Bears

Teammates see 'greatness' in Mitch Trubisky

Teammates see 'greatness' in Mitch Trubisky

Maybe it’s a pattern. With only one college season comprising 13 starts, Mitch Trubisky convinced the Bears and GM Ryan Pace to hitch their fortunes to him in the form of trading up to ensure getting him in the 2017 draft.

Now, with less than one full NFL season – 12 starts in 2017 – Trubisky has done some more convincing and in the process helped reverse a disturbing, damaging trend in some quarters of the NFL.

Over the past couple offseasons, more than one NFL veteran spurned the Bears in favor of less money elsewhere. And not just on offense or defense: Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery saw little future with the quarterback situation in Chicago and turned down offers to stay, while cornerbacks A.J. Bouye and Stephon Gilmore were among defenders who opted for smaller paydays elsewhere than the Bears were believed to be offering.

This offseason the quarterback situation in Chicago – Trubisky – has had the opposite effect, that of attracting talent instead of repelling it.

“I think if guys came here to win, then yeah, the quarterback should definitely be the first thing that you look at,” said cornerback Prince Amukamara, who chose to re-sign with the Bears after his one-year, prove-it contract of 2017. “Mitch was definitely one of mine. I think the guys that we got here do want to win. When you look at Taylor [Gabriel, former Atlanta wide receiver], look at A-Rob [Allen Robinson], I think those guys are really not putting a lot of pressure on Mitch but just hoping Mitch can probably get them to their second or third contract or help them get their first ring.”

Said Robinson: “That's what I came here for. I came here to make those plays, to make those catches, to make his job easy.” 

Trubisky’s body of NFL work, like his limited starter’s résumé at North Carolina, can reasonably be questioned, if for reasons of quantity alone.

But the Bears were a plus-7 turnover ratio during his 12 starts last year. Trubisky’s interception percentage of 2.1 was better than the rookie pick-rates of Jared Goff, Marcus Mariota, Deshaun Watson, Carson Wentz and Jameis Winston, using other recent high draft choices for purposes of comparison.

That sort of thing impresses defenses, including one’s own, in this case a Bears defense ranked among the NFL’s top 10 and which nicknamed Trubisky “Pretty Boy Assassin.”

“I want to win a championship and I think having Mitch here, I think that’s always the start,” Amukamara said. "The quarterback’s always the start and just having Mitch and seeing his improvement and his effort.

“I’m sure some people saw, but even when Mitch was the back-up, Mitch was staying after practice and always working hard and you love seeing that in a quarterback, especially a back-up. I’ve always just saw greatness in him ever since then. I think this year he gets to really show it.”

Mitchell Trubisky establishing durability standard; Bears not quite taking shots back at John Fox

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USA TODAY

Mitchell Trubisky establishing durability standard; Bears not quite taking shots back at John Fox

Probably bad luck to mention this:

Mitchell Trubisky’s start last Sunday against the Detroit Lions was his 21st in a row, passing Jay Cutler (20) on the list of most consecutive starts by a Bears quarterback in the past 40 years. Among quarterbacks since George Halas retired, Trubisky can pass Vince Evans’ 26 (1980-81) and match Jim Harbaugh’s 28 (1991-92) if he starts the remaining 2018 games, but will need next season to catch Bob Avellini’s 42 (1975-78).

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If there was an underlying frustration in the wake of John Fox being ousted as Bears coach, it might best be described as a shadow of disappointment at what might have been. Or should have been.

“This may sound weird,” said left tackle Charles Leno, “but with the guys we had last year, moving on to this year, you knew the culture was changing. We just had to click. We have got a great group of guys in here, I'm talking all across the defense, all across the special teams. Great group of guys. We just needed an extra push.

“Matt [Nagy] brought this.”

Leno is qualified to render an opinion. He has been through three head coaches in five NFL seasons, drafted under Marc Trestman, becoming a starter under Fox, and then came this year under Matt Nagy. Meaning: Leno was inside Halas Hall when the organizational culture plummeted under an offensive coach, started to improve under a defensive coach, then stalled and now has undergone a culture re-launch.

Whether the culture has changed with winning, or the winning is a reflection of the change in culture is largely academic to a team that is 6-3 after a second three-game win streak in its season. But the winning has produced – and resulted from – a buy-in that was absent on the offense under Dowell Loggains the past two seasons.

“We got the right head guy in here,” Trubisky said. “Coach Nagy is definitely leading the charge and we just have the right guys in our locker room to change the culture around.

“Just the belief and the trust in each other and coming to work every day, putting the work in and then just going and executing it on Sunday to be able to produce wins. It's a great vibe around the building now. The culture has definitely changed and there's a better vibe around the city in how people view the Bears and how they see us.

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So-what award?

How much Trubisky knows about Georgetown coaching legend John Thompson, or the poetry of Rudyard Kipling, is difficult to pick up in a press conference. But the young quarterback subscribes to some of their thinking.

Thompson placed zero stock in awards that were voted on, vs. something that was won. Kipling’s poem “If” offered a guide to some level-headed thinking, famously noting that:

“If you can keep your head when all about you
         Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
         But make allowance for their doubting too… .

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster,
         And treat those two impostors just the same…

…you’ll be a Man (or NFL quarterback), my son.”

Trubisky on Wednesday was awarded the honor of NFC offensive player of the week, the week after he was roundly ripped by certain national NFL writers. He wasn’t particularly fazed by the negative and he wasn’t especially interested in the positive, either.

“I don’t know, really,” Trubisky said. “You get recognized, it’s cool, but people talked so bad about me last week, so why should this week be any different?

“So I got recognized for playing well."

Cody Parkey's practice at Soldier Field attracted news helicopters

Cody Parkey's practice at Soldier Field attracted news helicopters

If there was any doubt that the Bears are the most popular team in Chicago, allow the events of Wednesday to serve as further evidence.

After hitting the upright an astonishing four times in Sunday's win against the Lions, Bears kicker Cody Parkey practiced at Soldier Field Wednesday night. That's not the crazy part.

The Bears kicker taking to Soldier Field to practice on a weeknight drew multiple news helicopters. Both WGN and ABC 7 got footage of a kicker practicing.

Earlier in the week, Parkey said practicing at Soldier Field "can't hurt." Now that he went through with it, we can find out if he thought the extra reps ahead of Sunday night's game against the Vikings were worth it.

Who knows how this Bears this season will end, but the Bears are certainly back in the spotlight of the Chicago sports scene.