the Chicago Bears are so optimistic about the future.

However, some remain skeptical. One of the biggest points of contention about Trubisky from critics is his deep passing. The best quarterbacks in the NFL must be able to strike down the field with accuracy. This wasn’t the case for him last year. On 73 attempts of 20 yards or more, he completed 27 of them for seven touchdowns and six interceptions.

That’s a 36.98% completion rate with too many turnovers. Not ideal. The year before, Trubisky only completed 33.33% of his deep passes but for three touchdowns without an interception. So he still hasn’t found the right formula. This has led people to asking the tough question. Is this a problem that will haunt him his entire career?

Not exactly.

Mitch Trubisky should get better at the deep ball as his comfort rises

The thing is, being a great deep thrower in the NFL is almost never something a quarterback has figured out right away. Data collection has shown for several former top picks that they might have a good rookie year or second year but those seasons are more the exception. The other three years around that tend to be average at best.

It’s not until around the fifth season of their career where it’s clear they’ve turned the corner. Not only do they complete a higher percentage of passes, but they also are throwing a far higher touchdown to interception ratio. Here’s a few examples.

Alex Smith
  • First season: 13-of-41 (31.7%) for 4 TDs and 0 INTs
  • Second season: 8-of-24 (33.3%) for 2 TDs and 2 INTs
  • Third season: 14-of-40 (35%) for 3 TDs and 1 INT
  • Fourth season: 15-of-46 (32.6%) for 2 TDs and 2 INTs
  • Fifth season: 33-of-62 (53.2%) for 12 TDs and 1 INT
Cam Newton
  • First season: 33-of-89 (37.07%) for 7 TDs and 4 INTs
  • Second season: 28-of-63 (44.44%) for 6 TDs and 2 INTs
  • Third season: 15-of-64 (23.43%) for 8 TDs and 4 INTs
  • Fourth season: 14-of-54 (25.92%) for 5 TDs and 2 INTs
  • Fifth season: 27-of-73 (36.98%) for 11 TDs and 3 INTs
Andrew Luck
  • First season: 35-of-101 (34.65%) for 9 TDs and 6 INTs
  • Second season: 17-of-60 (28.33%) for 5 TDs and 2 INTs
  • Third season: 39-of-88 (44.31%) for 12 TDs and 3 INTs
  • Fourth season: 16-of-48 (33.33%) for 5 TDs and 4 INTs
  • Fifth season: 39-of-74 (52.7%) for 11 TDs and 4 INTs
Matt Ryan
  • First season: 24-of-58 (41.37%) for 5 TDs and 1 INT
  • Second season: 12-of-40 (30%) for 4 TDs and 4 INTs
  • Third season: 15-of-47 (31.91%) for 4 TDs and 2 INTs
  • Fourth season: 15-of-60 (25%) for 4 TDs and 2 INTs
  • Fifth season: 27-of-67 (40.29%) for 10 TDs and 2 INTs

Don’t forget that Smith and Ryan were both also criticized for their limited deep ball skills when they got to the NFL. Yet even they were able to overcome those limitations to make it a regular part of their arsenal. It’s all about finding the comfort zone, both in the offense itself and with the weapons around them.

Neither of which Trubisky has yet. He hadn’t worked with any of his receivers before last year and it was the first season under Matt Nagy. Expecting him to suddenly transform into Brett Favre or John Elway under those conditions is unreasonable. What he needs isn’t some magic fix. It’s time.