Quarterback development rarely, if ever, takes a linear path. Becoming the accustomed face of a franchise means taking your occasional lumps and learning from your inevitable wrongdoings on the field. Not shying away from them, developing bad habits, and an unearned sense of comfort no quarterback should have.
As Mitchell Trubisky and the Bears have seen so often this season - particularly with another harsh three-interception reminder against the Lions on Saturday - his growth curve is going to experience highs and lows. Channeling the successes and mistakes into consistent quality play is the long-term goal. Right now, it's about experiencing adversity, taking control of his team, and learning on the fly as best as possible.
"I try to look at the process, not the outcome ... The turnovers hurt us," said Trubisky when asked about what went wrong against the Lions.
Which is the shallow truth from Trubisky that he understands: a good sign from a player looking to ascend.
Because here's the honest truth: Saturday wasn't the worst of his 10 starts thus far (the Eagles are clearing their throats loudly). He's definitely not going to lap up the performance to any of his teammates or friends, but it wasn't his worst. It was merely a game to take lessons from.
With that said, Trubisky did throw a red zone interception - his first interception on third down this season - into double coverage after the Bears marched down into Detroit territory early in the fourth quarter. That wasn't the fault of his intended target Dontrelle Inman. It was on Trubisky for seeing a window that wasn't there.
Trubisky still sailed an earlier ball on a misfire of a throw leading to a pick by Darius Slay. Intended receiver Kendall Wright wasn't to blame for not being 6-foot-5 and skying to catch the ball. It was on Trubisky for being inaccurate.
Not all of his mistakes against the Lions were his fault, yes, but to say he played well overall helps no one at Halas Hall. Trubisky, wait for it ... played poorly against Detroit. Since the Bears fell behind 13-0 early, he was forced to press with a poor offense around him with 46 passing attempts - a situation he isn't used to whatsoever - but he still put up a clunker of a game. 314 passing yards - a majority of which came on Chicago's last two possessions - were the perfect exemplification of empty calories.
And that's okay. That's perfectly fine.
Accept it. See what went wrong. Move on.
What did you expect?
Accepting that a young quarterback like Trubisky is allowed to be inconsistent from week to week at this moment is a crucial part of what will allow him to eventually succeed. Accepting that a quarterback of his inexperience will be rough around the edges and being honest about that non-pristine shine for now is what will allow him to flourish down the line.
One game of mistakes doesn't define Trubisky as a surefire bust for the Bears. Just like his quality performance in Cincinnati the week previous doesn't mean he's absolutely not going to flame out of the NFL. Measured and reasonable reactions are what's needed to properly evaluate Trubisky from all perspectives. To not be reactionary based on a small sample. To not veer away from the rational line of context.
Anointing Trubisky after a good game is never the aim. It's about seeing the flashes, with something to build upon. To see what he did well and create consistency. A tenet the Bears no doubt focus on relentlessly with him.
Tearing down Trubisky after a bad game is also never the goal. It's about seeing the blemishes, to be prepared for the next similar situation, this time coming in with a loaded gun. To not make the same mistake twice. Something the Bears, for all of their faults of late, assuredly preach with him.
This is a constant dichotomy that every franchise contends with concerning the development of a young quarterback (even if this current coaching staff doesn't have long). How do you bring him along in the face of misfortune? How do you keep him grounded when he shines?
These questions arise every single week until a quarterback like Trubisky is an established player. Those seasoned quarterbacks, the stars, they occasionally need a reminder in this regard as well. That's because to be a great passer, you have to accept you're never going to know everything. That sometimes your teammate isn't going to make his block, or that your receiver isn't going to run the perfect route. That the defense itself can always throw you for a loop and that in the end you're still expected to make a play.
Fortunately for the Bears, Trubisky seems like he understands what needs to happen. He's a player and leader that isn't going to make excuses when he makes a poor throw or when his offense falters as it has so often in 2017. That's how he's going to get better. That's what can make him great. Provided action regularly meets his words.
Given the responsibility the Bears have given Trubisky in lining up his teammates, calling audibles, making pre-snap reads, so far he's put his money where his mouth is. As John Fox alluded to his young gun's Lions performance.
"As far as his growth and his maturation, I thought it was probably his best game," said Fox.
Out of context, that sounds like a coach letting his rookie quarterback off the hook. In reality, he's pleased with Trubisky taking charge of his team noting that mentioned command of the offense. It doesn't matter if everything after the snap isn't always perfect yet. You are allowed to praise a player for what he did well while also noting his gaffes. Player evaluations aren't black and white, especially quarterback.
Saturday was the first time Trubisky had ever played any opponent, let alone a division rival, for the second time. He didn't pass with flying colors. In fact, he's going to need a tutor to come help him after school (i.e. a bright fresh offensive mind). Yet, he showed progression from the first meeting and that's what will be taken away from the game in the end.
Slay, who picked off Trubisky twice, humbling him to a degree, and whom the quarterback will eventually have to solve, summed it up best.
"He’ll be fine, he’s a young quarterback, but he needs to learn that lesson not to throw at No. 23 (his jersey number),” said Slay.
Trubisky will be fine. And he'll eventually come back at Slay, along with others, offering his own football lessons.
Robert Zeglinski is the Bears beat writer for The Rock River Times, an editor for Windy City Gridiron, and a contributor to The Athletic Chicago. You can follow him on Twitter @RobertZeglinski.