By Andrew Link
Filed under the “trying something new” category comes a collaboration of personalities, strengths, styles, and even blogs. I am very excited to bring a unique cross-over between Da Bears Blog and Windy City Gridiron.
This off-season project started months ago as a few random Twitter comments sparked an interesting idea. There are tons of analytics folks out there in the NFL world, and an equal amount of film buffs. But something hit Johnathan Wood and myself at the same time: what if we used the analytics to tell the story and confirmed/de-bunked with the old “eye test?”
The result is something that we both think is pretty cool and hopefully Bears fans will enjoy this as well. I urge you to read Johnathan’s article before going any further (although I will be taking excerpts from his article in this one).
Trubisky was really good on short stuff, but struggled throwing the ball deep. This isn’t a surprise to anybody who watched the Bears this year, but it’s good to see the numbers backing up what we all observed. Stay tuned tomorrow, when Andrew Link of Windy City Gridiron will look to the film to see what went wrong to account for Trubisky’s deep struggles.
Nobody really wants to see a bunch of short throws, besides, there will be some more silver lining articles to come, so let’s focus on the deep ball. 15 yards seems to be the magic number for what constitutes a deep ball by the numbers, I am not sure I totally agree, so I mainly focused on throws over 20 yards.
Things weren’t as pretty when we look at the deep ball though, as you can see in the table below:
That’s not as good as we’d like to see. Trubisky was well below the league average in all four categories, and he even threw more interceptions (9) than touchdowns (7). Deep passes completely account for Trubisky’s uptick in interceptions as a sophomore, and improvement here would turn him from an average/above-average QB into one of the better passers in the league.
The numbers clearly show that there was something off about Trubisky’s deep ball, but there has to be a reason, right? I came up with 3 reasons why the deep ball struggled. As with many things in sports, you can make the case for different reasons on the same play. Cause and affect. Did poor mechanics cause a throw to be inaccurate? Possibly. Could a poor decision still be well thrown? Absolutely. While I had to ultimately put clips into certain categories, there are often times when you could put a play into any of the 3.
Whether it be timing within a new offense and with new players or simply being a second year quarterback whose unsure of his reads. Whether those factors lead to indecision or, many times, a poor decision, Trubisky struggled with the deep ball last year. There are tons of hesitations, late throws, and poor decision making, but in the spirit of length, I am only looking at week 1 (at Packers) to week 7 (vs Patriots).
This was clearly something that affected Trubisky, and the offense as a whole, a great deal. These types of issues really cleared up quite a bit later in the season, so that was something to build on for 2019.
Ah yes, mechanics. We have all heard it about Trubisky, and rightly so. You generally see the mechanics break down with heavy pressure, so I don’t think that mechanics are as big of an issue as others claim it to be, but there were still times that they fell apart. Moreso than anything, I would categorize his play early as laissez-faire. They just seemed lazy.
But again, this improved as the season wore on and it’s not something that I worry about a whole lot. This is another aspect that should improve in 2019.
Accuracy. I really hate to use that term. Yes, there are some throws that were simply missed, but all quarterbacks miss throws. A lot of times, the ball was simply put in the wrong place. If a pitcher hits the target and still gives up a home run, is that “missing the mark?” Nope, that means that the ball should have gone to a different spot. That is the biggest issue I have seen has been Trubisky’s inability to pick the right throw.
I blame some of this on it being the first year of a new offensive system, a large part on simply being on the same page as his receivers, but there were a few where his targets let him down, and the highest priced ones the most…
This is an area that needs to improve and I believe that it will. Again, later in the season, Trubisky started making different throws. You could tell that there was more chemistry later in the season than earlier. With all-11 starters returning, all-11 starters knowing the playbook, an improved running game, and a healthy Allen Robinson and Adam Shaheen, this offense is poised to make a huge leap in 2019. Keep checking back on Da Bears Blog and Windy City Gridiron for more of this fun series!