When Louis Riddick saw the now-infamous screenshot of quarterback Mitch Trubisky seemingly staring down a wide open Trey Burton from the Bears’ Week 1 loss against the Packers, the ESPN analyst knew exactly where it fit in today’s NFL.
“That’s just people looking for a way to criticize someone who maybe they didn’t hold in right regard in the first place, that being Mitch,” said Riddick, a former Eagles’ executive.
“People look for stuff like that in order to then confirm what their bias was in the first place. I can’t stand when people do that kind of that thing because the game isn’t played in screenshots like that.”
It was an emphatic point made by Riddick that speaks to Trubisky’s current predicament with the Bears hosting the Seahawks on “Monday Night Football.”
Trubisky will be questioned and scrutinized until his play dictates otherwise. But experience still matters. It’s what Trubisky needs as he deals with the weight of great expectations.
As the Bears have said since organized team activities, Trubisky’s development is a “process.” The Bears’ opener against the Packers not only was his 13th career start, but his first in coach Matt Nagy’s offense.
“It’s one game for Mitch,” Riddick said in a phone interview. “I understand that expectations are high because of where he was drafted, too. We get all that. But people need to slow down, pump the brakes, keep it all in perspective and just let Matt Nagy do his work.”
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Trubisky learned a lesson while playing against Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers for the first time in his career. He just didn’t act accordingly on the same night.
“Like we saw from the [Packers], you just dink it down underneath, a missed tackle can turn into a big play,” Trubisky said. “I should have had more of a completion mindset instead of trying to do too much.”
Rodgers’ 75-yard touchdown pass to receiver Randall Cobb began as an 11-yard completion. Given a chance to respond with two minutes, eight seconds left in regulation, Trubisky faltered. Twice. Outside linebacker Clay Matthews’ roughing-the-passer penalty on fourth down didn’t turn into the Bears’ saving grace.
Trubisky completed only two passes in the final two minutes.
“I wish I would have a little bit different mindset going into that,” Trubisky said. “I was thinking: ‘Try to make a big play. Win the game right here.’
“And it should have been for me personally, ‘Stack completions. Get one more completion. One more first down.’ And then when you get that first down, just another first down.”
The moment arguably was too much for Trubisky. He should had been thinking “field goal” from his first snap that late. But it’s still a moment he needed to experience. It was his first start in a new offense and it came in primetime at Lambeau Field and against Rodgers.
That moment — that type of pressure — couldn’t be simulated in the preseason.
“Every game he’s learning something new about himself that hopefully he carries forward and builds on for the next game,” quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone said. “Again, this is a process for him.”
It’s a process that includes a weekly checklist for Ragone. He’s eyeing Trubisky’s own eyes, footwork and more.
“Great quarterback play at this level, it starts with your ability to eliminate as you drop back in the pocket and then get through progression when need be,” Ragone said. “Every time he goes out there and plays and goes through another rep in practice or game, that’s equity built into that. And obviously the more equity he builds into plays, the easier those plays are for you.”
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In Week 6 of last season, former offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains wanted Trubisky to forget about John Fox’s “be careful” messages against the Ravens. Loggains needed Trubisky to aggressive because the Bears needed to win.
And Trubisky delivered. He eluded pressure and fired an off-balance throw to receiver Kendall Wright for an 18-yard gain on third-and-11 from the Ravens’ 41 in overtime. After three runs by Jordan Howard, kicker Connor Barth made a 41-yard field goal for a 27-24 win in Baltimore.
It was Trubisky’s first career victory, and it came in his second start. It was hope delivered on a throw over the middle.
The same later was said about Trubisky’s heroics against the Lions in Week 11. He had a 19-yard scramble on fourth-and-13 and fired a 15-yard pass on the next play to receiver Dontrelle Inman. But then Barth missed a potential game-tying field goal for a 27-24 loss.
But those feel-good plays matter only so much to Riddick. Fox, Loggains, Wright, Barth and Inman are all gone. Trubisky requires new plays in a new offense build on.
“What he did last year doesn’t matter because last year’s system has no common correlation to this year’s system,” Riddick said. “Last year’s team has no correlation to this year’s team. If it did and if they were so close and so similar, then the same staff would be there right now that was there last year, but obviously it wasn’t good enough. The kind of offensive football they were playing last year, they were setting football back a hundred years with some of the stuff they were doing. It’s a brand-new day.”
But some of Fox’s messages persist. When Trubisky was asked about the screenshot play, he said that he weighed how “risky” a throw to Burton would be. A field goal still was “a big positive takeaway” for him.
“But moving forward, if I want to evolve into the quarterback I want to be, you’ve got to take the opportunity,” Trubisky said. “I’ve got to anticipate that even more.
That’s where Nagy comes in. He wants him to be aggressive.
“It is an experience deal,” Nagy said. “For us, trying to be aggressive is important. … Teaching Mitch when to take them and when to trust it, and if you do take one and it’s a poor result, it’s OK. You got a great defense behind you that can get you back on track. You got players that believe in you. [But] we’re going to learn this thing as we go.”
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