Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky told reporters Wednesday that he feels more prepared for Sunday's Wild Card game than he was for his first playoff contest two years ago.
In 2018, Trubisky was in his second NFL season and first in coach Matt Nagy's offense when the Bears won the NFC North and opened the playoffs by hosting the Eagles in the wild card round. Two years later, Trubisky has gained valuable experience as he gears up to face the Saints in New Orleans.
"He's much different than he was in 2018," Nagy said. "Everything was going so fast for us and he was still learning that system. We were still figuring out, 'OK, he likes this play,' or 'no, he doesn't like this play,' as we were going through the games.
"So the trust factor in some concepts you might not have like you do right now. Plus he had never played in a playoff game. That was his first playoff game, so that's different."
In his playoff debut against the Eagles, Trubisky completed 26 of 43 passes for a Bears-postseason record 303 yards with one touchdown and an 89.6 passer rating in a 16-15 loss.
Fast forward two years later and Trubisky is playing his best football since joining the Bears. In six games since regaining his starting job, he has completed 68.0 percent of his passes for 1,495 yards with 10 touchdowns, five interceptions and a 96.0 passer rating. During that stretch, Trubisky helped lead the Bears to three straight wins and a berth in the playoffs.
"He was a different quarterback at the start of this year from [where he was in 2018] because conceptually we knew what he liked and didn't like," Nagy said. "But from the start of the year until now, he's even a better quarterback in a lot of different ways … He's absolutely grown as a quarterback and as a person and he's worked hard at it. It has not come easy and because of that, we are having success."
In their third season together, Trubisky feels more comfortable than ever in sharing his thoughts about certain plays in the game-plan with coaches.
"I think that he's grown in that way in regards to he has more confidence now in what we are doing schematically," Nagy said, "not just in the boots, the nakeds, the play-passes but in the drop back game as well. There is stuff that he likes that he feels good about that we like to stick to. That just comes with time; that part will only grow for him.
"I think good coaches listen to players that have conviction about plays they like. When a quarterback comes to you with conviction on a play and if you don't listen or you go a different way, that's not good. So when they feel something, you go with it."
When Trubisky was reinstalled as the starting quarterback after spending two months on the bench, he returned with an increased intensity and resolve that was immediately evident to coaches and teammates.
"The spirit that Mitch brought with him into the huddle was noticeable for me standing on the practice field," said offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. "I can tell you that it affected the huddle when the quarterback walked into the huddle that way."
“He’s absolutely grown as a quarterback and as a person and he’s worked hard at it.” Bears coach Matt Nagy on quarterback Mitchell Trubisky
Lazor believes that Trubisky's late-season success is due in large part to his dedication off the field.
"He's very detailed with his preparation," Lazor said. "Even by the time we get to sit down and watch over Zoom, watching the film with him after the game to review how it went, he is already really done a great job of going through it, [expressing] his opinion of what happened, taking meticulous notes and can describe, 'OK, this is what I saw, this is why I did it. Now that I've watched it, this is what I think happened.'
"Every day of the week as we install different parts of the game-plan, he's done the same thing in preparation. I couldn't be more impressed, really."