Matt Nagy has insisted from the moment he took over the Chicago Bears that he believes in Mitch Trubisky. This is not to say he was lying. There were plenty of indications that the young quarterback had talent and building blocks to become a solid NFL starter. Their run in 2018 certainly reinforced that belief as Trubisky finished with a 95.4 passer rating and went to the Pro Bowl as an alternate. Expectations were elevated for 2019.
However, even back then there was an undercurrent of concern. Nagy was proving himself a creative play caller. Somebody who could design some serious gimmick plays that threw off defenses for much of the year. While it was fun to watch, it also offered an indication that for all the good things Trubisky was doing, he wasn’t being asked to do a lot. His reads were fairly simple and he was able to lean on a steady ground attack with Jordan Howard and a dominant defense.
Coming into 2019, Nagy no doubt hoped Trubisky was ready to take that next step and become a true field general. It didn’t happen. NFL analyst Rich Eisen was told the reason for this was defenses have broken through the smoke and mirrors, revealing that the QB still hasn’t learned how to properly play the position.
“I talked to someone who I trust immensely about what’s going on with the Bears. He said the head coach used all these gimmicks last year and the rest of the league has sniffed it out, and Trubisky doesn’t know how to do the basics because of how gimmicky it was last year.
The offense this year has been smoked out. When it comes to reads and progressions, he can’t do it. He isn’t ready to do it.”
Did Matt Nagy realize early that Trubisky wasn’t ready?
There was a quote Nagy had when he first took over the Bears back in May of 2018. It didn’t seem like much at the time, but looking back now? It almost seems like he was offering a subtle hint that the struggles for this offense were going to be inevitable. That it would take more than two years to truly get going.
“It’s not a milestone, but it’s nice to be able to see your guys doing it. They understand that in Kansas City it took us five years to get to that point that we got to, That did not happen overnight. That develops in time.”
Looking back, he’s actually correct. Defenses weren’t ready for what the Chiefs offered in 2013 when Andy Reid first arrived. They ended up 6th in the NFL in scoring and Alex Smith threw a then career-high 23 touchdowns. However, the next year it seemed like defenses weren’t fooled anymore. The Chiefs offense plummeted to 16th in scoring and Smith threw just 18 touchdowns. So Nagy has seen this sort of second-year stumble before.
This might explain why he’s been patient with Trubisky.
He knew the kid wasn’t ready and it was always going to take time. Especially for one who lacked the experience that Smith already head when he arrived in Kansas City. He knew about pocket awareness, identifying disguised coverages and checking into proper plays to counter defenses. Trubisky didn’t do any of that during his one year at North Carolina. He barely had time to learn it as a rookie before he was switching to Nagy’s scheme in 2018.
The head coach did all he could to throw defenses off that year and it worked to a degree, but the other shoe was bound to drop eventually. He probably didn’t expect it to be this bad, but based on his prior experience and guarded comments this past summer it seems like he felt it was possible.