Throughout the 2018 Chicago Bears season much was made about how the offense had its struggles and needed to be better as the defense carried the team. Mitchell Trubisky and company were essentially an average offense, with flashes of greatness, that left most fans wondering what could be if everything clicked.
Taking a closer look, Trubisky was a different quarterback after struggling in the first few games against the Packers, Seahawks and Cardinals. In fact, he was unlike anyone the franchise had seen before. Trubisky’s 101.0 passer rating from Week 4 to the end of the regular season ranks as second best in franchise history, a great sign of what is to come in 2019.
The Bears playoff game was actually a very useful microcosm of just how Trubisky’s sophomore season went. In the first half, Trubisky was 13 of 23 for 105 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions for a 68.2 rating. In the second half, Trubisky hit 13 of 20 for 198 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions for a 114.2 passer rating.
And if Trubisky’s last 12 games, as well as the second half against the Eagles, was not quite enough to have you excited for the potential of the offense, there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic.
Looking Into Advanced Statistics
One of the best sites for advanced statistics for the NFL is footballoutsiders.com, who publish their weighted efficiency for each overall team as well as individually weighing the offense, defense and special teams.
In Trubisky’s rookie year, the Bears were unsurprisingly ranked 28th in offensive efficiency due to the lackluster play calling of then offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains.
The passing game could never get going under Mike Glennon or Trubisky, and Jordan Howard was constantly running against loaded boxes.
Under new head coach and play caller Matt Nagy, though, the Bears made a nice jump to the number 20th overall offense in 2018. Not great by any means but a much-needed improvement compared to the previous year.
However, there are a number of other statistics that suggest the Bears offense could be primed for a big leap in the upcoming season.
First and foremost the Bears were ranked 11th overall in points per drive in 2018, and since the only way to win games in football is by scoring more points than the other team, this number is definitely significant.
Additionally, the Bears were sixth overall in time of possession per drive, 12th in touchdowns per drive, sixth in points per red zone trip and sixth in touchdowns per red zone trip. The Bears were also 16th overall in yards per drive and considering they were dead last in that category in 2017 it is quite the improvement.
Lastly, the offense did all of this while being second overall in their average lead at the beginning of a drive with their 4.24 points, which was only behind the Chiefs. And when you have a defense like the Bears did in 2018, it becomes less important to score when you are winning and more important to not put the defense in a bad spot.
All of these stats pieced together indicate that the offense was both moving the ball and finishing drives when in the red zone more than traditional stats show. The signs are clearly there that this offense could be ready to lead the team back to the playoffs even if the defense takes a step back in 2019.
After Nagy was hired, he made it very clear that the offense he was about to install was quarterback intensive and was not going to be an overnight success.
There were practically no players who knew the system that the Bears were about to run, as only Trey Burton and Josh Bellamy come to mind. Beyond that, none of the coaches came in knowing the entire playbook besides Nagy.
The same thing happened when Doug Pederson was hired by the Eagles in 2016. After ranking 26th in offensive efficiency the year before his arrival, the offense was also ranked 20th in offensive efficiency his first year and then jumped all the way to 8th in 2017.
In Kansas City, Andy Reid improved his team from 15th in offensive efficiency to 12th in the second year of the offense.
Quarterbacks like Michael Vick, Alex Smith and Carson Wentz all made statistical improvements in their second years within this offense. Furthermore, skill position players Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, LeSean McCoy, Jeremy Maclin and Desean Jackson all improved their numbers in Year 2 of the offense.
The greatest help may come from skill position players Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller, Tarik Cohen and Howard who will be sophomores in the offense too. Trubisky will also have the entire offseason to continue building a rapport with these players in addition to Burton, who was familiar with the offense.
Ultimately, the familiarity across the board will do the entire offense wonders.
Trubisky is Still a Really Young Quarterback With Room to Improve
Trubisky only started 13 games in his college career and appeared in 31 total. Although his numbers were very good, it was a limited sample size, especially considering his position.
At the time he was drafted, Trubisky had only thrown 572 collegiate passes. On top of that, he was stuck in a bad offense with limited playmakers as a rookie. Even after his second year in the NFL, Trubisky has only thrown 1,326 passes since he graduated from high school.
For reference: Here are the total collegiate throws for other top quarterbacks in the 2016-2018 drafts:
- Jared Goff: 1,568 passes
- Baker Mayfield: 1,497 passes
- Patrick Mahomes: 1,349 passes
- Deshaun Watson: 1,207 passes
- Sam Darnold: 846 passes
- Carson Wentz: 612 passes
The closest comparison to Trubisky in terms of college passes thrown was Wentz, who only threw 612 passes after missing half of his senior year due to injury.
With free agency and the draft looming, Ryan Pace has a chance to set this team up for sustained success.
One thing that is almost certain is that Pace will do what he can to improve the offense the way he sees fit. Whether that means trading up to draft a dual-threat running back or drafting a speed threat to take the top off the defense and open things up underneath for everyone else, expect Pace to do what he can to add talent to an already skilled offense.
If the 2019 rendition of the Chicago Bears want to finish what was started in 2018 by making the Super Bowl, they really need to take the next step on offense.
With young but established playmakers like Robinson, Miller, Burton and Cohen on the roster to help Trubisky, it is hard to envision a scenario in which the offense does not improve.
As long as Pace is aggressive in getting the offense the little bit of help it needs, Nagy continues to learn and grow as a head coach and play caller and Trubisky maintains his upward trajectory, it’s perfectly fine to presume that jump will happen.