Look, I get it. Mitchell Trubisky hasn’t lived up to your expectations.
He was drafted No. 2 overall in 2017 — yes, the Bears even traded up one spot to get him — and here we are in 2020 and he is in a quarterback competition with Nick Foles.
Trubisky is not a success story at this point. But you know what else he’s not? A bust.
The kid belongs in the NFL. He may be a fringe starting quarterback — which is why he’s currently in a competition with another fringe starting quarterback — but those players stay in the league for a long time.
In fact, quarterbacks quite worse than fringe starters stay in the NFL a long time. I mean, literally as I’m writing this, Geno Smith just signed a one-year deal with the Seattle Seahawks.
That’s why this quote from NBC’s Rodney Harrison, in an interview on the Under Center Podcast, got my attention: "If (Trubisky) doesn’t start this year, and I’m going to tell you something — this is gonna happen, this is gonna play out. He’ll never start again. He’ll be a career backup. He’ll be a career backup and he’ll be considered one of the (NFL’s) biggest busts.”
I’ll give Harrison this: based on Trubisky’s draft position at No. 2 overall, then yes, he’ll be considered a bust if he’s a career backup. But I disagree with the notion that Trubisky won’t start another game if he doesn’t win the starting job with the Bears this year. The talent is good enough — and the work ethic is good enough — that at least one NFL GM/head coach tandem is going to believe they can fix Mitchell Trubisky after 2020. He’ll get another opportunity.
In this story on Harrison’s comments, my colleague JJ Stankevitz points out that Blaine Gabbert, who was drafted 10th overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2011, went on to start 21 more games with other teams after his rookie contract expired. He even beat the Bears at Soldier Field in 2015.
But Trubisky and Gabbert are both on the list of eight first round quarterbacks not to have their fifth-year option picked up. That list also includes Jake Locker, Christian Ponder, Brandon Weeden, E.J. Manuel, Johnny Manziel and Paxton Lynch, who all combined to make one start after their rookie deals expired. The last quarterback on that list is Teddy Bridgewater, who had extenuating circumstances with his gruesome knee injury, and is now the starter in Carolina.
So there is plenty of precedent suggesting that Harrison could be right about his Trubisky prediction, but I’d argue the tape says otherwise. Most of the quarterbacks on that list all looked like busts very quickly in their careers. It didn’t take long to realize they didn’t belong on the field. Locker never played in more than 11 games in a season. The Browns got rid of Weeden after just two seasons. Manuel never played in more than 10 games in a season and never had a passer rating above 80.3. Manziel was Johnny Manziel. Lynch got four starts and played in five total games. That is his entire NFL career.
So, while Trubisky happens to be on this dubious list of quarterbacks not to have their fifth-year option picked up, he really doesn’t belong in the same conversation. Despite not being one to pile up a ton of passing yards, Trubisky (41 starts) has more career passing yards in three seasons (8,554) than any quarterback on the list except for Gabbert (9,063), who has seven more career starts than Trubisky over five additional seasons. The next closest player is Bridgewater, who has 7,652 yards in 34 starts, followed by Ponder, who had only 6,658 passing yards in 36 career starts.
If you’re not catching on yet, Trubisky is much more comparable to Bridgewater — the exception on this list — than all the others. And again, even Gabbert went on to start 21 additional games, even though his career passer rating is still only 71.7. Trubisky’s career passer rating is 85.8 and he posted a 95.4 rating in 2018, which none of these quarterbacks can even sniff in seasons they were full-time starters. Bridgewater is closest with an 88.7 passer rating when he started 16 games with the Vikings in 2015.
I’m not exactly sure how we got to this point of beating Trubisky down with constant criticism, but it certainly appears that the public perception is shaped so much by the expectations that come with being the No. 2 overall pick — and the fact that he’s not Patrick Mahomes or Deshaun Watson. For example, check out this Twitter poll I ran this week:
Who’s the better QB?— Adam Hoge (@AdamHoge) May 13, 2020
In Kyle Orton’s four years in Chicago, he never completed more than 58.5 percent of his passes in one season. He never threw for more than 2,972 yards. His best passer rating was 79.6 in 2008. After getting traded to Denver, Orton improved, but even then, his two seasons as a Bronco could only be described as somewhat comparable to Trubisky (a passer rating of 87.2, for example), but only if you completely ignore what Trubisky provides with his mobility and rushing ability.
That poll really should not have been as close as it was. But remember, Orton was a fourth-round pick, which created lower expectations and always helped him in the fiery Orton vs. Rex Grossman debates. Apparently, it also helped him in the Orton vs. Trubisky debate I created this week.
But if/when Trubisky hits the open market, none of those draft-created expectations will matter. He’ll be viewed by general managers and coaches by his overall body of work. And the point is this: if a team was willing to trade for Kyle Orton and plug him in as their starter for 28 games over the next two seasons, someone is going to be willing to give Trubisky another shot to start. Someone is going to believe they can fix him.
And speaking of Grossman, he only supplements this argument further. In 2006, his one season as the full-time starter in Chicago, Grossman threw for 3,193 yards, completed only 54.6 percent of his passes and posted a passer rating of 73.9. He was a first-round pick like Trubisky, but doesn’t even belong in the same galaxy from a performance standpoint. And yet, after six seasons in Chicago, and only one in which he was the full-time starter, Grossman still went on to start 13 games for Washington in 2011 at the age of 31.
So while Trubisky’s Bears career isn’t looking all that rosy right now, I feel pretty confident that his NFL career is far from over. He’ll get the chance to start again, even if it’s not with the Bears in 2020.Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.