Bears

Why Mitchell Trubisky isn’t feeling pressure as his era begins with Bears

Why Mitchell Trubisky isn’t feeling pressure as his era begins with Bears

Mitchell Trubisky’s high school quarterbacks coach, Nes Janiak, offered some wisdom a few years back that’s stuck with the newly-named Bears starting quarterback: Pressure is what happens when you’re not prepared for something.

So going into Trubisky’s first career start, in front of a primetime Monday Night Football audience next week, he’s not expecting the moment will be too big for him.

“You only get nervous or feel pressure when you’re not prepared for the situation or you don’t know what you’re doing,” Trubisky said. “So my job is to just study the game plan and once I get in there just go back to my instincts, play the game I know how to play. I’ve been playing this game for a long time, so I’m going to go in there and be myself and the pressure shouldn’t be anything what everyone else makes it out to be. So I’ll just go out there and try to have fun.”

That’s a fresh approach for a player who will make his NFL debut with the weight of the Bears’ franchise on his shoulders. This organization hasn’t had a quarterback like Trubisky in a while, maybe ever. The long-term expectations for him are lofty, but that’s why the Bears traded up to draft him with the No. 2 overall pick in April.

For the 2017 Bears, though, the switch from Mike Glennon to Trubisky represents an opportunity for the entire offense to hit the reset button after four mostly sloppy games to begin the season. Beyond Glennon’s eight turnovers, the Bears offense seemed restrained with him at quarterback — he wasn’t mobile and wasn’t able to push the ball downfield, allowing opposing defenses (except, oddly, the Pittsburgh Steelers) to load up the box and sell out to stop running back Jordan Howard.

“Opportunity,” wide receiver Markus Wheaton said of what Trubisky brings to the offense. “With him being mobile, obviously there will be a lot of scramble plays, a lot more scramble plays than we had with Mike. More opportunity for us to get open.”

Trubisky said the Bears’ offense will be more basic than it was under Glennon, which hardly sounds like a bad thing. “Basic” will involve moving the pocket and allowing Trubisky to throw on the run, which could in turn prevent defenses from crowding eight men in the box to stop the run game. Either way, “basic” should look more dynamic than what the Bears’ offense was in September.

“It’s kind of a gunslinger’s mentality,” Trubisky said. “It’s being methodical, staying within the offense, being consistent and doing my job. And then when things break down, I’m able to make plays and again get the ball to my playmakers, because I’m not the best athlete on the field. There are other guys who do that. But when things can break down I can maybe make something happen.”

This is an exciting time not only for fans, but for players, coaches, front office personnel and the entire Bears organization. The future of the franchise is getting his first crack at changing the franchise. Let the Mitchell Trubisky era begin.

“He’s a baller,” wide receiver Josh Bellamy said. “We can’t wait to see him Monday.”

Why the Bears have so much confidence in Mitchell Trubisky, even as the losses mount

Why the Bears have so much confidence in Mitchell Trubisky, even as the losses mount

The Bears are hurtling toward another last-place finish in the NFC North, and Mitchell Trubisky is 2-4 as the team’s starting quarterback after Sunday’s 27-24 loss to the Detroit Lions. But talk to any of Trubisky’s teammates and it's clear they believe there’s a light at the end of the tunnel for this team, and it’s because of the bright future their quarterback has.

“He’s still young right now, a little green,” offensive lineman Bobby Massie said. "But he’s getting better every week, man.”

Explained fellow offensive lineman Kyle Long: “Just his poise and sense of urgency, at the end of the game to have the wherewithal to make the throws he’s making. Obviously it’s not all perfect — he’s a young quarterback in this league — but he has the confidence and trust of the guys around him. And that’s a rare thing in this league to have.”

Massie, like Long, also used the word “rare” in describing Trubisky, a guy who’s only started 20 games since leaving Mentor High School in 2013 (13 games at North Carolina, one in the preseason and six in the regular season). Massie, Long and the rest of the Bears’ locker room know how good Trubisky can be — or maybe, the way they’re thinking, will be — despite some uneven games this year.

The flashes of what the No. 2 overall pick can do keep on showing up, like that 18-yard jump pass to Kendall Wright that set up Connor Barth’s game-winning field goal in Week 6 against the Baltimore Ravens, or his instinctive 19-yard scramble on fourth-and-13 on Sunday that set up a game-tying 46-yard field-goal attempt that Barth missed.

“That’s his mentality — y’all got to see his mentality,” running back Tarik Cohen said. “That situation, fourth and 13, he’s not going down, not taking a sack, not throwing the ball away — he’s going to find a way to make a play, and he’s going to lead us to where we need to be.”

On the other hand, there were still some missed throws and reads for Trubisky (like not connecting with Benny Cunningham on a check-down five yards from the end zone in the first quarter) that serve as a reminder of his greenhorn status.

But it’s what Trubisky has done before and after those highlight or lowlight-reel plays that’s building a groundswell of confidence in him among his teammates.

The Bears got the ball on their own 17-yard line with 91 seconds left in the fourth quarter needing a field goal to tie the Lions on Sunday. When Trubisky entered the huddle, he was calm and confident — same as he was in the first quarter of the game, when the stakes weren't so high.

“He came to huddle and told everybody, 'Calm down, we’re going to win this game,'" wide receiver Dontrelle Inman said. “And that’s what the greats do. There’s no up and down with the emotional level when it comes time to actually go win the game. That’s a plus for him.

“He’s a competitor, and you see it week in and week out. He’s never going to give up. That’s the quarterback you want to be with you and throwing you the ball.”

That Trubisky’s teammates have so much confidence in him — despite the Bears’ 3-7 record — is a significant positive for his long-term development (that he’s only thrown one interception in his last 120 pass attempts is another positive). On Sunday, coach John Fox and offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains seemed to have more confidence in Trubisky, too, with the pair opening up the playbook and leading to the Bears having their best offensive game of the season.

That trust might not lead to a lot of wins this year. It might not be enough to keep the current coaching staff in place. But the way Trubisky’s teammates talk about him, they don’t see any hurdles the rookie can’t clear on his way to becoming a legit franchise quarterback.

“It’s rare and it’s the start of something special that we get to see,” Massie said. “Hopefully — I can’t predict the f***ing future — but from this point on, it looks like he’s going to be a special player.”

Leonard Floyd's 'really serious knee injury' further bangs up Bears defense, stalls rising star's growth

Leonard Floyd's 'really serious knee injury' further bangs up Bears defense, stalls rising star's growth

You couldn’t really tell watching it live, but the replay told the story: Kyle Fuller’s shoulder pads plowed right into Leonard Floyd’s right knee.

And that’s why last year’s first-round pick was down on the turf at Soldier Field. That’s why the cart came out from the southwest tunnel. That’s why the thousands of fans in the stands watched in silence.

After the game, head coach John Fox said what could have been guessed by most who watched that replay and watched Floyd leave the field on the cart.

“Leonard Floyd left with what looks like a really serious knee injury,” Fox said, a somewhat unusual admittance of severity from the oft-secretive coach in an oft-secretive industry.

“I hate to speculate,” he continued, “but usually when you get taken out on a cart, it’s not great. We’ll evaluate it. I’ll talk to our docs more today and tonight, and we will continue to evaluate tomorrow.”

For the Bears and their fans, this kind of news has become all too familiar. The linebacking corps alone has seen injuries to four of its best players: Jerrell Freeman, Danny Trevathan, Willie Young and now Floyd. Then there are the season-ending injuries to safety Quintin Demps, tight end Zach Miller and wide receivers Kevin White and Cameron Meredith.

And it’s not just the Bears. This is the new normal in the NFL, as the absences of stars like J.J. Watt, Aaron Rodgers and Richard Sherman have illustrated.

But for the Bears in particular, this is a really tough one to see.

Floyd has been a force for the defense this season, the kind of quarterback’s nightmare that Ryan Pace & Co. envisioned he’d be when they took Floyd with the No. 9 pick in last year’s draft. He entered Sunday’s action with the second-most sacks on the team, and only 29 players in the league had more than his 4.5 sacks.

After missing games and battling concussion issues as a rookie last season — and still recording seven sacks — this was supposed to be the full season from Floyd that would show how much of a monster he could be. Instead, though, it sounds like that season will be cut short, a building block on that side of the ball stalled.

The football implications, though, did not seem top of mind for many Bears players, who offered their well wishes for their teammate. Remember, too, that this is a team that has already been through Miller’s ordeal, the tight end confined to a Louisiana hospital as he recovered from almost losing his leg in last month’s loss to the New Orleans Saints.

“I told him I love him and I’m going to lay it on the line for him,” fellow linebacker Pernell McPhee said when asked what he said to Floyd as the second-year Georgia product was leaving the field.

And that wasn’t all.

As the media was leaving McPhee’s locker, he told everybody to “say a prayer for my boy.”