Mitch Trubisky never played under center as much as he did Sunday against Detroit.
The 26-year-old Bears quarterback played primarily out of shotgun formations in middle school, high school and college.
Not so on Sunday.
The Bears had Trubisky under center on 51% of their offensive plays, according to sharpfootballstats.com. In 2019, Matt Nagy’s team was under center just 24% of the time.
“That was the most I’ve probably been under center in my whole career,” Trubisky said.
The Bears started 2019 almost exclusively in the shotgun. In the season opener against Green Bay last year, the quarterback was under center just 9% of the time.
As the year went on and the offense struggled, Trubisky found himself under center more and more. By Week 17, he was under center 37% of the time.
That has morphed into a primary option for the 2020 Bears, at least through one week. It has been an adjustment for a quarterback who was in the shotgun for most of his career.
“For me it was just repetitions, get the footwork from under center, getting good meshes with the backs on all this stuff,” Trubisky said. “And I think it has been a positive for our offense. We’re going to keep growing with it.”
Nagy said the coaching staff identified it as a strength when they went back and watched film from the 2019 season. The team had success with the quarterback under center, so why not incorporate that into the offense more?
The Bears brought in four new offensive coaches over the offseason, with an emphasis on fixing the run game. Offensive line coach Juan Castillo also serves as the run game coordinator.
Castillo said this week that having the quarterback under center is all about being diverse on offense.
“Every week may be different and can be different in many ways,” Castillo said. “We may have to play more games in gun, maybe other games more under center. That just happened to be the way things were going for us this week. There’s no reason to really get out of it until later on in the game.”
On Sunday, the Bears were in the shotgun 62% of the time in the fourth quarter, when they made their 17-point comeback.
Looking at the numbers, 68% of the Bears’ run plays came with the quarterback under center. That’s right in line with the league average (69%). Meanwhile, 87% of pass plays came in shotgun formations (league average is 73%).
The Bears especially liked putting Trubisky under center on first down against the Lions. Trubisky was under center on 61% of first downs, well above the league average of 45%. In 2019, the Bears were in the shotgun 67% of the time on first down plays.
“A lot of times [in 2019] we were in shotgun and teams would favor the pass more,” Trubisky said. “When they know pass is coming, it just makes it a lot harder to find completions and get explosive plays because they’re just going to sag off.”
Trubisky said the Bears will keep tinkering with it. The shotgun will always be a key part of any Matt Nagy offense, especially in passing situations.
But the head coach is showing a willingness to adjust his offense to fit his personnel, and to find what works.
“You want to be able to keep things off balance, and we still have a lot of stuff from the gun,” Nagy said. “But as we’re trying to create this identity of who we are, you can probably feel there’s a little bit more [under center], for sure this year.”