Only three things in life are certain: death, taxes and polarizing Chicago Bears quarterbacks.
Recently, Bears second-year quarterback Mitch Trubisky was compared to Blake Bortles, quarterback of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Bortles, who is possibly the most attacked quarterback in NFL history, was the third overall pick in the 2014 draft and has in many ways failed to live up to that status.
Coming into the draft, Bortles started 27 games for Central Florida and threw 56 (6.2 TD%) touchdowns and 19 interceptions (2.1 INT%). He was 585-for-891, a 65.7 completion percentage, and threw for just under 7,600 yards.
Even in Bortles’ draft write-ups, most media viewed him as someone who would likely turn the ball over a lot due to his long drop-down wind up and his inconsistent mechanics. This came to fruition during his rookie year, when he only threw 11 touchdowns to 17 interceptions in 13 starts.
Trubisky, on the other hand, came into the draft with only 13 starts on his resume, a remarkably low number for a quarterback, but in his career, he did throw 41 touchdowns (7.1 TD%) to only 10 interceptions (1.7 INT%). He was 386-for-572, a 67.5 completion percentage and threw for just under 4,700 yards.
And while Trubisky was also docked for inconsistent mechanics, his accuracy was often praised. His biggest issues came from the mental side simply because he needed more playing time after starting in so few games.
Trubisky protected the ball at a better rate and threw touchdowns at a higher rate than Bortles while in college.
This is a trend that has continued in their respective professional careers.
Quite frankly, besides their ability to scramble and gain yards on a play that might otherwise end in a sack, Trubisky and Bortles are not similar players. One player likes to throw the ball downfield generally avoiding checkdowns while the other consistently hits his checkdowns.
According to NFL.com’s Next Gen Stats, Trubisky routinely pushes the ball downfield ranking seventh in average intended air yards, or how many yards the quarterback throws the ball downfield on average, while Bortles ranks 31st out of 39 quarterbacks.
Writer’s can argue Trubisky’s numbers are inflated by screens but average intended air yards not only takes screens into account but screen passes thrown behind the line of scrimmage count as negative yards.
Trubisky’s longest completed pass in terms of air yards was over 60 yards, while Bortles’ longest completed pass is just under 47 yards.
On average Trubisky’s passes travel 0.6 yards beyond the first down marker. Bortles’ passes on the other hand travel 1.3 yards short of the sticks. So while one quarterback relies on his arm to pick up first downs, the other forces his receivers to try and make plays to get first downs.
These are two unquestionably different quarterbacks.
The last, and perhaps best, argument that Trubisky is headed on a much better path than Bortles are the traditional stats. Take a look and see how Bortles’ career best in each category compare to Trubisky’s 2018 pace:
Even if we cherry pick the best years that Bortles had in each specific category, Trubisky is on pace to either exceed, or at the very least come awfully close to matching his production, except for attempts and yards, which makes sense (yards per attempt is the more telling stat here anyway).
In Trubisky’s second year in the NFL, with only 25 starts since high school, and in a new system nonetheless, is on pace to have a better year statistically than any year Bortles has ever had.
Just for fun here are some examples of quarterbacks with more similar passer ratings from within their first three years (and one fourth year player) to Trubisky’s 2018 rating of 98.7: Russell Wilson – 100.0, Ben Roethlisberger – 98.6, Matthew Stafford – 97.2, Andrew Luck – 96.5, and Aaron Rodgers – 93.8 (fourth year, first year starting).
Sadly these are good quarterbacks, so comparing Trubisky to them would ruin the national and local narrative that Trubisky is a bust for whom the Bears forfeited an entire draft to get (despite Ryan Pace also drafting Tarik Cohen and Eddie Jackson within the same draft).
Just like it is too early to say Trubisky will reach the caliber of any of those players, it is too early to call him a bust, especially when the numbers tell a different story.