The Buffalo Bills brought in former No. 2 overall selection Mitch Trubisky during the 2021 offseason to serve as an insurance policy in case Pro Bowl quarterback Josh Allen suffered an injury during the season.
After his only season in Western New York, Trubisky signed a deal to compete for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ starting QB job.
While Trubisky didn’t see the field much during his time with the Bills—completing 75% of his passes (6 of 8) for 43 yards with no touchdowns and one interception in six games—he recently told Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated’s “The MMQB” that he learned plenty from his one year backing up Allen.
“I would say I process quicker now. I know where I want to go with the ball,” Trubisky told Breer. “I’m able to just trust my abilities and play a lot more free, not just go where the coach wants me to go with the football. I think it was a lot along the lines of just having a trust and being on the same page as the offensive coordinator. I felt like being in Buffalo, the quarterback had a lot more free rein to go where he wanted with the reads and go where he wanted with the ball, as opposed to Chicago. Even if you got a completion [in Chicago], I felt like sometimes it wasn’t necessarily what the coach wanted. They put you in a box a little bit more than you wanted to be, and I think that restricts you as a player. It’s just different experiences. In the end, we still won games. It’s just different team to team.”
When he was Allen’s understudy in Buffalo, Trubisky said watching the way Allen reacted to what he saw on the field really resonated with him. Trubisky also credited Allen and Buffalo’s coaches with helping him play “outside of his box,” a reference to an old Bill Parcells phrase he used when coaching up his quarterbacks.
The box represents a quarterback’s reads, rules, and fundamental skills. The point of the phrase, according to Trubisky, was to emphasize how the great quarterbacks are able to step outside of their own box to make a play or connect on a pass downfield.
Striving to play outside of his box because of his time in Buffalo has inspired Trubisky to make changes as he’s fighting to win Pittsburgh’s starting QB job.
“Some coaches are like, ‘when you get a two-high look let’s check the ball down, or get to a run.’ But in Buffalo, they like to be aggressive, and it’s like, ‘Yo, if we can control that safety like Josh [Allen] does so well, and go down the field with it, why not exploit them and get a touchdown?’... It was awesome. It was definitely eye-opening to me. It made me say, ‘why can’t I add that to my game?’ And that’s what I’m trying to do.”
The ability to be free and play with a loose mentality on the field, to read and react to what the defense shows you, is one of the biggest ways Trubisky said playing in Buffalo helped him both develop as a quarterback, and learn to view the game and the position as an artform.
“The difference between my experience in Chicago and what I saw in Buffalo is they allow Josh to go out there and play his game,” Trubisky said to Breer. “In Chicago, they wanted me to play the coaches’ game. Call it whatever you will, that’s just how it felt to me. That was my experience, from what I saw in Chicago to what I saw in Buffalo. My experience in Buffalo, you’re not just going through progressions, you’re seeing the field. Sometimes I’d be on the sidelines, and I’d be like, ‘he had a completion right here.’ But based on what the defense was doing, he also had [Stefon] Diggs on a deep post and we scored a touchdown. Those are things you’re seeing on the field that you can’t see from the sidelines, and vice versa.”