NFL

With Mahomes, Watson Shining Early, Bears’ Mitchell Trubisky Must Step It Up

Clemson’s DeShaun Watson, North Carolina’s Mitchell Trubisky and Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes were undoubtedly the top quarterbacks in the 2017 NFL Draft class. The Chicago Bears, who held the #3 overall pick entering the night, were laughed at when they gave up a plethora of draft picks to move up just one spot to #2 in order to take Trubisky. Many people, including myself, were confused with this decision. General manager Ryan Pace has said that Trubisky was the best quarterback on all the Bears’ coaches QB board as well as his own. There was debate about who was the best between Watson and Trubisky, and going into the draft, I remember dreaming about a scenario where DeShaun Watson was taking snaps for the Bears. Now, I don’t think Trubisky is bad, at this point, I think he’s got a high ceiling, but Watson was my #1 in the draft. The Bears were worried that someone else would trade up and take Trubisky, which I understand, but what I don’t understand is that if someone did happen to trade up and get him, Watson is still on the board. After each of these QBs’ rookie seasons and the first two weeks of their sophomore seasons, let’s see where they are.

Watson shined in 7 games as the starter for the Houston Texans, but tore his ACL midway through the season. Mahomes did not see any meaningful playing time in his rookie season, starting only in a useless Week 17 matchup, where he looked okay. In the first two weeks of the 2018 regular season, Mahomes threw a record 10 passing touchdowns, leading his team to victories against the Los Angeles Chargers and Pittsburgh Steelers, both on the road. Watson performed well, although his Texans have started off 0-2.

Mitchell Trubisky is who I will be mainly focusing on in this article. He was held to the highest expectations of the trio after the Bears gave up so much to get him, and he hasn’t been playing like a #2 overall pick so far. To be fair to Trubisky, his coaches in 2017 were so bad, we should not even be counting his rookie season as an NFL season. Now, Trubisky gets a legit coach, with some legit pass catchers, and has a championship-level defense to take pressure off of him. Yet, somehow, he hasn’t had that breakout performance that the Bears were hoping he would have, yet. In Week 1 against Green Bay, Trubisky came out on fire, leading his team to 10 points on the first two drives, and adding 10 more points to that before the end of the third quarter. As we all know, the Bears choked away that lead and lost that game.

In Week 2 against the Seattle Seahawks, Trubisky and the Bears’ offense lit up the Seattle defense on the opening drive, driving 96 yards and scoring a touchdown. The offense then stalled for over an entire quarter, as Trubisky threw two interceptions in the second quarter, one on an underthrown pass to Allen Robinson, the other tipped at the line of scrimmage, were both intercepted by CB Shaquill Griffin. The Bears’ offense drove and Cody Parkey delivered a 25-yard field goal late in the 2nd. The halftime score was 10-3. No points were scored by either team in the third quarter. Early in the fourth, Trubisky threw a perfect pass while rolling to his left to rookie WR Anthony Miller in the end zone for his second TD of the game, and Miller’s first of his career. The defense would bail Chicago out in the 4th quarter. After Russell Wilson orchestrated a nice drive that ended in a touchdown and put Seattle down 17-10 with 10:13 to go. On the Seahawks’ next drive, Bears’ CB Prince Amukamara intercepted a pass and returned it 49 yards for a touchdown. With about six minutes to go, ILB Danny Trevathan recorded a strip sack that was recovered by OLB Leonard Floyd. The Seahawks would get another TD with 00:14 to go, but the onside kick would be recovered by Miller, and the Bears won the game 24-17.

Historically, the Bears have been a defensive team. Look at the Lovie Smith Bears: elite defenses with average offenses led by awful quarterbacks. The Mike Ditka Bears were pretty good offensively, but that was mainly because of the late, great Walter Payton, punky QB Jim McMahon and the otherworldly athletic receiver Willie Gault. And, oh yeah, that defense took a lot of pressure off the offense. If you look back even further in history, you’ll remember defensive greats like Dick Butkus, Joe Fortunato, Bronko Nagurski, Bill George, George Connor, as well as others.

But this is a new era in the NFL, an era that requires strong play from the quarterback position to win a Super Bowl. Strong quarterback play is something the Bears have struggled to find over the years. Everyone makes fun of the Browns for their QB woes, but many forget how bad the Bears have been with that. They haven’t had a quarterback in the pro bowl since McMahon in 1985. Yes, you read that right. Not a single pro bowl quarterback since 1985. That is just atrocious. When the Bears selected Trubisky with the second overall pick in 2017, he was expected to be that guy who breaks the fowl streak. I’m not going to sit here with my laptop and tell you “He’s a bust! He’s terrible! Put Chase Daniel in!” (cough cough Jason La Canfora). And I’m not going to sit here and say “He’s an elite quarterback! He’s the best thing ever! Oh my god he’s our savior!” Oh, stop it. Anyone who would do anything like that is a fool, yes, that includes La Canfora.

As a Bears fan, I’m willing to be patient with Trubisky. I understand that he’s only started 14 NFL games at the time this article was written, and his first season was under an awful coaching staff who had no idea how to use him. He also had a terrible group of targets. I know that he’s got a great, clever coach who knows exactly what to do with him, he’s athletic, accurate, but most importantly, he wants to be the best and is willing to work in order to make that possible. So I don’t think he’s a bust. If you think so, I plead you to just be patient with him. I’m not going to sit here and pretend that I haven’t held high expectations for Trubisky this season. But I understood when I was writing those articles that it is possible that he may not be ready to come out and pass for 600 yards and 6 TDs in weeks 1 & 2. I’m going to say that I still believe that the Bears will bring home another Lombardi Trophy and Mitchell Trubisky will be the guy for the Bears.

 

Mitchell Trubisky was by no means bad on Monday Night. He was 25/34 (73.5%, so, highly efficient in that regard) for 200 yards, 2 TDs and 2 INTs. There were two throws that I had issues with in that game. One was on the opening drive. Trubisky had Taylor Gabriel wide open about 20 to 25 yards downfield, and he put the pass just too tall for the 5’8” Gabriel. The other was in the second quarter, when Allen Robinson had Shaquill Griffin beat badly in one-on-one coverage. Trubisky under threw Robinson, resulting in a Griffin interception. If he connects on both of those throws, that’s another 14 points on the board, making the final score in this situation 38-14 Bears. This goes to show how, in football, you can be so close, yet so far. When, not if, Trubisky has that breakout game, the Bears will be Super Bowl contenders.

If Mitchell Trubisky can be okay, the Bears will be a playoff team because of the elite defense and special teams. But if the Bears want to bring home a Lombardi, he must step it up. And until he does, he will be facing criticism from the entire NFL community for “not being as good as Mahomes and Watson.” To me, that is a matter of if, not when. It has also appeared that Matt Nagy has not yet allowed Trubisky to just go crazy. Once that happens, we will have a better idea of where he’s at as a QB. But only time will tell. Speaking of time, how much time am I willing to give Trubisky before I lose my patience? I’d say that if by the end of the 2019 season he is still in this dreadful place stuck between mediocrity and greatness, it is time to hit the panic button in Chicago.

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