LAKE FOREST, Ill. – From the top of the Chicago Bears organization down, support for quarterback Mitchell Trubisky has not waned even after a dismal third season.
At the season-ending Bears press conference Tuesday, general manager Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy put all their support behind Trubisky and said he'll be back as starting quarterback next season.
What happens in terms of a backup to challenge Trubisky or merely to provide support as they've had in the past has yet to be decided.
The main thought Pace wanted to put forth was his confidence in Trubisky, the second pick of the 2017 draft.
The confidence isn't so great he's willing to put cash down on it. Pace said it's too premature to pick up the fifth-year option on Trubisky's rookie contract.
"The first thing that comes to mind for me is just consistency," Pace said. "You see moments, you see games, but for him streaming together better consistency. You have the peaks and valleys. We just need to flatten that out."
Trubisky had a drop in passer rating from 95.4 to 83.0 this season and ranked near the bottom of every statistical category for passers. He has made 41 career starts with a career passer rating of 85.6.
"But I think you know, especially with a young quarterback, in a lot of cases it's never going to be a straight line, never going to be linear," Pace said. "There's going to be ups and downs.
"You see games this year, you see him responding to adverse situations within a game. Those are signs of positive improvement. We just need to smooth out those inconsistencies."
Pace referred back to a familiar argument when the fact two quarterbacks he passed on, Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson, immediately stepped in and played effectively while he's still waiting on Trubisky.
"There're things happening around him, it's not just him," Pace said. "He knows he needs to get better in those areas.
"We knew his experience coming out of college, switching schemes after Year One. It's a growth process."
Trubisky had only one year as a starter at North Carolina, something the Bears often fall back on when explaining his struggles. They switched offenses after Trubisky's first year as starter, when John Fox was fired as coach and Nagy was hired.
The logic used most by Pace and Nagy in explaining Trubisky's problems centered around all the other problems they had on offense. The thought apparently is pervasive because team board chairman George McCaskey echoed them.
"We need more consistency from our offense at various positions," McCaskey said. "We need more production out of the tight end position. We need receivers running the correct routes. And we need to get the running game going.
"If we have an established running game, that'll help Mitchell a lot at the quarterback position."
As for Trubisky's faults, Nagy said he needs to see his quarterback begin reading defenses better and avoid being fooled. Of course, they said this last year, as well, and expected it when he was to begin running the 200-level attack.
"No. 1, we talked about his decision-making, but I want him to be a master at understanding coverages," Nagy said. "These defensive coordinators, they have different ways of showing different coverages, and they're good at it.
"Our first year here, I thought Mitch did a really good job at understanding the importance of getting in and out of the huddle with the verbiage that we have. We've also learned not just with him but with our players how to use that. The next step we talked a lot about this past year, level 202. How do you see the defense? Is that front, stunts, blitzes, first wide vision with the motion or a shift, seeing the Mike rotation?"
Nagy pointed to a play against the Redskins as evidence of what he wants to see Trubisky improve. Instead of taking a shot for an open touchdown to salt away the game, Trubisky threw a check-down pass and later in the game the Bears needed a big defensive stop to settle things.
Pace's selection of Trubisky drew criticism, as has Trubisky's development. Yet Pace wouldn't analyze where he went wrong in selecting Trubisky instead of the other top QBs available then.
"I don't think we're there yet," Pace said. "I think we're still watching a guy grow. He knows he needs to be more consistent. He knows he needs to play better. We know that, too.
"It's not all one person. I know everybody wants to make one person the villain. It's not all just one person's fault. There's a number of factors in play here we got to sort through."