As a rookie quarterback in the NFL, there are a great many things that are out of your control. You don’t get to choose the team that drafts you. You don’t get to choose the offensive system you have to learn. And you can only sit and watch as your entire coaching staff is relieved of their duties.
That was Mitch Trubisky’s experience in his first year as a Chicago Bear. After the quarterback desperate franchise moved up one spot to snag the former North Carolina signal caller with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 draft, Trubisky spent much of the season handing the ball off in John Fox’s run-first, conservative offense. Starting 12 games after replacing the ineffective Mike Glennon, Trubisky threw just 330 passes as a rookie, tallying a touch over 2,000 yards passing while completing less than 60 percent of his passes. The Bears sleepwalked through a 5-11 season, Fox was fired, and everything changed.
The Bears tapped Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy as their next head coach, and Trubisky became the main benefactor. Now getting to play in one of the most innovative offenses in the league, Trubisky’s numbers exploded. He threw for 3,223 yards, tossing 24 touchdowns to just 12 interceptions. His yards per attempt jumped from 6.6 to 7.4. The Bears won the NFC North and hosted a playoff game, and Trubisky made the Pro Bowl.
And yet, questions about Trubisky and the heights he can reach, remain. The advanced statistics aren’t as kind to him as the raw numbers are. Trubisky ranked 18th in Football Outsiders’ defense-adjusted yards above replacement statistic, a number that compares quarterbacks to a replacement level player, sandwiched between Joe Flacco and Andy Dalton. Trubisky also ranked 19th in adjusted yards per attempt.
As Trubisky faces a pivotal year three, one that comes with increased expectations, the quarterback spoke with UPROXX courtesy of Gone Rogue Snacks about the journey he’s been on, if he’s feeling the pressure of expectations in Chicago, and the otherworldliness of Khalil Mack.
Coming off such a successful season, what have you been focusing on this offseason?
Coming out of the season, it was taking care of my body, taking some time off and then resting. Then it was watching cutups, learning what we need to work on and my weaknesses heading into the offseason. A lot of that’s been getting my arm back and getting it stronger, the footwork. A lot of it has been, now that we’re in year two of this offense and this scheme, knowing all the timing and the concepts, where everybody needs to get lined up. Just what we’re trying to accomplish offensively. Knowing the timing, knowing what I have to do with my feet, knowing where to put my eyes. Just mastering all the details of this offense.
You went from learning one offense to a rookie to having to learn a completely different one in year two. How long did it take you to get comfortable with Matt Nagy’s playbook?
I think there’s a difference between knowing the offense and owning it. When you own it, you don’t have to think about it, you know the ins and outs, you know exactly where everyone needs to be, you know exactly what your job is and what’s expected on every single play. Owning it is different than knowing it. It’s all part of learning process, getting reps, practicing it day in and day out, studying it. Then going on the field and practicing it with your teammates and making sure everyone is on the same page.
You made the playoffs and got to host a game at Soldier Field. It obviously didn’t end how you guys wanted, but what was that experience like?
It was unbelievable. We’re craving to get that feeling and that atmosphere back for the season, getting back to that playoff game. It’s definitely motivating as a player, you want to get back to that stage and you want every game to be that exciting and that pressure packed. That’s what you work for. We’re excited to get the opportunity back this year and play in a lot more big games.
Do you feel like this upcoming season, your third in the NFL, is a really big year for you to solidify yourself?
Yeah, I kinda get that feeling. I wouldn’t call it pressure, but it’s the expectation and standard that we’ve set as a team that this is what we want to accomplish, this is what we set out to do and this is how we’re going to do it. Everyone has bought into coach Nagy’s plan, everyone has bought in to the leaders of this team and the guys we have and the relationships we have in this locker room. I wouldn’t call it pressure, but there’s an expectation and standard we have now. We’re excited to work for it and really get things going and see what we can accomplish with our goals set high. It’s exactly what you want. We cannot be more amped to get after it this year.
Are you as in awe of Khalil Mack as the rest of us are?
Yeah, it’s crazy. On the sidelines, you want to come back, regroup from the series you just had on offense, but you want to get up and watch that defense. Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks, Eddie Jackson, it’s been crazy to see what they can do. You just watch and it’s like, how do they make these plays? How does Khalil get to the passer, pushing linemen over, strip sacks, turnovers, picks? It’s been an unbelievable defense to watch. You’re surprised but sometimes you’re not, because you expect these things to happen because they’re so talented and they work their tails off. Khalil’s one of those guys where you’ve gotta be watching at all times, because you want to watch that game-changing play that he’s gonna make and you know it’s coming. It’s really a spectacle.
He’s like a fire truck with arms and legs. Is he a freak in the weight room and off the field, too?
It really makes no sense how strong he is. But the thing that impressed me is, watching his pass rush drills and seeing how he is able to bend and how flexible he is for his size and his strength. To see him go under defenders, and being able to see the way that he bends and how flexible he is with his body. That with his speed and strength, it really makes no sense.
You grew up in Cleveland as a Cavs fan. The Cavs have the potential to secure the no. 1 pick in the NBA Draft. Who do you want them to take?
Me being a UNC guy, I hate to say it, but I think you have to take one of the Duke guys, either Zion or R.J. (Barrett). Obviously Zion is incredibly talented player, but I just don’t want the LeBron comparisons. So if you get R.J. Barrett, I think that’d be a good situation in Cleveland.
Finally, tell us about your partnership with Gone Rogue Snacks?
The [Gone Rogue High Protein Chips] is actually lean chicken. It’s smoked and baked, which makes it crunchy. There’s 17 grams of protein per bag. It’s been awesome for me to add it to my diet this offseason, having that extra protein after a workout. It’s the perfect snack because you get to munch on it and it’s also healthy for you as well.