Ryan Pace

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.

After nearly winning starting job in preseason, Mitch Trubisky finally getting his chance with Bears

After nearly winning starting job in preseason, Mitch Trubisky finally getting his chance with Bears

As the preseason ground to a close, the Bears faced an unexpected but welcome decision on a starting quarterback. Even with the requisite rookie hiccups, Mitch Trubisky had played well enough that voices in the discussion felt that he should be the opening-day starter.

Mike Glennon’s performance in Game 3 (11-for-18, 134 yards, TD, zero INT, 102.5 rating) against the Tennessee Titans, in which he’d operated with a game plan, tipped the decision to Glennon and to Trubisky going on hold to learn more.

The decision unraveled over the first four weeks of the season with Glennon’s play forcing a reversal of plan. It was accompanied by Trubisky running scout team plays the way Aaron Rodgers once did while Brett Favre’s backup and regularly torched his own No. 1 defense. One arrow pointing down, the other pointing up forces a change.

There always WAS a Bears quarterback competition, whether or not anyone wanted to call it that.

Regrettably, from the outside, it too often seemed that The Moment was too big for Glennon. Not sure that the same could be said about Trubisky, who wasn’t brash or cocky but was politely eager ever since the beginning of training camp to compete for a job that might have been handed to Glennon initially, but never caused The Kid to take his foot off his own gas pedal.

“I’m going to come out here and compete,” he said even while adhering to the organization’s stated plan of Glennon installed as the starter.

Coaches are fond of — and correct in — saying that players, not coaches, make decisions for them. So it became the case of Glennon being dropped from the starting lineup and Trubisky replacing him, now on track to occur Monday night Oct. 9 when the Bears’ schedule brings the Minnesota Vikings to Soldier Field.

Glennon really left coach John Fox and offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains what they deemed to be no choice but to make a quarterback change. Five interceptions over the past three games and multiple lost fumbles — if a tackle had given up 5 sacks in three games, or a running back had fumbled repeatedly, neither would have been in the lineup, if even on the roster.

The Bears opted against a partial role for Trubisky, inserting him for a pre-determined series or two. They also appear to be leaving Mark Sanchez in a basically advisory role.

The offense will change under Trubisky. Mobile pockets now become an option that was unavailable with the slow-footed Glennon. Trubisky’s mobility within the pocket project to give him an escapability element absent with Glennon.

But expectations will and should be obviously tempered. Colleague JJ Stankevitz chronicled the varying levels of success for rookie quarterbacks, and changing the quarterback does not change the wide receiver corps, which deserves some measure of blame for Glennon’s travails.

A reality that the Trubisky-for-Glennon decision points to, however, is that Glennon’s decision-making was far below the hoped-for standard the Bears thought they were getting. Glennon was throwing too often and too poorly to covered receivers while others were the correct options.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers offered Glennon very substantial money to remain as Jameis Winston’s backup. Glennon signed for a chance to start, and now leaves the Bears possibly with a backup at a pay level similar to what the Bucs offered. That’s hardly a nice consolation prize for GM Ryan Pace, but…. At this point the Bears have a tall backup for 2018, assuming Trubisky plays as planned.

In any case, the supposedly quarterback-lite draft of 2017 saw three quarterbacks taken in the first round, within the first 12 picks in fact, and all by teams that traded up to grab those guys — Trubisky at No. 3, Pat Mahomes to Kansas City at No. 10, Deshaun Watson at No. 12. Less than halfway through their rookie seasons, two of those three now have the keys to their franchises.

Five reasons Mitch Trubisky should start right now ... and five reasons he shouldn't

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USA TODAY

Five reasons Mitch Trubisky should start right now ... and five reasons he shouldn't

After Mike Glennon had three first-half turnovers in the Bears' blowout loss Sunday in Tampa, Bears fans are more adament than ever that the team should turn to rookie Mitch Trubisky as its new starting quarterback. There are good arguments to be made as for why Trubisky should get the keys to the car right now, as well as for why it would be prudent to wait a while. Let's take a look at those arguments.

Five reasons Mitch Trubisky should start right now ...

1. He gives the Bears a better chance to win

If you’re going to have a quarterback who may be prone to turning the ball over, why not go with the one who’s shown he can make more plays? That’s probably the biggest point in Trubisky’s favor right now, given what we’ve seen from him during training camp and preseason games. His accuracy, arm strength and mobility will translate to the NFL level no matter who he’s playing with or against, and he showed progress in the pre-snap operation of the Bears' offense throughout training camp. — JJ

2. The future has to start sometime

The Bears were obviously planning for the future when they selected Trubisky with the No. 2 pick in the draft, and that future has to start eventually. The Bears might not be ready to compete this season, but if you want that window to open as soon as 2018, you’ve got to give Trubisky the best chance to succeed in 2018 and that might mean getting him some experience in 2017. Think how much more ready Trubisky could be by opening day next season if he has nearly a whole season already under his belt. If it looks like games in which Glennon plays are going to be losses anyway, why not let Trubisky gain some valuable experience while the team is losing? — Vinnie

3. He can cover for defensive/special teams mistakes better than Glennon

It's true what Fox said in that Glennon was not the only guy making mistakes out there against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. From Tarik Cohen's boneheaded muffed punt to the costly penalties by the defense, the Bears had plenty of problems on Sunday. But When those special teams and defensive mistakes were made, they were then compounded by Glennon's turnovers and inability to move the offense. Trubisky, should he play like fans believe he can, would theoretically take better care of the ball and sustain some drives, calming things down even following those bad plays in other phases. If the defense gets torched on a long drive and then Glennon goes three and out, that puts the defense in another bad position. If Trubisky follows that up with a long drive of his own, then the defense is much less likely to make the same mistakes again. — Vinnie

4. He can make the players around him better

As the NFL Combine began in Indianapolis in March, Fox talked about wanting a quarterback who can “raise all boats.” Trubisky flashed some of that boat-raising ability during the preseason, and elevating the play of guys like Kendall Wright, Deonte Thompson, Tarik Cohen, Jordan Howard and Adam Shaheen could quickly negate any concerns about the players around him. — JJ

5. He’ll give the Bears hope

If the Bears exit September 0-4 — meaning they lose to the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers — this season could feel D.O.A. by the time the Minnesota Vikings come to Soldier Field for Monday Night Football on Oct. 9. If Glennon isn’t performing well and the Bears are winless, making a change at quarterback could energize the team. While the locker room seems firmly behind Glennon right now, those players know who should be starting — and if they believe, at some point, that should be Trubisky, playing him could provide a boost. — JJ

... and five reasons Mitch Trubisky shouldn't start right now

1. He doesn’t give the Bears a better chance to win

Bears fans don’t want to hear this, but is there a chance Glennon really does give the Bears a better chance to win than Trubisky? John Fox keeps insisting that’s the case, even if it’s a hard thing to believe after Glennon’s miserable performance against the Bucs. But maybe Trubisky hasn’t yet mastered the offense. Maybe he’s not impressing Fox and his staff in practice. Maybe the success he had during the preseason was a result of the defensive competition he was going against. Fox believes Glennon gives his team the better chance to win, and as hard as that might be to believe, maybe he’s right. — Vinnie

2. The current roster would hurt his development

Look no further than what happened to Jared Goff last year with the Los Angeles Rams: Jeff Fisher, feeling pressure to save his job, inserted Goff into the starting lineup in the 10th game of the season. The Goff-led Rams lost the final seven games of 2016, with the former No. 1 overall pick throwing seven interceptions against five touchdowns. Goff himself struggled, of course, but he didn’t have much help, as former Rams and current Bears running back Benny Cunningham pointed out to CSNChicago.com in August. Having a quarterback flail away with a flawed support system can be a confidence-ruiner with long-term negative effects. — JJ

3. The next two opponents

While it's possible that any and all starting NFL defenses are better than the ones Trubisky faced during the preseason, it's definite that the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers will be difficult competition for the rookie. Why begin Trubisky's NFL career with two games where he's in an especially difficult position to succeed? Sure, one day, the hope is that Trubisky will be able to handle whatever an NFL defense throws at him. But to ask a guy whose last meaningful football came against North Carolina State to try and make crucial decisions against the Pittsburgh Steelers is somewhat questionable. — Vinnie

4. Are we sure Glennon is bad?

Fox caused a Twitter uproar when he said it’s “really hard to evaluate somebody” based on two games. For Glennon, that’s one game in which he executed the Bears’ offense the way the team wanted (Atlanta) and one in which he didn’t (Tampa Bay). Those are Glennon’s only two starts since the 2014 season, for what it’s worth. While there’s no sugarcoating what Glennon did in Tampa, if that game turns out to be an aberration and the rest of his season looks more like the Atlanta game, he’ll continue to be the Bears’ starting quarterback. Giving things time is risky in a short 16-game season, but the Bears aren't throwing away months of evaluation of Glennon because of a couple sub-optimal preseason games and one bad one in the regular season.  — JJ

5. It's too early to deviate from the plan

Pace and Fox might not be Chicago fans' favorite people right now, but they do know football and made a preseason plan based on what they thought was best for the franchise's present and future. And no matter how much fans might decry that plan at the moment, it's hard to imagine that 120 minutes of football is enough to blow that plan up completely. When the season began, their belief was that the team is best served by Glennon playing and Trubisky being on the sideline. That belief still existing is completely understandable considering how early it is in the season. And with Fox potentially seeing his job on the line as the season progresses, sticking with that plan might help the Bears stick with him. — Vinnie