Finding the positives in Mitch Trubisky’s Week 1 performance is difficult – for whoever draws the assignment of polishing perhaps his worst game since his rookie season.
Bears quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone has spent as much – and likely more – time than anyone else with Trubisky in the organization. The silver lining he found in the season-opening loss, in which Trubisky completed 57.8% of his 45 attempts, at a 4.1 adjusted-yards clip, was the downfield mindset – for better or worse.
“The throws in particular he made down the field, especially to [Allen Robinson], I know the one got pushed out of bounds and the one to Taylor Gabriel, unfortunately, was also out of bounds, how they got pushed out,” Ragone said Tuesday, the players’ day off but a rare opportunity for the media to visit with assistants. “But giving his receivers chances down the field. I know that’s been a constant conversation with him, and he’s worked very hard on it.”
It’s fitting that even Ragone’s positive findings come with an asterisk.
The pump-and-go Trubisky threw to A-Rob might have been a touchdown if it were on the money. Instead, Tramon Williams was able to push Robinson out of bounds before he could secure the catch with his feet down. The would-be 50-yard completion in crunch time to Gabriel was nullified by offensive pass interference, the first penalty in a sequence serving as a microcosm of the night for Trubisky and coach Matt Nagy and ultimately leading to a third-and-40.
But Ragone, who also candidly said he knows Trubisky, first and foremost, as a person, and second as a player, also indicated that he liked his quarterback’s sideline demeanor amid the struggles.
“More than anything else, obviously we’re into Week 2, but going back into Week 1 a little bit, is his sideline, how he was handling what he was seeing. Week 1, as much as you prepare as a coach and a player, there’s always going to be a potential of an unscouted look here or there. It’s just how you’re going to handle it going back to your fundamentals, going back to, ‘All right, I understand where the progression of [the] play is,’ and staying with that. That was a constant conversation, good and bad, on the sideline. Continue to stay with your fundamentals, continue to trust your eyes.”
It may not sound like much, but harken back to another pouty-faced Bears quarterback if you must.
For his part, Trubisky mostly owned his struggles in the postgame last week, opening his solemn news conference by saying he let down his teammates, even if he curiously ended it saying he saw the field well and felt the ball was coming out his hand well.
I didn’t interpret Trubisky’s last explanation as skating accountability or lacking leadership; he might have truly felt that way, which arguably is a separate concern altogether. Although players almost always say they have to go back to the tape in the immediate aftermath of a game, it’s sort of interesting that even Trubisky’s first view of what would seem to be such an obviously poor performance ended on a positive.
Nonetheless, Trubisky, as with all quarterbacks, is being encouraged to trust what he’s seeing on the field. And by his coaches’ indications publicly throughout the summer, he had been seeing it much better than ever in the practices leading up to Week 1.
“Going out there and maybe not getting the initial result you want, just having the faith to go back – which he did at times – go back and trust your fundamentals and trust your eyes,” Ragone said when asked about any tips he can provide Trubisky for remaining calm in the eye of the storm. “It’s a constant, trust-your-eyes, trust-your-feet mentality, regardless of how many years you have in this league. That’s a constant we’re going to continue to preach to him.”
But it’s what the Bears see in how Trubisky responds Sunday and over the subsequent 14 or more games this season that ultimately will determine whether they’ll continue putting their trust in him.
• Arthur Arkush is managing editor of Pro Football Weekly. Write to him at email@example.com, and follow him on Twitter @ArthurArkush.