The Bears were pleased with the strides that Mitchell Trubisky made in his first season in their new offense and are excited about the quarterback's continued growth in 2019.
Working with coach Matt Nagy and offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich for the first time, Trubisky helped lead the Bears to a 12-4 record and the NFC North Division title in his first full season as an NFL starter. He completed 66.6 percent of his passes for 3,223 yards with 24 touchdowns, 12 interceptions and a 95.4 passer rating.
"He conquered the next-play mentality," Nagy said. "He conquered the steps of 101 progressions. By the end of the year, he was reading it 1-2-3 run.
"I think level two next year is going to be him really recognizing pre-snap what he's about to see from these defenses. This year he was so focused in on, 'What do we do on offense?' Now he knows it all and can take that next step of figuring out, 'OK, here they come. They've got a blitz, cover-0. Now I know what to do, what to check to. I know the protections, all of that.' That's going to be the big one for him."
The experience and familiarity that Trubisky gained with the new offense and several new teammates in 2018 could pay major dividends next season.
"It was just good to see the natural growth in the offensive scheme as he gained more comfort and then also more comfort with the players that are around him, that chemistry that developed," said general manager Ryan Pace.
"I was just talking to Mitch about that, just the excitement of going into an offseason with the pieces in place around him and then Year 2 in the same offensive scheme and how much growth can take place. I just feel like you saw him playing more with his instincts because he was more comfortable in the system."
When Trubisky and his teammates return to Halas Hall for the start of the offseason program in April, they'll experience a night-and-day difference compared to a year ago.
"It was learning a new language when they got here [last] April 3," Nagy said. "They had no idea, no clue. When we go line up out at practice, [they were] trying to figure out, 'What's my split? Is it minus-two from the top of the numbers? Is it plus-two from the bottom of the numbers? Am I in the alley split? Where am I?'
"They all know that now. We're all speaking the same lingo. When those guys show up for OTAs now, remember I kept saying 101? Now we're onto 202."
Nagy was hired by the Bears due in large part to his ability to get the most out of quarterbacks. With Nagy serving as Chiefs offensive coordinator in 2017, Kansas City's Alex Smith led the NFL with a 104.7 passer rating. As expected, the Bears' first-year coach played a major role in Trubisky's development this season.
"You could just feel the relationship between those two grow," Pace said. "You talk about important relationships in the building. The head coach/play-caller and the quarterback, that's pretty critical, and we feel strong about that relationship."
Senior writer Larry Mayer ranks the Bears' top 10 plays of the 2018 season: