Kendall Wright saw two years ago what the transition for a quarterback, picked second overall and coming from a college spread offense, can look like. Marcus Mariota made that move smoothly and now looks poised to join the ranks of the best quarterbacks in the NFL this year with the Tennessee Titans.
Can Mitch Trubisky make a similarly successful transition? Wright, so far, has liked what he’s seen.
“His overall progression from OTAs to training camp to now, his overall everything he’s done in every area has gotten better,” Wright said. “The work he puts in, it helps him.”
It’s not a perfect comparison, of course, given the offense Mariota so effectively operated at Oregon didn't resemble the look and feel of the one Trubisky ran at North Carolina. Mariota started far more games than Trubisky, too. They’re two different quarterbacks with different skillsets. And Mariota was given the opportunity to be a Week 1 starter from the moment he was drafted, while Trubisky — for now — remains behind Mike Glennon.
“Marcus was in a different position where he came in and he was the quarterback,” Wright said. “I think it’s different. Once Mitch starts playing, whenever he starts playing, he’ll start progressing a lot more because he’ll actually be out there in game-like situations.”
But consider why the Titans were so confident Mariota could start immediately and make a successful transition to the NFL from that flashy Oregon offense:
1 reason Titans think Mariota can start Week 1? “Spacial memory,” Whisenhunt says. Sports' equivalent of photo memory. Will ease transition.— Jeff Darlington (@JeffDarlington) May 4, 2015
“I don’t think the system he had in Oregon, I don’t think that held him back when he came into the league,” Wright said. “I think he was good at making his progressions, decisive. He’s like one of those players, it doesn’t matter what system he’s in, you put him out there and he’s a guy that’s a difference-maker.”
After espousing Trubisky’s accuracy back in April, Bears general manager Ryan Pace quickly pointed out this trait: “His ability to process and see the whole field jumps out right away.
“… All these top quarterbacks, it’s just their ability to quickly process defenses, process coverage, find open targets, not panic under pressure, deliver accurate throws when there’s a noisy pocket – things are collapsing – those guys all have those traits. And Mitch has those traits, Drew (Brees) has those traits and those are things we value.”
The point being: No matter the system, both Mariota and Trubisky have good football intelligence, and are more than what Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians once bemoaned about college spread quarterbacks.
“They hold up a card on the sideline and he kicks his foot and throws the ball,” Arians said in 2015. “That ain’t playing quarterback.”
Trubisky, of course, still has to improve with his pre-snaps reads, calling out protections, identifying coverages, learning the playbook, etc. But he seems to have the football intelligence to make those strides and marry them with his impressive physical skillset.
And as was the case with Mariota, Wright doesn’t see a reason why Trubisky can’t succeed in the NFL.
“(Trubisky) can do it all too,” Wright said. “He’s still learning, he’s still getting better, he’s never complacent. He has the ability to get better and he’s willing to get better. He’s a young guy that listens. He’s just a baller. You put him out there and he makes plays.”