With buzz growing that the San Francisco 49ers are set to draft Mac Jones with the No. 3 overall pick, many are questioning whether that’s the right decision. But Colin Cowherd went as far as to say that drafting Jones would be as bad of a decision as drafting Mitchell Trubisky was in 2017.
“We think of the Niners as an ascending franchise and the Bears as a dying one,” Cowherd said in a video posted on Thursday. “If you draft Mac Jones, you may be the same franchise. This is the Bears drafting Mitch Trubisky.
“Look at the similarities. First of all, only the Bears in the draft loved Mitch Trubisky. They were the only team that loved Trubisky. Only the Niners love Mac Jones. You don’t hear another team interested.”
First of all, let’s do a little fact checking. The idea that the Bears were the only team high on Trubisky is revisionist history. Cowherd’s colleague Peter Schrager had Trubisky as the first QB off the board in his final mock draft of 2017. Draft guru Mel Kiper and Pro Football Focus both had Trubisky as their No. 1 QB prospect heading into the draft. So did NFL.com. USA Today had Trubisky ranked second, behind DeShone Kizer. So the idea that everyone clearly knew Trubisky was going to be a bust is just wrong.
Cowherd, himself, suggested not only that Trubisky should be the first quarterback off the board in 2017, he said the Browns should draft him No. 1 overall!
“Even if he’s not [the right pick], if you can’t trade out of the first round, there is an argument to be made that if you’re going to miss on a player, miss on a quarterback,” Cowherd said via Fox Sports leading up to the 2017 draft. “With the CBA now, and they don’t have a quarterback, it’s an Ohio kid. And if he tests better than the rest of them, and they have Hue Jackson, an offensive quarterback coach… you could make [an argument]."
To be fair, Cowherd said he didn’t think Trubisky was truly worthy of the No. 1 overall pick, he was making the suggestion because he thought the Browns needed to draft a quarterback. But still, c’mon man.
Anyways, back to Cowherd’s comp between Trubisky and Jones.
“Trubisky was a one-year college starter. That’s it. Always, always a problem. You can’t win the job as a sophomore if you’re an NFL quarterback? As a junior? Mac Jones, similarly, is a one-year starter. Couldn’t beat out Tua (Tagovailoa). You seen Tua in Miami? Look like the face of the league?”
This is some convenient cherry picking, too. What about Kyler Murray or Cam Newton? Murray only started one full season at Oklahoma, plus three starts his freshman year at Texas A&M when Kyle Allen was hurt. Similarly, Newton only threw 12 passes his first two years before his lone starting season at Auburn. And yes, both of those guys look like faces of the league.
“No. 3: Chicago already had a good draft pick. They were at No. 3 and gave away all sorts of picks to move up to No. 2. They didn’t have to. Nobody else was in on Trubisky. Their intel was bad. The Niners already had a great pick at No. 12. Did you really have to give up all those picks to get up to No. 3? Mac Jones wasn’t going No. 3. I’m not sure Mac Jones was going before No. 12.”
Ok, that first shot about the Bears not needing to swap spots with the Niners back in 2017 is fair. While we don’t know who else was on the phone with San Francisco about trading up to No. 2, the Bears gave up a whole lot to move up one spot. But that’s not the same situation that San Francisco faces. With five QBs expected to go in the first round, there were five teams in front of the Bears who could conceivably draft a quarterback at the time they made their trade to move up: the Jaguars, Jets, Falcons, Panthers and Broncos. If they didn't make a move, they could’ve been left without a bonafide first-round QB.
Since then, the Panthers have traded for Sam Darnold, so it seems unlikely they’ll draft a quarterback when their No. 8 pick comes along. But again, the Niners made this move before that happened.
“It feels desperate, and like the Bears, it feels arrogant,” Cowherd said. “‘We know more than you do.’ We think of John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan as ascending stars in this league. Three years ago, before they drafted Trubisky, that’s what we thought of Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy.”
Realistically, these are completely different scenarios. It’s clear now that Trubisky was a bust for the Bears and drafting him was a mistake for Pace. But it’s unfair to lump Nagy into that decision, as he was still in Kansas City helping to convince Brett Veach to draft Patrick Mahomes. Nagy, himself, admitted he didn’t do enough to help develop Trubisky into a reliable NFL starter, but that’s besides the point.
We’ve already gone over the draft position and the revisionist history, but there are several other key differences between the 2017 Bears and the 2021 49ers. The 2017 Bears receiver room featured Kendall Wright, Josh Bellamy and Dontrelle Inman. Wright led the way with 614 yards, and none of them scored more than one touchdown. On the other hand, the 49ers have two of the most exciting young wide receivers in the league in Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel. Oh, they have one of the best tight ends in the league in George Kittle, too.
Then there’s the coaches. John Fox was already on the hot seat before the 2017 season kicked off. Reports after the fact said he and Pace weren’t on the same page when the team drafted Trubisky. Meanwhile, as Cowherd said, Shanahan is seen as a rising star after leading the 49ers to a Super Bowl in 2019. While no job is ever totally safe in the NFL, there’s no reason to believe Shanahan will have a short leash. That coaching consistency alone is a huge factor in Jones’ potential development.
In the end, the 49ers made their move. We won’t know for years whether it was the right or wrong one, but comparisons to the Bears’ move in 2017 are far from perfect.