Ryan Leaf

Why early expectations for Mitch Trubisky should be high

Why early expectations for Mitch Trubisky should be high

All of the Mitch Truisky expectation qualifiers have been installed — no magic wand for the offense, only 13 college starts, not out of a pro-style system at North Carolina, and so on and so on. But irrespective of any pressure on the job statuses of GM Ryan Pace or coach John Fox, the expectations of the rookie quarterback over the next season-and-a-half or so should be more, far more, not less.

The reason lies in one of those things that run counter to most conventional-wisdom assumptions about quarterbacking in the NFL. The Bears hope, in the deepest corners of the franchise, that it continues.

That “it” is the strong — as in “near”- or actual “playoff-grade” — play of quarterbacks within their first three and often fewer seasons, a time frame which was once the norm and still is arguably preferred. Aaron Rodgers sat several years behind Brett Favre after arriving as the Green Bay Packers’ No. 1 draft choice in 2005 (20 picks after the Bears had grabbed Cedric Benson), and “I was very thankful for the opportunity, now as I look back, to grow,” Rodgers said before the Bears game this year.

But in an era when defenses have become increasingly sophisticated, and numbers of top college quarterbacks are coming out of spread offenses and systems far from “pro style,” quarterbacks have had positive impacts with increasing suddenness.

Consider some case studies from the last several years:

Player | Team | Drafted | Result

Teddy Bridgewater | Vikings | 2014 | 2015 NFC North champions

Jared Goff | Rams | 2016 | 3-1, leading NFC West, current No. 3-ranked passer in 2017

Robert Griffin III | Redskins | 2012 | NFC East champions, rookie season

Andrew Luck | Colts | 2012 | Playoffs first 3 seasons

Dak Prescott | Cowboys | 2016 | NFC East champions in 2016

Carson Wentz | Eagles | 2016 | 3-1, leading NFC East

Jameis Winston | Bucs | 2015 | 2-14 Bucs in 2014 were 6-10 in 2015 and 9-7 last season

Success is far from automatic, and to some extent lies in the eye of the beholder and has a time element. “Everybody was calling Goff a bust sometimes last season,” said Bears offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains, now with his hand on the Trubisky steering wheel and throttle. “And the teams around the guys are obviously enormous factors.”

To wit: Goff went No. 1 overall, usually a spot belonging to the most woeful team from the previous year. But he went to a Rams team coming off a 7-9 season that dumped its draft to move up from 15th for him. Likewise, Wentz went to a 7-9 team (Philadelphia) that traded up. These weren’t Peyton Manning going to 3-13 Indianapolis and Ryan Leaf to 4-12 San Diego (1998).

But Luck was the No. 1-overall pick by an Indianapolis team that went 3-13 in 2011, then 11-5 in Luck’s first year. Washington was 5-11 in 2011, then 10-6 and NFC East champions in RGIII’s rookie season.

Trubisky has gone to a 3-13 team, one with among the least productive groups of wide receivers in the NFL. On the other hand, after Troy Brown, name two other New England Patriots wide receivers from their early Super Bowls.

Note to the rookie: It’s a poor craftsman who blames his tools (see: Jay Cutler).

And Tom Brady had started zero games and thrown all of 3 passes, 2 incomplete, as a rookie backup on a 5-11 Patriots team in 2000 before starting in relief of Drew Bledsoe in 2001.

But the game and the players, particularly the quarterbacks have changed.

“In 2005, I don’t think the quarterbacks were as ready to play as maybe some of the guys are now,” Rodgers said. “There’s better coaching, better awareness, there’s better coaching at a younger level. If you’re not in a ‘raise-you-foot-up, look-the-sideline, let-the-coach-call-the-play offense,’ you’re doing some more stuff now at the college level.”

All the Bears ask is for Trubisky to do more stuff now at the NFL level.

Quality in 2017 NFL Draft may work against Bears trading out of No. 3

Quality in 2017 NFL Draft may work against Bears trading out of No. 3

Signing Mike Glennon ostensibly settled the Bears' situation for their 2017 starting quarterback and dialed down urgency to use the No. 3-overall pick to find their right-now quarterback in this year's draft. That was considered a good thing, given that the general evaluations of the 2017 draft options were not the stuff of which No. 3's are made.
 
Reducing positional need creates draft flexibility, and the Bears are in the desirable position with options to add picks through trading down. But there's a catch.
 
The problem is not the quality of the draft as a whole, but rather the quality of individuals. Few players have to this point so significantly separated themselves from the field that they become far-and-away, must-have targets that a team or teams feel driven to trade up for.
 
Within the top five, that typically means quarterback: San Diego up to No. 2 for Ryan Leaf (1998), Atlanta up to No. 1 for Michael Vick (2001); Washington up to No. 2 for Robert Griffin III (2012); St. Louis up to No. 1 for Jared Goff, Philadelphia up to No. 2 for Carson Wentz (2016).
 
With Combine interviews and work done, and Pro Days and team visits to go, the best of the 2017 quarterback group has not inspired draft lust, at least not publicly.

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"I don't know that there's a quarterback — you never know; it only takes one team, right? — in this class that is going to drive a team to go and move up several spots, give away what they need to give up to move up and go get one," ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said Wednesday via conference call.
 
While the 2017 draft is considered to be extremely strong at number of positions, some of the diffused quality in fact may make it more difficult for teams like the Bears at No. 3 or San Francisco at No. 2 to pull off a desired trade-down.
 
"While there's a lot of good players at the top, I think that after [Texas A&M edge rusher] Myles Garrett there could be a little dropoff," McShay said. "Everyone else has something about them, maybe they're a good fit for one scheme but not another, but I would find it hard to believe that with that No. 2 pick, that [the 49ers] will be getting a lot of calls on it." And by extension, the Bears at No. 3.
 
The consensus favorites remain North Carolina's Mitchell Trubisky and Deshaun Watson from Clemson, but "they are truly late-first, second-round grades," McShay said. "It won't surprise me if one or both of them go in the top 10, but as we get closer, people are starting to realize that there's more value at other positions if you're talking about the first five or six picks of this draft."
 
Where mock drafts routinely will posit the same top 4-5 players in drafts, a current sampling using NFL Draftscout.com analysts has the Bears selecting Ohio State cornerback Marshon Lattimore, LSU safety Jamal Adams (2), Alabama defensive lineman Jonathan Allen (2) and Trubisky.