Data Entry: Searching for Stats to Contextualize Trubisky’s Rookie Season

| January 30th, 2018

I recently looked at Trubisky’s rookie performance in “quarters” – four-game sets – and found that he showed continual growth in both usage and efficiency (in all areas but throwing touchdowns) as the season progressed.

Now I want to look at how that growth compares to other recent quarterbacks in their rookie seasons. Do quarterbacks who are going to be good show more growth during their rookie season? Do those who stay the same, or get worse, tend to bust?

The Set-Up

I looked at all QBs drafted in the 1st round who played at least twelve games of their rookie season within the last 10 years and tracked their progress in four-game samples. All data was compiled using the Pro Football Reference game play finder. Allow me a brief explanation of my 3 limits:

  • 1st Round Picks. I wanted players similar to Trubisky, who were drafted with the expectation of playing early. Later round picks often have to earn the job so I didn’t want to include them and skew the data.
  • In the Last 10 years. The NFL passing game continues to evolve, as does the college passing game that prepares them for the NFL. Comparing rookie QBs now to rookie QBs from 20 years ago just isn’t reasonable. Heck, even comparing now to 10 years ago isn’t great, but cutting it much shorter than that really limits the sample size, which is already pretty small.
  • Who Played Twelve Games as Rookies. I’m tracking growth in four-game samples, and two sets of data isn’t really enough, so twelve games gives some sort of growth trend through at least 3 sets.

These stipulations gave me a sample size of 16 quarterbacks: Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Mark Sanchez, Sam Bradford, Cam Newton, Blaine Gabbert, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannehill, Brandon Weeden, Andrew Luck, Teddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles, Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, Carson Wentz, and Mitch Trubisky.

Before doing this study, it seemed fairly logical to me that most rookie QBs would naturally improve as the season wore on. After all, they’re brand new at this and facing a steep growth curve. And you usually get better at your job within the first few months, right?

Also, take into consideration that most of these quarterbacks were starters from day one of training camp, let alone the regular season. Trubisky faced the unique scenario of not seeing first-team reps until after the first quarter, as the Bears prepared to face what was then the league’s best defense.

Nevertheless, we look at the numbers.

Not-So-Steady Improvement

It turns out that’s not actually the case.

There were some QBs who got better as the season wore on. Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, and Teddy Bridgewater all showed a clear jump in performance after their first 4 games.

But there were also QBs who got worse after a good start, including Carson Wentz and Cam Newton. Some didn’t really change much from their beginnings, whether those were great (Robert Griffin III), awful (Blaine Gabbert, Mark Sanchez), or somewhere in between (Sam Bradford, Andrew Luck).

In short, there is no one-size-fits-all improvement narrative for rookie quarterbacks. Which makes sense if you think about it; these players come from different college offenses, have different NFL offenses, with different coaches and coaching approaches, and play in different contexts regarding their supporting casts and how many points they need to score to compete.

No QB really seemed to match Trubisky’s rookie year perfectly. Statistically, his first four games were pretty rough, with a completion percentage below 50% and a passer rating in the mid-60s. Those numbers compare to the first few games from Blaine Gabbert and Mark Sanchez, which is not good company to be in. But Trubisky got better from there in ways that those two didn’t, which should give Bears fans some hope. There were QBs who started out solidly and got better, but nobody really went from bad to solid like Trubisky did in his rookie year.

In terms of trends, QBs who improved over their rookie season (mainly Ryan, Flacco, and Bridgewater) seem to have built on that in their careers, barring Bridgewater’s unfortunate injury. But that’s a sample size of 3, so it’s not like this is anything definitive. That is the main theme you pick up on in this article. Nothing about predicting Trubisky’s career is certain based on statistical profiling.

Looking for Indicators

Looking at growth through the rookie season didn’t really show me what I was looking for, but as long as I had all of this data, I figured I’d use it to look at a few different statistical markers. My goal was to see if anything could help predict whether a QB was likely to become a stud or a bust based on their rookie performance.

I compared all of the rookie quarterbacks in the sample in terms of:

  • Passer rating
  • Completion percentage
  • Yards per attempt
  • Touchdown percentage
  • Interception percentage
  • Touchdown/interception ratio

I looking for any stat that helps group the better quarterbacks towards the top of the lists and the worse ones towards the bottom. Nothing worked terribly well for helping identify the best quarterbacks  -which makes sense given that Andrew Luck and Carson Wentz both had mediocre rookie seasons – but I found that averaging them all together worked pretty well to group most of the busts at the bottom (shown in red).

A few thoughts here:

  • You have to basically just ignore Robert Griffin III. He had a phenomenal rookie season, but a combination of injuries, attitude problems, and an unsustainable gimmick offense took his career off the rails in a hurry. Besides him, the four QBs shown at the bottom have to be considered the worst of this group, with only Bortles having a faint chance to change that.
  • If you consider the Tannehill/Gabbert as kind of a Mendoza line, Trubisky finds himself on the right side of it, if only barely. Every other quarterback who in the white region has at least established themselves as a solid NFL starter (save injury), so that’s a good sign for Bears fans.
  • I wouldn’t put too much stock in ranking QBs within the white region. We still don’t know who’s better out of, say, Marcus Mariota and Carson Wentz, or Matt Ryan and Andrew Luck, for that matter.
  • It’s interesting to look at where Trubisky did well and poorly compared to his peers. He was middle of the pack in rating and completion percentage, one of the best at avoiding interceptions, but the absolute worst at throwing touchdowns. As I’ve said before, I’m curious to see if he can get a jump in touchdowns without a corresponding one in interceptions going forward.


I set out to try and find comparable rookie seasons to what Mitchell Trubisky had, and couldn’t find anybody with quite the same progression as him, though recent quarterbacks who improved during their rookie seasons were mostly successful in the NFL. When comparing total rookie seasons statistically, most of the worst quarterbacks group themselves at the bottom, and Trubisky avoids that grouping.

These stats make me tentatively hopeful that Trubisky will at least avoid being a bust (barring an unforeseen injury), but please let me caution that this is far from absolute. As we saw looking at growth throughout the rookie season, every situation is unique, which is why you can never predict the future perfectly.

Still, after watching Trubisky’s rookie season, I came away thinking that (barring injury) he will at least be a serviceable NFL quarterback. Nothing I have found statistically through any of this digging has suggested that to be an illogical belief. I’m very curious to see just how good Trubisky will be (great? good? ok?), but there’s not really any data yet to give any sort of clear indication in that regard.

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  • SC Dave

    Not surprised there is no specific trends for a first season QB.

    • I kind of was at first, at least in terms of rookie QBs getting better as the season goes on. But I guess that makes sense too. Sometimes guys start out hot and then the league adjusts.

      • CanadaBear

        That was certainly the case with Wentz.

        • John F

          The reason Wentz “cooled off” in the second half of 2016 was because the Eagles played the Giants (twice), Cowboys (twice), Falcons, Packers, Seahawks and Ravens. The NFC east was really good that year. This year, not so much.

          • SC Dave

            It is difficult to isolate performance from the context in which it occured, as you point out.

            There is probably some factor one could try based on the “quality” of the opponent, but the whole thing is rather complex.

    • KentuckyBearsFan

      But I bet there are specific trends for a LAST season QB.

  • leftcoastdave

    “With the number 8 pick in the draft, the Chicago Bears select Baker Mayfield, quarterback out of the University of Oklahoma!”

    • Bear Instincts

      is he the love child of p.manning+tom terrific that we all don’t know about?

    • Be good insurance. We can always get a 1st back for Mayfield (tho likely later) if Trub doesn’t bust.

    • John F

      Mayfield = Manziel, Jr.

    • Irish Sweetness

      The red dot finds Pace’s heart quickly. The trigger will be pulled.

  • CanadaBear

    Thanks for crunching the numbers JW. I thought MT did pretty well considering all the injuries to the line/WR’s. Not to mention having Foxy at the helm and Nathan Lane for OC. If Pace can restock the WR position, get the OL some decent health and with the new HC and emphasis on all things QB, I think things will be looking up. Pace has to add a minimum of 2 good WR’s. At least I have some hope for the future. I had zero hope with Foxy at the wheel.

  • BearDown100393

    In other words.

    Mitch will be just fine.


    Mitch will not.

    • I think the numbers look pretty likely that Mitch will at least be serviceable. There’s really no saying where in the serviceable to stud range somebody will fall based on their rookie seasons though.

      • BearDown100393

        Toward the end of the season, I saw a quarterback starting to take charge of his offense on and off the field. I think MT wants to maximize his potential to the fullest. And as a rookie, that is a great intangible.

        • Irish Sweetness

          He had a fkn great rookie season. Did a lot better than some HoFers.

      • John F

        Spending a #2 overall draft pick on a “serviceable” player, especially a QB, is a complete disaster for the franchise …..

        • What would ur mendoza line for Trub be statistically? Flacco, Eli?

          • John F

            For the price of the #2 overall pick and giving away all those other picks, he needs to be in the Ryan, Cam, Marriota, Wentz, Luck (pre-injury) category … forget about mendoza lines!

  • Sactowns#1

    Oh great. how long until we get a flood of trolls? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J2oNgZlbSKI

  • Y’all take the Bears as seriously as I do. Take a break and laugh a little. Please share and subscribe to my channel. need lots of views and subscribers to attract record co’s.

  • I thought it was interesting to see where Trubisky ranked relative to his peers in the various categories.

    Best besides RG3 at avoiding INTs, but worst at throwing TDs. Middle of the pack everywhere else.

    • CanadaBear

      Maybe if Shaheen stayed healthy the last 3 games he might have grabbed 1 or 2. Also, as was discussed previously, Zack’s TD and Benny’s butterfingers would have made the numbers better. Oh well, I don’t find the low TD numbers alarming considering all the variables.

      • I don’t either. There have been a number of instances recently where rookies threw TDs at a low rate and saw that get better by year 2.

        • CanadaBear

          Not that I’m a QB guru but the only real issue I have with MT is the happy feet/accuracy problem. Overall, I don’t think it was huge issue but something that was concerning. With the new staff and MT’s drive and ability to accept coaching, I think that will be much less of an issue next year. I thought it improved a lot as the season progressed.

          • leftcoastdave

            This year he was expected to be, or being trained to be, a (mostly) pure drop back passer. This scheme will be changing that quite a bit with quicker reads and quicker throws. So yea, much less of an issue.

          • John F

            The footwork, accuracy, arm angle, etc issues never got better as the year went on

          • Irish Sweetness

            Like it does for every other QB that’s ever played?


          • His happy feet, esp in the pocket, concerned.

            Teams figured out quickly to blitz him

          • Irish Sweetness

            Everyone except Fangio will blitz bad/inexperienced QBs.

            So he should be the Head Coach.

          • “Modestly” Huge Bears Penis

            Bears were 7th in sacks this year….

        • Mary

          Gℴogle gives the people $99/hr to complete few task on a home computer .. Do job for only few hours in a whole day & live happy more time together with your own family … Any person can also do this easy work…on Wednesday I bought a latest Car after I been getting $9932 last six weeks .it sounds high-quality process but you will no longer forgive yourself if you don’t test it.!ae952v:♋♋♋ http://GoogleDailyConsumerTourCommunityWorkFromHome/make/more ♥c♥♥♥f♥♥♥u♥c♥♥m♥♥v♥♥q♥♥♥f♥♥t♥♥♥k♥♥d♥♥q♥m♥i♥i♥r♥♥♥o♥y♥♥♥g♥x♥♥m♥s♥♥h♥♥♥p♥♥d:::::!ve97h:lhuhuh

    • Irish Sweetness

      But what % of his games were played under the R-R-P scenario? That skews all of his numbers, he wasn’t playing real football, it was Keep-Mitchell-on-training-wheels insane football that consistently placed him in bad positions to throw. His numbers for this season mean nothing, the madness can’t be quantified.

  • BearDown100393
    • willbest

      Aaron Kromer to be the Rams de facto OC.

      • evantonio

        Lucky then

  • CanadaBear
    • His coverage def improved. Imo he seemed more nimble.
      He was always a hammer in the run game. And he doesn’t have any of those glaring Conte fuck ups, but he’s no ballhawk.

      As long as Jackson can become a true ballhawk then Amos can play like a Kam Chancellor role

  • CanadaBear

    I thought he had a good season but other people REALLY liked him!


    • willbest

      I don’t know about that, but he does seem to make Demps expendable.

      • leftcoastdave

        Cha-ching. Cut him. He taught the yutes well, perhaps too well for his own good.

      • CanadaBear

        I thought he had a really solid year but I also attributed some of that to Eddie Jackson. I think EJ is the best FS around here in a long time and it allowed AA to do his job at SS. Really happy with that tandem. No way Demps stays around unless he takes a pay cut, which seems unlikely.

    • John F

      It shows you why you shouldn’t go around quoting Pro Football Focus as knowing what they are talking about …….. Amos was average at best, every once in a while he was above average

      • SC Dave

        You sure seem to think you know a lot about football. Despite 45-0 not quite panning out.

        • John F

          That was my Super Bowl prediction, I got the dates wrong …..

    • Bender McLugh

      Wow, that can’t be right can it? He’s good on my book, but the best in the league? Didn’t really matter at the end of the day, just so long as he has another solid season like this last one. Always liked him

      • Yeah. He’s been abv avg ONE season. And even then, he didn’t exactly wow us.

        In many ways, Amos is the Anti-Conte.

        Healthy and reliable but won’t get INTs.

        He actually reminds me of another Fangio S. Donte Hitner

        • leftcoastdave

          The dude is 24. He was 22 when he was signed after playing at Penn State. Being “just average” on a struggling team while learning up to the NFL is just fine coming out of the 4th round. Being recognized as one of the best in your third year at age 24 means you give him a contract extension.

          • If Amos was “fine” he wouldn’t have been benched and Demps signed.

            Amos in the 2nd half of the 2016 season was getting diced up in coverage.

            I’ll give him credit. Amos looked much better last yr, but considering he was 2nd string to start the season, that’s not saying much.

            He played abv avg IMO. If that continues is TBD.

            I still think he’s a good draft pick either way.

            4rth rders are always borderline players.

            But like I said before, great teams uncover gems in those RDs. If Amos becomes one of those gems, then that’ll make this team that much better.

          • Bender McLugh

            Patriots have how many undrafted players on their SB roster? I read twice as many as the Iggles. Another something to learn from the Pats, copy cat it

        • Bender McLugh

          Which is perfect for a Fangio D, or so it would seem to me anyway. I was thinking earlier, where would Urlacher fit into Fangio’s D? Seemingly any position because he was so damn fast & versatile, but the mlb isn’t heavily relied upon on his schemes (I’m probably wrong but im going to go with it). Point being, Fangio has changed, for me, what a D can be without an elite figure at one of the traditional spots like mlb or strong safety.

          This was talked about on dis here blog several years back when Fangio was running SF’s D. Interesting stuff.

  • Wonder where Jimmy G ( first 12 starts) and Watson would’ve fallen in the data.

    Or even 2nd rders like Carr or Lynch.

    Regardless, it’s hard for me to imagine any of those other QBs being handicapped as much w Fox.

    Tannenhill is an interesting comp.

    A borderline competent QB who can run.

    I remember asking once if Trub would be a bust if he settled into Tyrod Taylor

    Some vehemently said yes considering the price. Others said no because a team can win w Tyrod

    Of course id Jimmy G becomes a HOFer…

    • willbest

      If G becomes an HoFer there will be no living with Sac.

    • CanadaBear

      If MT is a top 10 QB I have no issue with Sac dancing and celebrating.

      • Bender McLugh

        Wait, have you seen this?

    • Jimmy G did not play as a rookie, which changes the dynamics a bit. This is only looking at guys who played a lot as rookies (and were 1st round picks, which Jimmy was not).

      It’s a short sample size for Watson that would also exclude him from this study, but here’s where he would rank:

      Rating: 1st
      Completion %: 5th
      Yards per attempt: 1st
      TD%: 1st
      INT %: 16th (out of 17 in the sample now)
      TD/INT: 2nd
      Average: 4.3

      He’s weird because his TD percentage was so damn high at 9.3%. RG3 was 2nd at 5.1%. That’s simply not sustainable (for reference, Rodgers has a career 6.4%, and his high season is 9%; no other season tops 7%).

      Outside of that, he was good but not great, and he had a very high rate of interceptions (3.9%, for reference Cutler’s career INT % was 3.3%).

      But again, it’s a very small sample size with only 204 throws. He would certainly fall in the “not a bust” category, and like I found in the article, you can’t really predict more than that at this point with any amount of certainty.

      • I get eliminating variables. However, 2nd rders usually are expected to play, albeit a lot of them arnt pressed into action right away.

        But some are, esp if they’re drafted at the top of the 2nd.

        Be curious to see how they would stack up w ur current chart. Might expand ur sample size.

        Guys like Carr may jump Trub, but guys like Kizer would push him up.

        Anyways just a thought to enlarge the sample size and provide more perspective and intrigue.

    • I didn’t include 2nd rounders and below because those guys are not typically drafted with the assumption that they’re going to play right away, and thus the only way they typically see the field for most of the season is by earning it. I didn’t want that to skew the data.

      I genuinely wanted to see how predictive rookie performance is for guys who were drafted with the expectation of playing right away (which most first rounders are).

    • BerwynBomber

      Can’t imagine anyone saying Taylor would be a bust at #2. That’s idiotic. Even saying Culter was a bust — I believe he was #10 or so — is stupid.

      Busts are guys like Russell and Leaf who accomplish zilch and crash out of the league in a few years. Or Manziel as a more recent example, albeit he was a mid-first round guy.

      • John F

        But you have to grade on a curve, spending an overall #2 pick on an average QB is a major fail ………

        • BerwynBomber

          Is it?

          What is the average career of top-five draft pick? It might be less than you think.

          • John F

            You are probably right, but the teams that draft guys in the top five and consistently blow it are the teams that are perennially bad – Browns, Rams, Jags, Bucs, Raiders ……

          • It’s just about value.

            Trub MUST become better than Cutler. He can’t underachieve like him because of how he ended up on the Bears.

            It would be one thing if Watson was drafted at #2 and Trub fall to the Bears at #3.
            But Trub was Pace’s guy all the way.

            Trub will have to be better than Watson, or else Pace blew it just like the 9ers blew it drafting Alex Smith over Aaron Rodgers (or us drafting Cedrunk instead of Rodgers)

            Then you add the other factor that Jimmy G could’ve been had for a 2nd if Pace just waited.

            So, IMO, Trub MUST at least be equal to Watson, Jimmy G (and Mahomes for that matter) for him to be a success.

            Alex Smith is about as avg to abv avg as there is and yet NOBODY will dispute the 9ers fucked up that pick in 2005 because Vadgers was available.

            Pace will be judged by the same standard.

            50-50 won’t do.

          • Irish Sweetness

            Cutty cost us more than Trubs, a lot more.

            But he needs to be good because we’ve sucked at QB since Jimmy Mac, that’s all. If we paid a few dollars more than we needed to for a Ferrari, then so be it.

          • Pretty sure Glennon cost more than Cutty’s last yr with us too.

          • BerwynBomber

            Picking a nit but Rodgers is an outlier, 1st ballot HoF dude. If Watson proved only slightly better than Bisky I’d like to think the Bears masses wouldn’t lose their collective shit.

            But I otherwise get your point.

            I was largely responding in a vacuum and thinking what qualified as a bust or failed pick. Or what one would consider an average top five QB pick.

            My guess is it might be some dude like Winston once you start balancing out the Elways and Peytons vs. the Leafs and Russells. And Winston is kind of an average-to-below average QB. Actually, a bit of black Cutty: a dude who make a very impressive play and follow it up with a WTF turnover.

            I’d be content if Bisky turns into Alex Smith 2.0 but I understand how he will be invariably compared to Watson, JimmyG and maybe even Mahomes.

          • “Modestly” Huge Bears Penis

            is Vadgers still Vadgers if he gets drafted by the 49ers and start immediately, instead of sitting for 3 years and not having that chip on his shoulder of having been passed over by so many teams and made to sit in the green room throughout the 1st round of the draft?

          • KentuckyBearsFan

            Or if drafted by the Raiders, wouldn’t he be known today as the Jolly Rodgers?

            Maybe an eyepatch would help.

          • BerwynBomber


            Great QBs, IMO, will persevere regardless of timelines of starting or sub-standard coaching.

            For years we heard what an O genius, even a QB guru that Mike McCarthy was. Guess what? In games that Rodgers has neither started nor finished the first Q (think Shea and Barr games), McCarthy and the Cheese are 5-15-1. (And largely in those games he was turning to guys who had been in his QB rooms for a few years.)

            Over a sixteen game season that basically works out to a 4-12 record.

            Of the five potential QBs playing today (Brady, Brees, Rodgers, Wilson and R-berger) the only one that absolutely benefitted from superior coaching is Brady. And that is not to say Brady would not have been a tremendous talent even if he landed with the Browns. He just wouldn’t have anything near five rings.

            Btw, Belichick’s non-Brady record since Brady has been the Pats starter? 15-6.

            P.S. the chip on Rodger’s shoulder (or for that matter Brady’s, Brees’s and Wilson’s) is unknowable. But it probably didn’t hurt.

          • evantonio

            If you believe that ESPN article on the pats, there’s no way Bill B would’ve traded us Jimmy G for a 2nd. Story says he sent him to Kyle S and the 9ers because he believed he’d thrive there, his way of showing Kraft that he shouldn’t have traded him away.

            That’s if you believe it.

  • willbest

    I am a small government type, but I do think we need to take care of the mentally and physically disabled. For example, this woman that needs an emotional support peacock deserves a taxpayer funded padded room somewhere.


    • BearDown100393

      Not every elderly woman can afford a Ted Phillips.

  • Sactowns#1

    Johnny- Thank you for not tweeting a link to this. Troll traffic is certainly down today because of it.

    • It’s been tweeted like 4x today by me or Jeff. There’s just nothing bringing them here because it’s not anything they find troll-worthy.

      • Sactowns#1

        Oh great. So they’re coming tomorrow. 🙁

        • Dis Guy Trublinsky (Johnnywad)

          Here come the pizza slice emojis graphed out so as to depict a set of saggy old lady tits. Very creative.

  • Irish Sweetness

    “Nothing about predicting Trubisky’s career is certain based on statistical profiling.”

    Which begs the question ….

  • BerwynBomber

    Alex Smith traded to WAS for a third round pick and an unnamed player.

    • Dis Guy Trublinsky (Johnnywad)

      Wow. Have to see who that player is, but that seems cheap.

  • BuddhaJoe

    Guess Cousins really wants out from the Snyder Racists. No way they trade for Captain OK Alex Smith unless there was no way to make a deal. I’ll bet good money on Cousins going to Denver, my friend would cream his pants if that happened.

    • Dis Guy Trublinsky (Johnnywad)

      Hopefully he doesn’t end up in Minnesota

  • BearDown100393

    Alex Smith might as well retire.

  • BuddhaJoe

    Oh yeah since the trolls never came for Data: DOUCHE CUNT COCKSUCKER FUCKTART EAT MY ASS FAG ARGLE BARGLE BLAAAAAAHGH!!!!!

    • EnderWiggin

      Way to fill in.

  • Mary

    Gℴogle gives the people $99/hr to complete few task on a home computer .. Do job for only few hours in a whole day & live happy more time together with your own family … Any person can also do this easy work…on Wednesday I bought a latest Car after I been getting $9932 last six weeks .it sounds high-quality process but you will no longer forgive yourself if you don’t test it.!ae952v:♋♋♋ http://GoogleDailyConsumerTourCommunityWorkFromHome/make/more ♥c♥♥♥f♥♥♥u♥c♥♥m♥♥v♥♥q♥♥♥f♥♥t♥♥♥k♥♥d♥♥q♥m♥i♥i♥r♥♥♥o♥y♥♥♥g♥x♥♥m♥s♥♥h♥♥♥p♥♥d:::::!ve97h:lhuhu

  • ButtonShoes

    71 million guaranteed for Alex Smith? Well holy shit.

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