Jim McMahon

Deshaun Watson has more in common with Jim McMahon than Mitch Trubisky does

Deshaun Watson has more in common with Jim McMahon than Mitch Trubisky does

It was supposed to be Mitchell Trubisky. The 2017 NFL Draft, the one that produced arguably the most controversial and hotly debated draft picks in Bears history, brought Trubisky to Chicago in what was supposed to end the franchise's search for the next Jim McMahon.

Trubisky's first 2 3/4 seasons haven't produced McMahon-like results, and while he's trending in the right direction over the last month of the 2019 season, questions remain about whether he'll be the presumed starter entering training camp next year.

The Trubisky pick is frustrating on many levels, but nothing creates more angst in the fanbase than the 'what could've been.' You know the story by now: Trubisky was drafted ahead of Patrick Mahomes (Chiefs) and Deshaun Watson (Texans). Mahomes already has an NFL MVP Award on his mantle and Watson may earn one of his own this year.

The next McMahon. The only quarterback who ever won a Super Bowl for the Bears. The funky QB whose bigger-than-life personality still reigns supreme in Chicago. And who now shares a statistic with one of those quarterbacks from the 2017 draft: Watson.

In Week 13's game against the Patriots, Watson became the first quarterback since McMahon to throw three touchdowns and record a touchdown catch in the same game. It's a small fraternity of quarterbacks who can say they've accomplished such a feat; only four have done it in NFL history.

Bears fans are still waiting for their next McMahon. The 2017 draft may have produced him. He just wasn't the guy Chicago selected.

'Punky QB' meets 'Pretty Boy Assassin' on quarterbacks panel for Bears 100 Celebration weekend

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

'Punky QB' meets 'Pretty Boy Assassin' on quarterbacks panel for Bears 100 Celebration weekend

Mentoring comes in an untold number of forms. So it was on Saturday, when two of the most charismatic Bears quarterbacks of the past four decades came together Saturday for a “Legacy Quarterbacks” panel session as part of the “Bears 100 Celebration” at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont.

Jim McMahon, legendary quarterback of the 1985 Super Bowl XX champions, began his get-together with Mitchell Trubisky, moderated by Bears announcers Jeff Joniak and Tom Thayer, by surprising the younger quarterback with a pair of sunglasses and a headband that Trubisky immediately donned for the entire hour-long panel.

“Step one,” said Trubisky, nicknamed “Pretty Boy Assassin” his rookie season by his defensive teammates.

“Now you’re ready to go,” said McMahon, whose “Punky QB” ID from the “Super Bowl Shuffle” has endured.

The two first-round picks (McMahon was No. 5 overall in 1982, Trubisky No. 2 overall in 2017) arrived with doubters. McMahon recalled being judged as too small, lacking good vision (he suffered an eye injury as a child, hence the sunglasses) and someone telling him, “Maybe you should go to Canada.”

Trubisky was targeted and traded up for by Bears general manager Ryan Pace after just one season/13 starts at North Carolina.

But what surfaced early in both careers was a flair for the job, that job being to energize and lead their teams. Both brought a touch of panache’ to their early dealings with team management. McMahon emerged from first ride to Halas Hall with a beer in progress. When Trubisky was tasked with making arrangements for a secret dinner in Chapel Hill with Bears top brass during their evaluation of him at North Carolina, he made the reservations of “James McMahon.”

“I think they liked that,” Trubisky said, smiling.

The two established early on that they played with a touch of abandon with their own bodies. Among highlights shown during the panel were of Trubisky scrambling for a touchdown run and coaches have expressed a desire that he learn to avoid taking so many hits. McMahon’s career was dotted/shortened by injuries and he started an average of fewer than nine games in his seven Bears seasons.

“I played the only way I knew how,” McMahon said, adding, “I was playing hurt when I got here.”

Among the photos flashed during the discussion was one of Trubisky studying the Lombardi Trophy that McMahon’s 1985 Bears won. Trubisky was clear about that trophy and his own team: “It’s within reach.”

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Mike Ditka says Mitch Trubisky has traits of Jim McMahon

Mike Ditka says Mitch Trubisky has traits of Jim McMahon

The last time the Chicago Bears won the Super Bowl, Mike Ditka was roaming the sideline as head coach and Jim McMahon was the starting quarterback. This season marks 33 years since the Bears hoisted the Lombardi Trophy, but the excitement around this Bears team is palpable.

One reason Bears fans are so hopeful is QB Mitch Trubisky. The second-year pro is entering his first full season as the starting quarterback and could launch into stardom with the new offensive system and skill players around him.

According to coach Ditka, Trubisky has the most important trait for success.

“I like Mitch a lot, I really do. I think he is a good leader and has a lot of talent," Ditka told NBC Sports on Monday. "I know he has heart and I think that’s the main thing."

Trubisky has taken hold of his leadership role this offseason. He's saying and doing all the right things, and according to his coaches and teammates, has taken major strides in learning the new offense.

Ditka said Trubisky has some of the same qualities McMahon brought to the club during the best years in Bears history.

"I was with the guy who played quarterback for us last night, Jim McMahon, he wasn’t the most talented guy in the world but he knew how to play the position," Ditka said. "He wanted to win. I think that’s the way Mitch is, but I think Mitch is a very, very talented guy.”

Chicago has been something of a media darling this offseason. General manager Ryan Pace has received near-universal praise for his efforts in free agency and the NFL draft. And while all the positive news is great for team morale, it's an entirely different beast when coach Ditka proclaims his confidence in Trubisky.

There's no room for failure for the Bears in 2018.