Mitch Trubisky earned one last shot at determining his future.
“I control my own destiny,” he said Sunday, a few days after Matt Nagy informed him he’d won the Bears’ quarterback competition.
Those five words will define not only 2020 for Trubisky, but the rest of his football life. So while most of our energy is focused on what Trubisky being named QB1 means for this year’s Bears, let’s take a moment to focus on what it means to the 26-year-old quarterback.
It means everything.
Will Trubisky’s career go the way of Marcus Mariota, who was dumped as the Tennessee Titans quarterback after six games in 2019 and is now relegated to (well-paying) backup duties with the Las Vegas Raiders?
Will the 2017 No. 2 overall pick follow the rocky, mostly-short NFL paths of the other six quarterbacks to not have their fifth year options picked up for performance reasons?
Or will Trubisky chart his own course and do something Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert, Christian Ponder, E.J. Manuel, Brandon Weeden, Johnny Manziel and Paxton Lynch couldn’t – hang on to not only a starting job in the NFL, but with the team that drafted him?
“It’s a new year and we all have a clean slate, and we’re not looking back at the past,” Trubisky said. “I’m not looking over my shoulder. I’m just going to take advantage of the opportunity ahead and it feels good. It’s exciting.”
Trubisky has almost everything Chicago loves in its pro athletes. He can be a fiery, galvanizing leader. He’s got a great work ethic, which meshes well with a fanbase that delights in blue-collar mentalities. He can be goofy and charming and engaging (when things are going well, of course).
And he genuinely cares about the community around him – he was one a handful of Chicago athletes to pitch in to help former Bears linebacker Sam Acho purchase a liquor store in Austin and turn it into a grocery store, removing a food desert on the west side of the city in the process. He also does stuff like this, and doesn’t do it for the attention or good publicity:
“He’s everything you want,” Bears fan and NFL Network’s Kyle Brandt said on the Under Center Podcast last month. “He’s an unbelievably hard worker. He’s a good person. … I’m rooting like hell for him.”
Chicago, of course, would’ve got behind Deshaun Watson or Patrick Mahomes for the same reasons. Also: They’re among the best quarterbacks in the NFL – and Trubisky, well, is not.
But Trubisky does have a chance in 2020 to re-write his story, chapters 1-10 of which are, right now, about how he’s the guy the Bears picked instead of the two generational talents in the 2017 draft. Watson and Mahomes, by the way, combined are guaranteed over $250 million in their respective megacontracts.
Trubisky is guaranteed $0 after this year.
And that’s the starting point for Trubisky this year. He has, quite literally, nothing guaranteed after this season.
He also doesn’t have anything guaranteed after Week 1. He has to battle back the looming specter Nick Foles – arguably the most successful backup quarterback in NFL history – every week. A bad game or two might not only relegate him to the bench in 2020, but could be all it takes to relegate him to career backup status – at best – the rest of his career.
Sure, Trubisky will finish his rookie contract having earned precisely $29,032,424 from the Bears. He’ll have accumulated generational wealth before the age of 27.
But Trubisky is a fierce competitor who might be a bad game or two away from losing the opportunity to compete on Sundays. There’s a lot at stake for him, personally, beyond the cash.
So buckle up, because we’re about to find out a lot in the coming days and weeks about Trubisky. And he’s going to find out a lot about himself, too.
“I’m a believer that everything happens for a reason one way or another,” Trubisky said. “So them not picking up my option, bringing in competition, I truly believe it was just a part of my journey and something I had to deal with in order to get better. I believe the way you deal with things is going to determine how it builds you up and it only makes you better in the long run.”