History is not on Mitchell Trubisky’s side with the Chicago Bears. It’s well documented that former one-year college starters have little to no success in the NFL. A combination of inexperience and acclimating to a fast-paced professional game has been overwhelming for many young quarterbacks when their teams haven’t brought them along properly. Or they were just never going to be NFL-ready.
The Bears can’t control the latter aspect of quarterback development. Some guys really don’t have “it” and never make it in the league for a variety of physical, mental, and emotional reasons.
But the former, the former is something Chicago can control in bringing along the man they believe can be the franchise and make the Bears a consistent playoff team and even championship contender in Trubisky. That kind of belief in the most important position in sports can lead a general manager like Ryan Pace to trade up in the 2017 NFL Draft and make sure he absolutely gets his guy. That kind of conviction is what ignites a new bright era in an organization.
Only time will tell how Trubisky’s career will play out with the Bears. But one thing’s for sure, they’re going to take their time with his raw mold and make sure as best possible they put him in position to succeed.
With all of that in mind and the Bears’ future greatly at stake, I spoke with Jake Lawrence of the SB Nation website Tar Heel Blog about Trubisky’s inexperience concerns, his NFL comparison and ceiling, and his ideal development fits.
Let’s take a look at what to expect from the Bears’ potential new franchise quarterback in Trubisky.
1. Why did Trubisky not start until his junior year at UNC? There were reports that he supposedly won the job in the camps of his sophomore year and even seemed like the better player than Marquise Williams to some on the team. What happened?
Jake Lawrence: It was much more about Williams than about Trubisky. Williams was the incumbent and didn’t do anything to lose the job. Pretty simple.
The NCAA and NFL are two very different games, and Williams showed better running ability than Trubisky did in the spread scheme at North Carolina. A quarterback’s ability to rush is often a greater asset in college than it is in the pros, and Williams is a great example of that. He had been in UNC’s system for four years and ran the offense (usually) like a well-oiled machine.
Plus, team chemistry matters. While some may have thought that Trubisky was the better player, it’s not as though Williams was disliked, lacked respect, or underperformed. Their skill sets were wildly different, but that doesn’t mean Trubisky was a clearly superior athlete. In 2014 the coaching staff tinkered with a system where Trubisky would play the third series of every game. Mitch performed decently, but it had an impact on the team and UNC stumbled to a 6-7 record.
What starting quarterback wants to lose playing time to his back-up? Why open the door to fan speculation? Coaches can say they don’t care about the opinions of fans or media until they’re blue in the face. That’s cool. The players, their friends and their families feel the effects. Performances on the field suffer. Why subject your team to strife and rifts? So, the coaching staff went “all in” with Williams in 2015.
Plus, if we’re being real about it, Williams led the Heels to an 11-3 record in his last season. In two of those losses, the Heels scored 37 and 38 points. Pretty hard to argue with those performances by a senior quarterback. I wouldn’t have started Trubisky either.
2. What can the Bears expect from Trubisky if he becomes the quarterback they believe he is? I.e. what’s his style of play comparable to and his likely ceiling in the NFL?
Lawrence: Brock Osweiler or Blaine Gabbert are probably fair comparisons.
Sorry, I’m a die-hard Packers fan and wanted to cause some momentary panic.
For comparison’s sake (and I mean this in the most generic of terms), I think saying Trubisky could potentially be a mobile, faster version of Matt Ryan is a rational overall comparison in terms of his mental capacity, demeanor, and production. Cool, calm, collected. Occasionally frustrating, but overall makes good decisions and can be very productive.
The first thing to watch is his decision making. The UNC system gives the quarterback more freedom than most college offenses to read the defense and call plays as he deems necessary. So, it’s reassuring to only see six interceptions last season. Four of those were after he lost starting wide receiver Mack Hollins for the season against Stanford and Duke. The other two picks were against Virginia Tech in the middle of a hurricane.
Trubisky doesn’t force throws, yet he isn’t risk adverse or overly cautious either. He is also extremely smooth in the pocket, and is deliberate in his reads - not completely dissimilar to a certain No. 12 who wears green and gold. I expect that trend to continue as his NFL career progresses. After years of Jay Cutler, I’m sure that will be a welcome sight in Chicago.
Secondly, the dude has ice in his veins.
No matter the situation last season, if UNC was trailing, they still had a chance to win. Check out highlights against Pittsburgh, where he converted three fourth downs on the game-winning drive. He also went into Tallahassee and took down Florida State in the final seconds. Against Stanford in the Sun Bowl, he led a 97-yard touchdown drive that fell a two-point conversion short of forcing overtime. In 2014, he entered the game for one play when Williams’ helmet got knocked off. He promptly threw the game-winning touchdown.
He doesn’t get rattled.
3. What are some primary concerns about Trubisky that he’ll have to work on other than inexperience?
Lawrence: The one major frustration last season was that he can sometimes get off to a slow start or display long periods of inefficiency. I don’t know if that was just a UNC thing or if it was Trubisky. The offense could go stagnant for periods of time before there was an explosion of points.
Often, I thought he could have done more to extend drives, specifically with his legs. He is extremely mobile in the pocket and much faster than you would expect. Numerous times he extended plays by avoiding the pass rush. He just seemed reluctant at times to use that skill. That part of his game also slightly reminds some of Aaron Rodgers or a younger, smaller, and lighter version of Ben Roethlisberger.
It’s not necessarily a bad thing that your quarterback doesn’t get happy feet, but it might lead to avoidable quick three-and-outs. Drives that ended after one or two series of downs were way too common for a team that had a quarterback, two wide receivers, and two running backs hear their name called in this year’s draft.
4. Are the Bears an ideal fit for his skill set and development in your mind?
It depends if the organization wants him to start this season. That, in my mind, would be highly questionable. I’d be surprised if he’s truly ready to contribute immediately. However, with a head coach like John Fox who has not quite delivered the results that most have expected, my two concerns are:
- Trubisky is forced into playing before he is ready because of organizational or fan pressure
- If he is put on the field and struggles, the Bears won’t be patient with him (neither will Fox and Pace) and that discards everyone involved.
If the concerns of him only starting 13 games and playing in a spread offense in college are confirmed to be valid, then be patient with him. Both as an organization and as those with rooting interests. It certainly can’t be worse than the previous few years, can it?
Even if Mike Glennon isn’t your answer, continue to stockpile some talent for Trubisky next season. He has the physical tools, but even a carpenter needs wood. Find some more reliable receivers, determine if Jordan Howard has staying power, and continue to fortify your offensive line.
5. Are there any specific games and or plays that highlight his best and worst to you?
I’ll probably go against most UNC people and say my favorite performance this past season was at Illinois. After losing a disappointing contest against Georgia the week before in the season opener, our fan base was in a mini-panic mode. Trubisky hadn’t played his best, and there was some overenthusiastic concern that the season was going to be a disaster.
Acknowledging that it was only Illinois, Trubisky responded with 265 yards, two touchdowns, and zero turnovers. He added two more scores on the ground and 42 yards rushing. It was a complete and total performance on the road that quieted the skeptics. It was our first glimpse at what kind of intestinal fortitude he really has.
His most disappointing was against Duke. UNC was still in contention for the conference title game and lost by only one. It was an uncharacteristic performance by Trubisky where he threw two interceptions. One of them was on the final drive when we just knew he was about to lead the team to another last minute victory. The whole offense was really lethargic in retrospect. It deflated the team and killed any realistic chance they had at the ACC Championship.
Also, under Trubisky, UNC lost three of it’s last four games in 2016. In full transparency, the team lost fourth-round draft pick Mack Hollins to a broken collarbone halfway through the season. Still, the offense was never the same after that, and it certainly had an effect on Trubisky. It would have an impact on any quarterback.
6. Finally, what’s one unique story that you can tell about Trubisky in his interactions with people, teammates, etc. at school?
Trubisky didn’t leave UNC when Williams beat him out to be the starter in 2014.
He didn’t leave UNC when Williams beat him out to be the starter in 2015.
Despite being the better pure passer of the two, he remained loyal. He was never a distraction to his teammates, coaches, or program. Instead, Trubisky worked harder, endeared himself to the team and earned their trust. In the process, he became a fantastic player and leader.
He will do the same in Chicago (Just give him someone to throw to).
Robert Zeglinski is the Bears beat writer for the Rock River Times and is a staff writer for Windy City Gridiron. You can follow him on Twitter @RobertZeglinski.