Bears

Think the Bears should've taken Deshaun Watson over Mitch Trubisky? Tap the brakes — hard

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USA TODAY

Think the Bears should've taken Deshaun Watson over Mitch Trubisky? Tap the brakes — hard

After his Seattle Seahawks slipped past the Houston Texans on Sunday night, Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman declared via Peter King’s MMQB that Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson played “the best game any quarterback has ever played against us, and we’ve played all the legends.”

Just in case Bears fans needed a booster shot for wishes that their team had snagged Watson instead of Mitch Trubisky.

No side is being taken here for that useless what-if — useless because that kind of what-if leaves out differences in just about every imaginable point of comparison that matters: coaching staffs, which one is throwing to two first-round wideouts, college experience, just to cite a few. And the ultimate question is not which quarterback is better, but rather which one is better for his team. No timetable on answering that, and certainly not after four games by Trubisky and six and a half by Watson.

Watson is off to the best start ever by a rookie quarterback through this point of a season. Of course, the one-time record-holder for rookie attempts, completions and yards gained, before Peyton Manning broke those records, was Rick Mirer. A No. 2 overall pick. Just sayin’.

Actually, there are lots of second-guessing options at the moment. The top three in ESPN’s quarterback rating (QBR) are Watson, Dak Prescott and Carson Wentz — all entering the NFL this year or last. Only Prescott was taken by a team that didn’t move up on draft day.

And if the Bears somehow got the wrong guy, then they’re not alone. Andy Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs traded up to draft a quarterback at No. 10 in this year's draft. Not Watson. Patrick Mahomes.

Years of Trubisky vs. Watson ahead

Comparing Trubisky and Watson will probably go on for years, much like the Wentz-Jared Goff comparison will in Los Angeles and the Tim Couch-Donovan McNabb one has in Cleveland. (The latter one doesn’t really count, though, since Cleveland quarterback what-ifs go way, way beyond one draft or player.)

The real point of all this being: Rushes to judgment are beyond silly less than half a season into any player's NFL career, but quarterbacks more than any others. Second-guessing is even more pointless. Joe Montana was a third-round pick, Brett Favre a second-rounder, Tom Brady a sixth and Prescott a fourth. That should top off the second-guess material tank in case Trubisky-Watson doesn’t do it.

If there is any second-guess finger to be pointed, it arguably could be at a Bears coaching staff that didn’t make the switch to Trubisky from Mike Glennon in the fashion that Bill O’Brien and the Texans staff pulled an inept Tom Savage and went with Watson. Best guess, however: If Trubisky were a better alternative at the time before the change, Trubisky would’ve been playing. As it was, he nearly was named the Day 1 starter, suggesting that he was pretty close to the ever-vague “ready” even then. But that’s old news, and a coaching staff goes with the best-chance-to-win option, so if nothing else, self-interest would’ve driven the John Fox staff to start the better option.

Past is prologue, QB debates are nothing if not endless

But while redebating pre-draft hand-wringing is a waste of time, some antecedents involving quarterback career starts warrant a little analysis, if only to quell some of the nonsense swirling around what Watson is or what Trubisky will be.

Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota? Bears general manager Ryan Pace coveted Mariota before the 2015 draft, but the cost of jumping from No. 7 to No. 2 was too high. Mariota has a sizeable QBR edge and is 15-18 in his NFL starts compared to Winston’s 17-22 record. Think Tampa Bay regrets passing on Mariota? Probably not.

Robert Griffin III, coincidentally also a No. 2 overall pick his team traded frantically up to draft, was the 2012 version of Watson after he exploded onto the NFL scene in his rookie season with a 102.4 passer rating and a 20-5 touchdown-to-interception ratio. RGIII then had the misfortune of injuries and perhaps some coaching issues diminishing his skills, though he still started 13 games in 2013 and netted a pedestrian 82.3 rating with 16 touchdown passes versus 12 interceptions.

RGIII’s situation was a decline-and-fall scenario, however. In the other direction, perhaps more in line with the Trubisky case, Goff mucked through his rookie season for the Los Angeles Rams with a 63.6 rating and more interceptions thrown (seven) than touchdown passes (five).

Trubisky right now is a little ahead of Goff’s pace, at 66.3 with two each of touchdowns and interceptions, not including the lost score to Zach Miller in Sunday's game in New Orleans. Goff has launched in Year 2 — albeit with a coaching change from a defense-based head guy (Jeff Fisher) to one from an offensive base (Sean McVay) — to a top-10 90-plus rating, 9-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio, and a Rams team at 5-2 behind him.

Wentz, taken at Trubisky’s No. 2 overall slot a pick after Goff, is prominent in MVP conversations with the Philadelphia Eagles at an NFL-best 7-1. Just for perspective purposes: Wentz flashed early last season with 100-plus ratings in three of his first four games (the one sub-100 game came against the Bears), but then went from a 3-0 start to losses in nine of the next 11, a stretch in which Wentz threw for eight touchdowns and 13 interceptions.

At various points of their rookie seasons, Goff was deemed a bust and Griffin was declared the future of NFL quarterbacking, and neither was either. Best guess here: Trubisky and Watson will prove out pretty much the same way.

Kyle Long looking forward to 'seeing what another set of eyes from a coaching perspective can give Mitch'

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USA TODAY

Kyle Long looking forward to 'seeing what another set of eyes from a coaching perspective can give Mitch'

Former Bears offensive linemen Kyle Long appeared on The Rap Sheet and Friends podcast hosted by NFL insider Ian Rapoport and he didn't shy away from questions about Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. Long, while stating that he understood the questioning and criticism that Trubisky faces, still believes in him.

"The Bears have won with Mitchell Trubisky."

Indeed Mitch was the starter for 14 games of the Bears 12-4 season before this year's 8-8 disappointment. The issue was Trubisky's play was of course, as he didn't show any noticeable improvement in 2019 after tossing 24 touchdowns in 2018. "We all regressed this year, but unfortunately heavy lies the head that wears the crown, and Mitch is the captain," Long said. 

"Mitch is the quarterback. He’s also suited to take the stuff that he’s gotta deal with, and that’s what I love about Mitch. He can deal with the noise, and he’s young. He’s so young."

Long seems excited by the idea of Chicago's hires, saying that new faces could have quite the positive effect on Trubisky’s game "I’m looking forward to seeing what another set of eyes from a coaching perspective can give Mitch. It’ll be cool to see.”

This offseason the Bears have brought in a new offensive coordinator (Bill Lazor), quarterbacks coach (John DeFilippo), and promoted former quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone to passing game coordinator. Bears head coach Matt Nagy, similar to Long, has faith in Trubisky developing, especially in regard to Ragone. In December Nagy said, “I think I know Mitch better than anybody in this building, except maybe Dave Ragone.”

Long certainly seems to miss his teammates though he clearly has no regrets about his decision. He and Trubisky definitely share a bond that will last long beyond their playing days. “I love the kid, he’s a great friend obviously, a teammate, but I’m looking forward to seeing him develop.”

Similar to the message delivered by the Bears’ front office, Long was in full support of Trubisky throughout the entire interview.

"Mitch is the quarterback. He’s also suited to take the stuff that he’s gotta deal with, and that’s what I love about Mitch. He can deal with the noise...”

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Kyle Long says retirement was easiest decision he's ever made

Kyle Long says retirement was easiest decision he's ever made

Kyle Long saw the same thing Bears fans did during the 2019 season. His level of play was no longer among the top guards in the NFL. In fact, he became a liability for an offensive line that ultimately became one of the biggest weaknesses on the team.

"Fans who are frustrated with my performance, you don’t think I’m sitting in that film room just clenching my fist because I just can’t make a block, or I’m just not healthy enough to get there?" Long said on the Rapsheet and Friends podcast this week. "It’s frustrating. I feel that. I’ve seen the writing on the wall, the Bears did it right, they gave me every opportunity to get healthy. Any other team in the league would have cut me years ago, I’m talking years ago.

"The Bears did me right, and I wanted to do right by them. I’ll never wear another set of colors but navy and orange. I take pride in that, a lot of guys have gone and played somewhere else when this time came for them and it tarnished their legacy, in my mind at least."

Long started 76 of 77 career games with the Bears and during the course of his seven-year career in Chicago became one of the team's most recognizable personalities on and off the field. It began during his rookie season when he was selected to the NFL's All-Rookie team and was an NFC Pro Bowler.

"The miles that I do have in the NFL are rough ones," Long said. "I played the game hard when I could, I played it as I thought it should be played, I gave everything I could to my teammates, emotionally and all that. I always knew there would come a time where I would not recognize the player that I’m seeing on film, and no player wants to have that. 

"It was the easiest decision I’ve ever made because I didn’t recognize the guy on film. I’ll be honest, I was an ass-kicker for a long time. You line ‘em up, I’ll put ‘em down, but there came a point where I couldn’t do that anymore, and it was frustrating. So I knew it was time."

Long, who said he could play another three or four years, didn't use the word retirement when discussing his status. Instead, he chose 'hiatus' as a better description of his current state.

"Could I play more? Absolutely," said Long. "If I took a year off, can I go play 3-4 more years? No doubt in my mind. Do I want to do that? It remains to be seen, which is why I use the term hiatus."

Maybe we haven't seen the last of Long with the Bears. But one thing's for sure, he won't be suiting up in 2020.