Next Gen Stats: Why Bears had to turn to Trubisky


To check out more of the Next Gen Stats data for yourself or get a definition for some of the stats, check out the NGS site

In the wake of a crushing defeat on Thursday night, the Chicago Bears walked out of Lambeau Field with layers of questions hanging over their heads. With the team staring down a 1-3 start, they could no longer hide from the question: How much longer can they wait to play No. 2 overall pick Mitchell Trubisky?

After a weekend's worth of introspection, the Bears came to the conclusion the time for waiting was over. On Monday morning, NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport reported that the Chicago Bears would make the move to Mitchell Trubisky as their starting quarterback in Week 5. With a Monday night home game against the Vikings on tap, the No. 2 overall pick from the 2017 NFL Draft will make his debut for the world to see. The team later confirmed the move on their website.

Whether fair or not, the questions that prompted this move were present the moment the rookie quarterback hit the preseason field. With the obvious caveat in place of it being the exhibition series and Trubisky getting all his work against deep backups, the young quarterback looked like a viable NFL solution. The North Carolina product was fearless, challenged defenders in all areas of the field and even created plays on his own on the move. None of those elements were present in the Bears' offense through their first four games. It's a painful reminder that just because a quarterback comes with a big frame doesn't mean he naturally carries the big arm to boot, as too often assumed by traditional scouts.

Even after the Bears upset the Pittsburgh Steelers in Chicago last week, the world knew it was no thanks to their starting quarterback. Mike Glennon rode the dynamic backfield duo of Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen along with a bend-but-don't-break defense to the home win. After all, Glennon threw for just 101 yards and even had two interceptions. On average, his pass attempts traveled just 4.8 yards in the air, by far the lowest among any quarterback in Week 3.

To be fair to the veteran quarterback, the Bears don't offer much in their pass-catchers stable in terms of downfield weapons. Nevertheless, in a results-based business, Glennon isn't even doing enough to make the defenses respect the threat. On the season, Glennon averages just 1.8 deep pass attempts (20-plus air yards) per game, the lowest of any quarterback this season with 40 or more attempts.

With the Bears falling down early at Green Bay and in negative game script throughout, Glennon did have to come out of his shell, at least a bit. He averaged 9.3 intended air yards on his passes against the Packers, just shy of his counterpart Aaron Rodgers' 9.4 figure. However, that bore out no positive results. Drives consistently stalled or ended in turnovers for Chicago all night. The offense is broken, plain and simple.

While Glennon did not have have big wideouts in presumptive No. 1 receiver Cameron Meredith or former top-10 draft pick Kevin White at his disposal, he was a nightmare when asked to drive the ball into tight windows. Coming into Thursday night, Glennon's 51.0 passer rating when throwing into tight windows (less than one yard of separation for the receiver) ranked 27th in the NFL. He tacked on one more interception on a tight-window throw against the Packers.

In addition to his overall inability to push the ball downfield, Glennon is far too conservative when a quarterback needs to be at his most daring. Glennon's third-down passes on average come in 2.6 air yards short of the sticks, putting him dead last among starting quarterbacks. On a night where his team needed him to mount a comeback against its division rival in Green Bay, he still checked in with a minus-1.1 average.

In an offense like the Bears' with two young and legitimately dynamic running backs, the icing on the cake would be a quarterback who brings some semblance of mobility or a scrambling threat to the table. Unfortunately, Glennon provides anything but. Glennon has attempted just 3.6 percent of his passes from outside of the pocket this season, the second-lowest rate among starting quarterbacks. His statuesque style behind center was an immediate issue when Clay Matthews sacked him and forced a fumble on the Bears' opening play. Matthews registered a time to sack of 3.9 seconds, which provided Glennon plenty of moments for an out to not take that play into the dirt. Instead, the Bears found themselves in an immediate 14-0 hole when Aaron Rodgers threw a touchdown to Randall Cobb moments later.

Mitchell Trubisky showed plenty of mobility in the preseason. The rookie hit 18.4 MPH on a 16-yard scramble against the Broncos in the first exhibition contest, and 18.3 on a mere one-yard gain against the Browns in the fourth. Those two times would put him right at the fringe of the top-15 in terms of fastest rushing plays for quarterbacks through the first four weeks of the regular season. Marcus Mariota owns the highest recorded speed (19.9 MPH) this year.

John Fox is a veteran coach in a multi-year tenure with the Chicago Bears, on his third head coaching stop. He knows the clock doesn't tick forever. No matter how pedigreed of a coach you are, eventually the bell tolls for us all. With every piece of data making it so clear that Glennon simply isn't offering this team any chance to sustain success, he simply had no choice but to hand the reigns to the young prospect.

How much longer can this team wait to play Trubisky? Not a second's worth of play following their Thursday night loss.

Fox left the door open to this change in his Thursday night post-game conference by telling reporters, "We'll look at everything and everybody, not just the quarterback position." Anyone familiar with Fox's career knows he loathes the idea of trusting younger players. Hearing him utter such words this early is a big enough sign that change was coming.

The clock struck midnight on Glennon's time as the starting quarterback for the Chicago Bears, a timer that started the second the team turned in the card to draft Trubisky second overall. The Next Gen Stats data doesn't just support that change, it demanded it. Now the Bears will ride out the rest of the season with the rookie under center and hope that he, at the least, offers more playmaking ability than the passer he replaces.

Matt Harmon is a writer/editor for, and the creator of #ReceptionPerception, who you can follow on Twitter @MattHarmon_BYB or like on Facebook.