John Mullin

As other QBs sign record extensions, Mitch Trubisky makes it clear he wants to remain with Bears

As other QBs sign record extensions, Mitch Trubisky makes it clear he wants to remain with Bears

During last Saturday’s “Legacy Panel: Quarterbacks” session in which he shared the stage with Bears legend Jim McMahon, Mitchell Trubisky left little doubt, with both what he said and how he said it, that Chicago is more than just a place he plays football.

“I really knew I was in the right spot [after the Bears drafted him],” Trubisky said. “Chicago’s really been home since that moment.”

Trubisky confirmed on Wednesday that he wants “that moment” to extend far into the future.

“Absolutely,” Trubisky said. “I think as long as I can play here in Chicago...I want to play this game as long as possible and I want to do it as long as I can here in Chicago. I think we’re building something great here.

“I love the city, I love the fans, I love where I live, I love coming to work at Halas Hall every day, and I love my teammates, so for me it’s just taking it one day at a time and embracing the process. That’s the goal for sure.”

A year from now, when Trubisky has completed year three of his four-year-with-an-option rookie contract, that goal may well become reality.

The Philadelphia Eagles, coached by Matt Nagy friend and longtime colleague Doug Pederson, signed Wentz to an extension worth $128 million over four years, of which a massive $107 million is guaranteed.

The news had added resonance with Trubisky, who like Wentz is represented by Rep1 Sports.

Has Trubisky made his intentions clear to Rep 1?

“They know,” Trubisky said. “It’s pretty obvious.”

Trubisky’s comments and the Wentz contract have not been lost on Bears money managers, who will be in position this time next year to consider matching or exceeding Philadelphia money in order to secure the future of Trubisky in Chicago.

The Wentz deal gave the quarterback the largest guarantee in NFL history. But it also gave the Eagles flexibility to continue building a winning team around Wentz, according to Reuben Frank of NBC Sports Philadelphia. Getting the Wentz deal done when it was allows the Eagles to spread the cap hit over six years.

“It was pretty cool to see,” Trubisky said. “He got it done. We have the same agent so I got to hear a little more about how they got it done, and from what I heard it was beneficial to the player and the organization. They’re very happy with it, and I know my agents were pumped with it as well. I’m not very good with the numbers and details and the language of contracts. I just want to play football."

Pressure, but on whom?

A casual discussion point may be which side holds leverage on the other. 

The Bears have their coach and extended team in place, and the options elsewhere have decreased if only because of the influx of young quarterbacks ostensibly having or expected to have immediate impact:

Arizona (Kyler Murray), Buffalo (Josh Allen), Baltimore (Lamar Jackson), Cleveland (Baker Mayfield), Dallas (Dak Prescott), Denver (Joe Flacco/Drew Lock), Los Angeles (Jared Goff), the Giants (Daniel Jones), Houston (Deshaun Watson), Kansas City (Patrick Mahomes), the Jets (Sam Darnold), Miami (Josh Rosen, from Arizona), Oakland (Derek Carr), San Francisco (Jimmy Garoppolo), Tennessee (Marcus Mariota), Tampa Bay (Jameis Winston), Washington (Dwayne Hoskins).

Add to that the teams with quarterbacks seemingly in place (Atlanta, Detroit, Green Bay, Indianapolis, Minnesota, New England, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, Seattle, the Chargers, and so forth.)

But Bears GM Ryan Pace tied his future to Trubisky. Indeed, it was very apparent as the 2016 college season went on that Pace was very, very taken with Trubisky. That focus steadily tightened through pre-draft 2017 and into the first round when Pace gave the San Francisco 49ers a hefty haul of draft capital just to move up one spot and ensure that he and the Bears landed Trubisky.

With what has been said and invested in Trubisky, Pace and the Bears have put themselves under pressure at the quarterback position.

As the 2018 season played out, the synchronicity between Nagy and Trubisky grew almost visibly on a near-weekly basis. Coach and player share a position history (Nagy was a quarterback at Delaware and in the Arena League) as well as a temperament.

And the internal chemistry between Trubisky and teammates on all sides of the football was amply evident; when defensive players hang a nickname (“Pretty Boy Assassin”) on a rookie quarterback, he is impressing a group not easily impressed.

By way of comparison

The Eagles made the investment despite Wentz playing 16 games as a rookie in 2016, but then 13 in 2017 and 11 last season, the latter two years with Nick Foles stepping in and taking Philadelphia to a Super Bowl win in ’17 and to a wild-card win over the Bears last year.

Goff, taken No. 1 overall in ’16, has not concluded any extension with the Los Angeles Rams, despite missing just one game since becoming a starter in mid-’16, reaching the playoffs in ’17 and the Super Bowl in ’18.

Trubisky has played in more playoff games (one) than Wentz, hampered the past two years by injuries, and a higher percentage regular-season games (26 of 28) since becoming a starter than Wentz (40 of 48).

 

On defense, Bears All-Century team updated to include a handful of position “adjustments”

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USA Today

On defense, Bears All-Century team updated to include a handful of position “adjustments”

A handful of years back, this writer was tasked with compiling the 100 best Chicago Sports Arguments. Those ranged from Gale Sayers vs. Walter Payton (more on that momentarily) to the stupidest word in Sports (“overachiever” – no such thing). In the course of the undertaking, the mythical All-Time Bears offensive and defensive teams were assembled.

Now with the Bears marking their 100th season, the task is to take another look at those two teams and present the All-Century teams updated. Many selections stood up to further scrutiny, a few were tweaked.

Longtime colleagues Don Pierson and Dan Pompei launched list-mania with their Top 100 list and have followed that with their all-time offensive and defensive units.

Fortunately, your humble and faithful narrator is able to fix some of their calculations.

A caveat: Lists like these – like rosters and actual lineups – require some flexibility as well as some creativity. Does the team stay strictly position-specific? Or, as a team would do, are Selecting the All-Time Chicago Bears Century Defense involves both, for reasons that’ll become immediately evident. 

Defensive line

DE   Doug Atkins

Arguably the single greatest defensive lineman in franchise history. Bears history is replete with Atkins tales, but this writer will add one of his own, recalling Atkins once hurdling New York Giants Hall of Fame left tackle Roosevelt Brown when Brown was, not on the ground, but dropping into his pass-blocking set. Atkins who’d gone to Tennessee on a basketball scholarship, finished second in the SEC in the high jump and was pure and simple an athlete for any age.

Atkins was a right end. But because of his physical strength and size, in addition to this team determined to start ostensibly its four best defensive linemen, Atkins is being placed, not to the quaterback’s blind side, but at left end, allowing the front to have its best individual pass rusher at right end. 

DE   Richard Dent

The Colonel almost missed the ’85 season in a contract contretemps similar to the one that cost Todd Bell and Al Harris their rings. Dent went to four Pro Bowls and finished his career with 124.5 sacks in 170 Bears games. What’s forgotten is that Dent played in the range of 265 pounds and was a force setting the edge and turning offenses back inside, ultimately “earning” the right to rush the passer, which nobody did any better. 

DT    Dan Hampton 

The leader in a discussion of the best all-around defensive lineman in franchise history, Hampton was defensive player of the year in 1982 at defensive tackle and the left end on the ’85 defense, and earned two Pro Bowls each at end and tackle. His dropping down inside from end to on the center’s nose was the critical starting point for the ‘46’ defense, based on the premise that he could not be single-blocked. With 25 sacks in his first 48 games, a gimme anywhere on the front four. 

DT    (tie)  Link Lyman/Steve McMichael/George Musso

My original pick was Musso, a Hall of Fame lineman who played guard, tackle and defensive tackle. But Lyman pioneered the notion of a shifting defensive lineman and was a five-time All-Pro, albeit in a smaller time. And McMichael, Dan and Don’s pick, was an every-down D-tackle at 270 pounds. All three here were, coincidentally, 6-foot-2, McMichael and Musso were 265-270, and to suggest that McMichael was somehow tougher than two guys who played sans facemasks doesn’t fly.


Linebackers

MLB Dick Butkus

Next question, please. 

WLB         Brian Urlacher

‘54’ was a college safety whose NFL career included 41.5 sacks and 22 interceptions, and saw Urlacher redefine what a middle linebacker could be and do. The eight-time Pro Bowl’er could cover and he could blitz, and the coaches and I are moving Urlacher to weakside linebacker because we already have the greatest single linebacker in NFL history ensconced in the middle. The two pure outside linebackers who lose out here are Wilber Marshall, whom Hampton called the best pure football player on the ’85 defense, and Joe Fortunato, who was a five-time Pro Bowl’er and named to the 1950’s All-Decade team.

But Urlacher changed position when he came into the NFL, and he’s changing positions here on the All-Century Bears team. The thought of ‘54’ working in space on the weak side… . 

SLB          George Connor

Connor was this observer’s SLB pick more than a decade ago and still is. At 6-3, 240 pounds, Connor fit the template for a linebacker in any era. He was All-NFL five times, including 1951 and 1952 when he was All-Pro on both offense and defense.  Dan and Don had Connor as their pick for the spot as well, and it’s not clear if there’s really even a close second.

Secondary

CB            Charles Tillman

While Tillman was in his early career years, the pick was between Allan Ellis and Donnell Woolford, with the edge to Ellis. No more. Tillman intercepted 36 passes, most by any Bears cornerback, and returned eight of those for touchdowns. Add in 42 forced fumbles and the standard is set for what a cornerback can be, both in coverage and run support.
 

CB            J.C. Caroline

Nickel CB        George McAfee

Caroline was a difficult call over George McAfee (Dan and Don’s pick opposite TIllman), so your humble and faithful narrator bailed and didn’t decide.

Both Caroline and McAfee played multiple positions, making their performances at cornerback even more noteworthy, and McAfee had 25 interceptions in an era when the NFL was 65:35 run:pass ratio. Both played offense and defense as well as special teams; both were 6 feet tall. Caroline was my initial pick and remains the starter, though, but every team needs three starter-grade corners and the All-Century team has them with Tillman, McAfee and Caroline.
 

SS             Gary Fencik

Gave considerable thought to Rosie Taylor, who led the NFL with 9 INT’s in a 14-game schedule for the ’63 champions. But coaching legend Don Shula called letting Fencik go from the Miami Dolphins “the biggest personnel mistake I ever made.” Fencik’s 38 interceptions are the most in franchise history, part of his franchise-best 50 career takeaways, all the more remarkable because Fencik was an underrated hitter and a tactician/master strategist out of the Mike Singletary mold.

FS             Richie Petitbon

Mike Brown was a competitor for the spot, and Todd Bell is in any discussion of best strong safeties. Petitbon is a whole different level, though. He had 5 picks in ’61, 6 in ’62 and 8 in ’63. His 37 total interceptions trail only Fencik and he, too, accomplished those in a 10-year Bears career of two 12-game seasons and eight of 14.

Living Bears history on display at '100 years in the making' panel with Virginia McCaskey, George McCaskey, HOF writers

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AP

Living Bears history on display at '100 years in the making' panel with Virginia McCaskey, George McCaskey, HOF writers

She seldom makes public appearances but at 96, Virginia McCaskey is still eminently capable of charming a massive audience, as she did Sunday as part of the Bears’ “100 Celebration Weekend” in Rosemont.

And she is more than able to offer an opinion when asked, as she was about what she thought of the recently unveiled throwback uniforms, replicas of the Bears’ 1936 uniforms.

“Well, those socks don’t turn me on.”

Mrs. McCaskey admitted that she didn’t truly remember those uniforms while they were in actual use by the Bears. She was in her first or second year of high school, and “I was more interested in the players wearing them,” she said, with a slight twinkle.

Mrs. McCaskey spoke to coach Matt Nagy about how he thought he could bring the players to appreciate and carry forward the legacy and commitment of the organization, noting to him that, “there’s just so much technology can do and then it’s back to the human factor.”

She appreciated his response: “He said, 'I’m working on it, don’t worry.'”

Mrs. McCaskey didn’t sound worried: “We’re hoping for a lot of those ‘Club-Dub’ [post-victory locker room dance-a-thons].”

A member of the audience posed a question, that of what single game did she most enjoy or remember from the Wrigley Field days.

“I think the ’63 championship game,” she said, then added with a laugh, “even though it wasn’t against the Packers.”

The 1985 championship team understandably came up: “That was a very…unusual…team, a very unusual season,” she said after reflecting. “There was so much confidence in everyone, and everything – except that [Monday Night] game in Miami – turned out very well.”

The Legacy session included George McCaskey, Bears chairman and grandson of NFL/Bears founder George Halas, and Hall of Fame football writers Don Pierson and Dan Pompei, who have completed a history of the franchise that is now available.

The Bears do not have as many championships (9) as the Green Bay Packers (13), but “no team has ever won a championship game 73-0,” Pierson said, “and the 1985 Bears produced the greatest single season in NFL history.”

Pierson was on the Bears beat when Halas was still involved with the team, and the veteran scribe put Halas in perspective.

“His fingerprints were on everything from the shape of the football to the rules to expansion,” Pierson said. He recalled asking GM Ryan Pace, coach Matt Nagy and quarterback Mitchell Trubisky what each of their favorite teams was. For Pace, from Texas, it was the Dallas Cowboys. Nagy, from Pennsylvania, somehow was a Minnesota Vikings fan. Northern Ohio native Trubisky grew up a Cleveland Browns fan.

“And all three of those teams came into the NFL because of George Halas,” Pierson said.

Pompei recalled the difficulties that he and Pierson went through in compiling their “100 Greatest” list of Bears players, factoring in different eras, positions, positions that no longer existed, longevity, impact, and other factors. Walter Payton was the consensus No. 1 overall, although there were others that could justifiably been atop the pyramid, but “we had to weigh the different criteria and Walter checked the most boxes,” Pierson said.

 

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