John Fox made a point earlier this month, saying if “you haven’t thrown a pick, you haven’t played.”
That was in reference to Mike Glennon’s disastrous preseason debut against the Denver Broncos. But what if we expand it to this, since Mitch Trubisky hasn’t thrown an interception yet: If you haven’t been yelled at to snap the ball, forcing a timeout, and then three plays later taken a delay of game penalty on fourth-and-1, you haven’t played.
Trubisky had that sequence play out during his second series with the first team offense Sunday against the Tennessee Titans. On first and 10 from the Titans’ 48-yard line, Trubisky was scanning the field and getting his teammates set as the play clock bled to three seconds, leading to this being audibly heard on the Fox broadcast: “Go, Mitchell, go!”
The Bears called a timeout to avoid a delay of game penalty. After Trubisky slipped and fumbled for a five-yard loss, he was nearly picked off, then found Deonte Thompson for a 14-yard gain. Trubisky then committed a cardinal sin of playing quarterback: Taking a delay of game penalty on fourth-and-1.
So what did Trubisky learn from those operational gaffes?
“Be a better communicator with Dowell (Loggains) and in the huddle,” Trubisky said. “Just always being aware of the play clock and the situation. And that’s something you always gotta work on, because you gotta know what the situation is and be in control of the game.”
This is the area that, more than anything else, is holding Trubisky back from being the Bears’ starting quarterback. One of the first things Fox pointed out after Sunday’s game was Mike Glennon’s strength at the line of scrimmage — calling out protections, getting his teammates lined up, identifying defenses, etc. — which is notable given Trubisky’s inexperience with those duties at this level.
“I think it’s just experience,” Fox said. “You’re talking about a rookie at a position in the National Football League — that’s pretty difficult. You have to be aware of a lot of things, the clock included.”
While Trubisky’s athleticism and pure quarterbacking talent have been apparent from the first pass he threw Aug. 10 against the Denver Broncos, this was an example of a rookie mistake made by someone still learning how to operate an NFL offense.
“It’s just, things speed up for him and you just gotta be calm out there, understand the situation,” left tackle Charles Leno Jr. said. “It’s not like practice where the play clock can go to zero and you can still run a play. You gotta look at that clock. Little things like that that he’s gotta see.
"He’s still a rookie, man. He’s going to make those mistakes. We’re all supporting him, trying to build him up.”
This is a fixable issue, and one that may not hold Trubisky back for long. His picturesque 45-yard touchdown to Tanner Gentry on Sunday was a highlight-reel reminder of what the 2017 No. 2 overall pick can do, but even the less spectacular throws he made on Sunday had an air of impressiveness to them.
And despite that sloppy start with the first-team offense — a three-and-out and then the possession with those clock issues — Trubisky still completed 10 of 15 passes for 128 yards and had a quarterback rating of 115.4. If he doesn’t play on Thursday against the Cleveland Browns, he’ll finish his preseason debut with the following stats: 34/48 (a 70.8 completion percentage), 354 yards, three touchdowns and a rating of 112.7.
The latter half to the Fox quote about making mistakes is an emphasis on how a player responds to them. Trubisky responded well on Sunday, and can use those mistakes as a learning experience on which to grow -- and keep the pressure on Glennon to be the Bears' starting quarterback.
"So far, so good," Trubisky said of his preseason. "(There's) always stuff to learn and improve from but that’s what the film is for. We’re going to study this film, get better this week, learn from our mistakes and continue to get better and grow as a team. Just keep doing the little things."