On an even playing field, Mitchell Trubisky's numbers answer critics
It seems Mitchell Trubisky's lot in NFL life is to operate without respect.
Rodney Dangerfield had nothing on the Bears quarterback.
Whether it's Pro Football Focus rating him behind Blake Bortles at 32nd overall, Sports Illustrated ranking the Bears' quarterback situation worst in the NFC North and 25th overall, or Peter King calling him "18th or 22nd in the league," it seems Trubisky can't catch a break.
This all came after he made last year's greatest increase in passer rating of any NFL quarterback.
From the way Trubisky gets treated, you'd think he's Rex Grossman.
Trubisky leads the full team onto the practice field next week with the start of organized team activities, and to gain respect he'll apparently have to show he can walk on water.
Many comparisons between Trubisky and the other NFC North quarterbacks really seem silly when he is starting his third season and all three of the others are veterans in their 30s. They're looking at what Trubisky has done so far, the numbers other QBs have put up in far longer careers and, then they just dump Trubisky into the third or fourth tier of passers because he doesn't have those numbers.
Passer rating through 26 starts
A real objective look at Trubisky would simply be to consider what he's done through his 26 starts in terms of passer rating, and what other quarterbacks have done with similar chances.
Passer rating is a true objective statistic and an enduring one because it takes into account several easily measurable statistics: completion percentage, touchdowns, interceptions and yardage.
It's not a screwball metric someone invented utilizing what some guy in his underwear thinks he saw while sitting in his basement and watching video on the internet. It's not an attempt to show how a quarterback did against man-to-man or zone coverage or the blitz, which is good because who knows if those watching film even comprehended what they saw.
If they've got official team or NFL statistics fine. If not, keep it to yourself, in your basement.
This analysis isn't an attempt to project anything. This isn't about using metrics to pretend something will happen. It's about solid basic fact, what Trubisky has done and what others have done in the same amount of starts. It suggests a trend but nothing more.
Of the 42 quarterbacks in the NFL who had at least 26 career starts and were playing at the end of last season, Trubisky had the 13th highest passer rating for the first 26 starts.
Take it for what it's worth. He wasn't among the best, but at least he's not 18th or 22nd or 32nd.
Trubisky's 87.7 passer rating is in a range with Tom Brady (88.7) and Teddy Bridgewater (87.8) for the same number of starts. It's better than numbers posted for the same starts by notable players like Cam Newton (82.5), Drew Brees (73.1), Jameis Winston (85.5), Derek Carr (84.9), Philip Rivers (85.2), Joe Flacco (84.1) and Alex Smith (65.8).
The Web Whackos who call Trubisky the new Bortles probably would not like to know Bortles had only a 79.2 passer rating after 26 starts. He only won eight of those starts, too, while Trubisky has won 15.
But if you're looking for a closer comparison to Bortles after 26 starts, Carson Wentz had the same passer rating as Bortles at 79.2.
As for the divisional matchup, Trubisky doesn't come in last in a fair comparison of stats after the same number of starts.
Aaron Rodgers had an outstanding 95.7 passer rating to go with a 12-14 record as starter, while Kirk Cousins had a 91.3 rating and 11-15 record. Matthew Stafford had an 80.4 rating and 11-15 record after 26 starts.
In both Rodgers' case and Cousins', they were in the league far longer than Trubisky when they got to 26 starts, too.
Mahomes, Watson come out ahead
Trubisky won't get close to the passer ratings of two fellow 2018 Pro Bowl quarterbacks who were drafted the same year he came into the league. Patrick Mahomes (111.7) is still nine starts short of 26, but is off to a phenomenal start. Deshaun Watson is four games short of 26 and is at 103.1.
Plenty of factors come into play throughout a player's career that could make those first 26 starts an afterthought later.
Alex Smith and Brees blossomed in different situations after starting out poorly. Eli Manning won a couple Super Bowls after his shaky (73.8) start. One has to wonder what would have happened to RG3 and Bridgewater if their solid starts hadn't been followed with devastating injuries.
Trubisky could be one of those who gets better as their career goes on, chiefly because of Matt Nagy's coaching. It's already proven to be the case from Year 1 to Year 2.
The question is whether he continues to develop now under Nagy, or levels off in the second year of the offense.
The numbers Trubisky has posted, including the leap in passer rating from 77.5 to 95.4, all indicate his arrow is pointed up.
Ultimately, calling Trubisky the 18th or 22nd best or 32nd best quarterback seems not only premature, but without a legitimate factual basis.
QB ratings through 26 starts
Rank, player, passr rating, W-L
Roethlisberger 106.6 23-3
Wilson 99.2 20-6
Prescott 98.7 22-4
Rodgers 95.7 12-14
Goff 95.6 15-11
Mariota 94.3 11-15
Foles 94.2 16-10
RG3 92.0 12-14
Cousins 91.3 11-15
Taylor 90.3 14-12
Brady 88.7 18-8
Bridgewater 87.8 15-11
Trubisky 87.7 15-11
Schaub 86.9 11-15
Winston 85.5 11-15
Dalton 85.3 14-12
Rivers 85.2 19-7
Carr 84.9 7-19
Flacco 84.1 16-10
M. Ryan 84.0 16-10
Newton 82.5 8-18
Cassel 82.5 13-13
Hoyer 82.2 15-11
Stafford 80.4 11-15
Keenum 80.3 10-16
Luck 80.2 18-8
Wentz 79.2 17-9
Bortles 79.2 8-18
McCoy 78.6 7-19
Tannehill 78.4 12-14
Osweiler 76.9 14-12
Henne 76.1 13-13
D. Anderson 75.1 13-13
Bradford 74.2 8-18
Gabbert 74.2 5-21
E. Manning 73.8 13-13
Brees 73.1 9-17
Sanchez 72.5 17-9
J. McCown 71.2 13-12
Fitzpatrick 71.1 8-17-1
G. Smith 67.1 9-17
A. Smith 65.8 11-15