The Bears might have a problem on their hands. Their quarterback, Mitchell Trubisky, is showing signs of life after a mostly comatose opening 10 games to his third season, bringing the Bears to the edge of the playoff picture, and turning what was once a relatively easy decision to move on from him after the season into a more nuanced and complicated one.
In starts 1-10 this season, Trubisky completed 62.2 percent of his passes, averaged 5.8 yards per attempt, threw 10 touchdowns and six interceptions, and posted an 80.5 passer rating. The Bears went 5-5 in that span, a testament to their defense. In his past two starts, Trubisky completed 75.4 percent of his passes, averaged 8.4 yards per attempt, threw six touchdowns and two interceptions, and posted a 116.9 passer rating. The Bears went 2-0 in that span.
What's also notable is that Trubisky went from averaging 2.2 rushing attempts, 7.6 rushing yards, and 0.1 rushing touchdowns per game in starts 1-10 to averaging seven rushing attempts, 33.5 rushing yards, and 0.5 rushing touchdowns per game in starts 11-12. It's notable because Trubisky's ability and willingness to inflict damage with his legs a year ago is what made him the league's third-best quarterback by total QBR, a metric that takes into account a quarterback's contributions as a runner. Why Trubisky stopped running for most of this season will never quite make sense. Was it due to an injury? Or were the Bears trying to prove he could win from the pocket?
In short, it's difficult to remain unimpressed when watching the film from the past couple weeks as Trubisky displayed the traits that baited the Bears into trading up one spot for him in the 2017 draft when quarterbacks like Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson were still available.
There's the arm:
And there'e the athleticism:
All of this, in the short term, is good news for the Bears. At 4-6 a few weeks ago, the Bears were dead. At 7-6 today, they still need to win out and get some help to qualify for the postseason, but at the very least, they're alive. They have hope. On a far more basic level, it's actually fun to watch the Bears again. For fans of a franchise thatand have otherwise seen way too much dreadful quarterback play, don't discount how much that matters. The Bears almost certainly won't make the playoffs -- according to SportsLine simulations conducted by Stephen Oh, their playoff odds reside at three percent -- but at least it doesn't feel like torture to watch them play football.
What's important is the long term. While Trubisky has played well the past two weeks and has brought temporary hope, the Bears cannot use these two games as evidence that he's still their future franchise quarterback. Trubisky has played well, but so many of his throws are the kinds of throws that NFL quarterbacks are supposed to be able to make nine out of 10 times. Trubisky has played well, but it's not like he's never played well before. He's done this exact same thing before -- as recently as last December. It's what he's done for most of his young career.
He's always been capable of stringing together a few quality performances. What he's always lacked is consistency on both a throw-to-throw and game-to-game basis. Even in his past two performances, he's demonstrated his inconsistencies with two of the uglier interceptions you'll see all season.
The first occurred because he didn't pull the trigger when Allen Robinson immediately gained separation.
The second happened because he refused to throw the ball away and instead tried to make an impossible pass.
Last December, Trubisky strung together a three-game stretch to close the regular season that most Bears fans pointed to as evidence of his ascent. Against the Packers, 49ers, and Vikings, Trubisky completed 75.9 percent of his passes, averaged 7.8 yards per attempt, threw three touchdowns and no interceptions, and posted a 109.7 passer rating. It turns out, though, that three-game stretch wasn't a sign of progress. It was merely a fluke. Chances are, this current stretch, however long it extends, is also a fluke.
He's always been an inconsistent quarterback, capable of hitting such great heights (remember when he threw six touchdowns against the Buccaneers last year?) and sinking to the lowest of lows (see: the first 10 games of this season). The question coming into this season was if . Regardless of what he does between now and January, the answer to that question is no.
You'd think, given their history, Bears fans would be used to this kind of thing. Back in 2013, Josh McCown pieced together one of the best four-game stretches by a backup ever when he filled in for an injured Jay Cutler and threw nine touchdowns and one interception. Throughout that entire season, in five starts and eight total appearances, McCown threw 13 touchdowns and only one pick. There were some who wanted the team to sign McCown, not Cutler, to a long-term deal. Obviously, we all know that McCown did not maintain that level of production in Tampa Bay, New York or Philadelphia. Every NFL quarterback is capable of stringing together a good stretch every now and then.
It's OK to enjoy Trubisky's success and to praise him for improving. I even think it's OK for the Bears to bring him back next year considering he only carries a cap hit of $9.2 million. But what the Bears can't do is look at the past two games and whatever happens in the final three games and decide he's shown enough signs of progress to be still considered their future franchise quarterback.
They can bring him back, but they also need to bring in another viable option. This year's quarterback market figures to be deep, with quarterbacks like Philip Rivers, Cam Newton, Andy Dalton, Marcus Mariota, Derek Carr, and Jameis Winston (*gulp*) potentially available. Even though the Bears are lacking a first-round pick, they'll have options. And really, that's what this comes down to: giving themselves more options.
Trubisky might still be an option. With an affordable contract, they can afford to keep him around to find out. But they can't make Trubisky their only option. With a still Super Bowl-caliber defense, depending on Trubisky to do something he's never done before -- be a consistently adequate quarterback -- would be malpractice. Trubisky is playing well right now, but the Bears can't be tricked into thinking he's turned the corner. It's more likely this is an aberration.
Onto this week's quarterback power rankings, where you'll find Trubisky steadily rising, but still positioned in the bottom half of the list. Before we move onto the rest of the power rankings, a reminder of the rules:
- One quarterback per team. Whichever quarterback started in Week 14 will be the quarterback selected.
- Recent success matters more than past success. These are power rankings. That's why you won't see Tom Brady, the greatest quarterback of all time, at No. 1. We're valuing performances this season more than performances in previous seasons. We're valuing performances last week more than performances four weeks ago. As a result, don't be surprised if the rankings fluctuate in a major way each week.
- But reputation and history do matter, because they're tools we're using to predict future success. All-time greats get a bit of a boost.
- There's more to the rankings than wins and losses. Wins are not a quarterback stat. While we're definitely taking into account wins and losses, it's not the only thing that matters. You'll see a ton of other stats listed -- like DYAR, DVOA, and total QBR. For an explainer on those stats, click right here. Yes, the eye test matters too.
Onto the rankings.
Lamar Jackson Baltimore Ravens QB
| Jackson's production is down in recent weeks. In his past two games, he's averaged only 5.2 yards per pass attempt and 125 passing yards per game. But in that span, he took down the mighty 49ers and a Bills team that appears to be actually good. He also rushed for 141 yards and threw four touchdowns in those two games. His numbers might be down, but the Ravens are rolling to the top seed in the AFC and Jackson has repeatedly proven the ability to beat playoff teams, even if he's not doing it with video-game numbers. There's no reason to move him down. |
Last week: 1
Patrick Mahomes Kansas City Chiefs QB
| It certainly wasn't perfect against the Patriots. His second throw of the game was to a Patriots defender. But Mahomes led the Chiefs into New England against the league's best defense and emerged with a win thanks to a second-quarter outburst of points. His touchdown -- off his back foot with a pass-rusher in his face -- was one of those plays that only he can make. He's now the league-leader in DVOA and he's second in both DYAR and total QBR. If not for that injury, he'd be in the MVP conversation with the quarterbacks preceding and following him on this list. |
Last week: 3
Russell Wilson Seattle Seahawks QB
| Wilson had a chance to dent Jackson's lead with a primetime matchup against the Rams. But the Seahawks' offense failed to score a touchdown with Wilson getting sacked five times and submitting the second-worst performance of season in terms of both passer rating and yards per attempt. Over the past four weeks, Wilson's numbers have plummeted. He's averaging 7.3 yards per attempt and has thrown four touchdowns and four interceptions in that span. |
Last week: 2
Drew Brees New Orleans Saints QB
| Don't blame Brees for the Saints' heartbreaking loss to the 49ers. The only thing he did wrong was score too quickly late in the fourth quarter, giving the 49ers a chance to go and win the game with a last-ditch drive of their own. This was the way we've been wanting Brees and the Saints offense to look over the past few weeks. Even though they lost, their offense's performance was encouraging. With 349 yards and five touchdowns, it was easily the best performance of Brees' season, which is good news considering how he faded down the stretch a year ago. |
Last week: 7
Ryan Tannehill Tennessee Titans QB
| Tannehill is playing like a top-five quarterback. There's no more denying it. He ranks second in completion percentage (73.4), second in touchdown percentage (7.4), first in yards per attempt (9.8), and first in passer rating (118.5). According to NFL Next Gen Stats, he's averaging 9.2 air yards per pass attempt (fifth), throwing into tight windows 20.2 percent of the time (seventh), and leads the league in completion percentage above expectation. He's doing all of this behind the league's worst pass-blocking offensive line, per Football Outsiders. |
Last week: 8
Kirk Cousins Minnesota Vikings QB
| Weird game for the Vikings, who got up comfortably against the Lions and then proceeded to merely run out the clock for the entire second half. Cousins was his normal very good self, throwing for 242 yards and a touchdown, but against that bad of a Lions defense, I wanted him to get the chance to do even more damage. |
Last week: 6
Dak Prescott Dallas Cowboys QB
| Remember when Prescott was a legitimate MVP candidate? In his past three games, he's completing 59.5 percent of his passes, averaging 6.9 yards per attempt, and has thrown three touchdowns and two picks for an 81.6 passer rating. His entire body of work this season remains impressive (top-three in DYAR, DVOA, and total QBR), but he -- like the Cowboys -- are trending in the wrong direction. |
Last week: 5
Deshaun Watson Houston Texans QB
| Nobody expected the Texans to get blown out by the Broncos, but that's what happened on Sunday. Ignore the final scoreline and box score, because this was a 31-3 game at halftime, at which point the game was over. Watson managed to pad his stats with three touchdowns in the final 23 minutes, but all of those scores were irrelevant. A week after dismantling the Patriots, Watson suffered a setback. |
Last week: 4
Jimmy Garoppolo San Francisco 49ers QB
| Against the league's seventh-ranked defense by DVOA, Garoppolo threw for 349 yards, four touchdowns, one pick, and a 131.7 passer rating. He's benefited greatly from Kyle Shanahan's brilliantly designed offense. But Garoppolo made almost all of the throws required of him. For that, he deserves credit. He's demonstrated in recent weeks that he's good enough to help the 49ers reach the Super Bowl. That's no longer a question. |
Last week: 10
Aaron Rodgers Green Bay Packers QB
| Another underwhelming performance, this time against the Redskins, adds more evidence to the theory that Rodgers is no longer a great quarterback, but merely a good one. By DVOA, he's 10th. By total QBR, he's 16th. When watching his film, he hardly resembles the quarterback he once was. Rodgers is still good enough to make a few jaw-dropping throws per game and morph back into a great quarterback every now and then, but he's not that player on every snap. |
Last week: 9
Matt Ryan Atlanta Falcons QB
| After getting stiff armed into outer space, Ryan rebounded nicely against the Panthers. By YPA (9.2), it was his third-best outing of the season. It's getting to the point where I wish the Falcons would be willing to move him because it's clear that while Ryan is no longer operating at his peak, he's still pretty good and it'd be a shame for him to waste the final few productive years of his career on an inept team. |
Last week: 14
Philip Rivers Los Angeles Chargers QB
| In the past two weeks, Rivers is completing over 70 percent of his passes, averaging 11.4 yards per attempt, has thrown five touchdowns and only one pick, and has posted a 132.7 passer rating. HIs plans for next year remain unclear. Will the Chargers even want to bring him back? If they don't, he should get the chance to start somewhere else. He's not what he once was, like Rodgers, but he's still capable of playing good football. |
Last week: 17
Tom Brady New England Patriots QB
| We all know it's not entirely Brady's fault, but this Patriots offense is difficult to watch. Besides gimmicky plays they can use once or twice a game, they don't really know how to hit on big plays. And they're not consistent enough to sustain long drives. It's not all Brady's fault, but he's not helping matters. It's not really a good sign when the Patriots' offense is at its best when someone other than Brady is throwing the ball. |
Last week: 12
Kyler Murray Arizona Cardinals QB
| Call it rookie growing pains. Murray made some horrific mistakes against the Steelers, throwing three picks, fumbling once, and creating a few of the five sacks he took. Still, it's been an impressive rookie season for Murray given just how bad the talent is around him. |
Last week: 11
Jared Goff Los Angeles Rams QB
| I'm not buying into Goff's recent wave of success as a long-term fix. But let's give him credit for improving and helping the Rams keep their playoff hopes alive. When he's given a clean pocket, he's a good quarterback. |
Last week: 18
Josh Allen Buffalo Bills QB
| Allen entered Sunday playing pretty good football in his previous eight games, but hit a speed bump against a Ravens defense that is peaking. He overthrew multiple open receivers in the early going. He wound up completing only 43.6 percent of his passes. He took six sacks. And he averaged 3.7 yards per attempt. So no, he was not good. |
Last week: 15
Derek Carr Oakland Raiders QB
| Over the past few weeks, Carr has morphed back into the quarterback we all knew he was. He's not terrible. But he's also not good, namely because he refuses to throw the ball downfield. The Raiders should be trying to upgrade at quarterback in the offseason. His decision to throw the ball away on fourth-and-goal might've been the worst quarterback play in Week 14. |
Last week: 16
Carson Wentz Philadelphia Eagles QB
| No, he doesn't have anybody to throw to. But Wentz also deserves a portion of the blame for his difficult season. His accuracy has disappeared. And his efficiency has plummeted. He's averaging 6.5 yards per attempt, which ranks 30th, even though he's averaging 8.3 air yards per attempt, which ranks in the middle of the pack. |
Last week: 13
Jacoby Brissett Indianapolis Colts QB
| The biggest criticism of Brissett this season has been his unwillingness to throw the ball downfield. It feels like he's been more willing to push the envelope in recent weeks. In his first 10 games, he averaged 6.8 yards per attempt. In his past two games, he's averaged 7.5 yards per attempt. Still, the Colts should be trying to upgrade at quarterback in the offseason. Brissett is a great backup, but I think this season has taught us that he has a ceiling as a starter. He's 14th in DVOA and 21st in QBR. He's not bad. He's just very middling. |
Last week: 21
Gardner Minshew Jacksonville Jaguars QB
| Minshew didn't play like the 20th best quarterback in his return on Sunday, but his body of work this season is impressive for a sixth-round rookie. The Jaguars never should've handed Nick Foles his starting job back. They need to build around the cheaper and better option. |
Last week: N/A
Jameis Winston Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB
| It's the same thing every week: downfield strikes (10.1 YPA), touchdowns (four), and interceptions (three). It's impossible to ignore the turnovers. He leads the league in interceptions (23) by seven. |
Last week: 19
Sam Darnold New York Jets QB
| After seeing how well Tannehill is playing now that he's been freed from the constraints of Adam Gase's offense, I hope Darnold gets the chance in the near future to play for a coach not named Adam Gase. |
Last week: 23
Mitchell Trubisky Chicago Bears QB
| Credit where it's due: Trubisky is playing legitimately decent football in recent weeks. If he'd been playing at this level all season, the Bears would be playoff bound. Like Goff, a lot of Trubisky's struggles and successes are connected to what's happening up front. When he's well-protected and getting the ball out quickly, he's not terrible. |
Last week: 25
Baker Mayfield Cleveland Browns QB
| His performance on Sunday was emblematic of his season. Ball placement and consistency remain a huge issue. Against a horrific Bengals defense, Mayfield completed under 50 percent of his passes and threw two more picks. I'm still a fan of his long-term potential, but this year provides a reminder that he's a young quarterback with noticeable flaws. From last year to this year, his completion percentage is down 4.6 percent, his touchdown percentage has dropped by 1.9 percent, his interception percentage is up 0.8 percent, his YPA is down 0.5 yards, and his passer rating has declined by 16.1 points. |
Last week: 20
Drew Lock Denver Broncos QB
| Maybe John Elway finally drafted a good quarterback? Lock threw a bad interception on Sunday, but he still completed 22 of his 27 passes for 309 yards and three touchdowns. His willingness to throw downfield is appreciated. |
Last week: 30
Eli Manning New York Giants QB
| He played well for a half, which is more than we expected. Nobody should be fooled into thinking Manning is good enough to start next year. He made a couple nice throws downfield against a bad Eagles secondary, but was unable to do much of anything in the second half. |
Last week: N/A
Andy Dalton Cincinnati Bengals QB
| He's probably good enough to start somewhere else next year, but as the past two starts have indicated, he's not good enough to overcome just how bad the Bengals are at every position group. |
Last week: 24
Ryan Fitzpatrick Miami Dolphins QB
| We're not learning anything new about Fitzpatrick at this stage in his career. He can deliver two or three great performances per season and he's already achieved that by leading the Dolphins three wins in 10 starts. Thank u, next. |
Last week: 22
Devlin Hodges Pittsburgh Steelers QB
| Mike Tomlin was right. Hodges doesn't kill the Steelers. But he also doesn't really help them. He was fine against the Cardinals -- he did what the Steelers needed him to do -- but take a look at his passing chart. All but three of his passes were within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. |
Last week: 31
Kyle Allen Carolina Panthers QB
| The Panthers need to hand the reins over to Will Grier. It's time for the Kyle Allen experiment to end after two more interceptions. He's thrown 12 picks in his past seven games. |
Last week: 26
Dwayne Haskins Washington Redskins QB
| Give him time. I honestly don't really know how we're supposed to evaluate a raw quarterback prospect in a terrible offense surrounded by mostly not good players. |
Last week: 29
David Blough Detroit Lions QB
| It turns out that Thanksgiving performance against the Bears was probably a mirage. Blough is who we thought he was. With the Lions losing Marvin Jones for the remainder of the season, things might get worse for Blough. |
Last week: 27