Everyone thought the Chicago Bears landed their team MVP in defender Khalil Mack after they traded for the dangerous edge-rusher ahead of last season. The ex-Raider certainly lived up to such building, helping the Bears win 12 games and their first division title since 2010.
But shortly before Mack caused more destruction in Chicago than Jake and Elwood, the Bears already had the man they hoped would be their MVP on the roster: quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.
It’s cool to make fun of the Jets for franchise quarterback issues, but Chicago seems to be in equally dire straits. The team hasn’t really had a truly legendary starter since, perhaps, Sid Luckman’s reign in the 1940’s. There have been brief flashes of brilliance– Jim McMahon took them to their lone modern title in 1985– but Trubisky is supposed to be the Windy City staple for the next decade-plus.
His selection came with team-branded controversy from the start. The Bears dealt two third-rounders and a fourth-rounder to the San Francisco 49ers to move up a single spot for Trubisky privileges. This came after the QB started a single season at North Carolina. Chicago, of course, thrived on the antics of one former Tar Heel, but at least there was a bigger sample size of that hardwood hero.
By Chicago standards, Trubisky might as well end up being a godsend. His relative consistency ensures there’s hope for the future. After a mediocre rookie season, one split with perpetual stand-in Mike Glennon, Trubisky earned 24 touchdowns, 3,223 yards through the air, and completed just under 67 percent of his passes. Those numbers all ranked in the top ten of the Bears’ single-season records.
In today’s NFL, however, the team lives and dies by the quarterback. Right now, Chicago’s outlook isn’t necessarily dire, but Trubisky will have to boost the numbers to keep everything running smoothly. The proof that the Bears could remain stagnant without progress from their starter is hidden in Trubisky’s game log. Chicago holds a 6-10 mark when Trubisky throws the ball at least 30 times per game. When he had to throw five more times, the record falls to 1-5 (including 1-2 last season).
It’s perfectly fine to benefit from a strong defense. Several quarterbacks have won Super Bowls in that regard. It’d be cruel to put Trubisky in the same sentence as Trent Dilfer, especially so early, but it’s time to break out of his Chicago shell.
Contrary to what the screaming legions of Twitter would have you believe, the Bears didn’t lose their first playoff in eight years solely because of Cody Parkey’s memorable miss. Trubisky was by no means terrible in the doomed tilt against the Eagles. He threw for 303 yards and a fourth quarter score that went for naught when the defense couldn’t fulfill their end of the bargain. Unfortunately, an inability to get the Bears in the end zone more often came back to bite.
Exacerbating the defeat was the fact Chicago went 5-for-16 on third down, including a miss on a drive that could’ve sealed the game. Trubisky only completed 60% of his passes in the contest– an acceptable mark, but one or two passes could have been the difference.
This isn’t to say Trubisky hasn’t accomplished some good things. He did, for example, what so many recent franchise quarterbacks have failed to do in Chicago: beat the Packers. General consistency once again reigned, as he completed 20-of-28 yards for 235 yards and two scores in a 24-17 win.
Trubisky is good. He’s given Chicago something they’ve desperately needed and seems poised to take yet another step forward. But, in today’s world of instant gratification and fascination over monster stats… More is required.
This is an NFL that worships a deity known to us as fantasy football. 300-yard games from quarterbacks are as common as the coin toss. The Bears haven’t embodied this trend. Their 100 years of football have been spent thriving with defense while providing the occasional offensive stud (Walter Payton, for example).
But for Trubisky to truly cement his status as the next Tar Heel turned Windy City legend, he needs to take on a starring role. Right now, he’s Kukoc, he’s Harper, he’s Grant. It’s time to be, you guessed it, Michael Jordan. If this training camp session was any indication, a good amount of practice time was spent preparing Trubisky for more risks leading to higher rewards.
“We have (the) big picture,” head coach Matt Nagy told Jeff Dickerson of ESPN when discussing the offense’s goals and visions for 2019. “There’s going to be some balls in here, there’s interceptions. I said it last year. We don’t get frustrated over that. We’re testing some things out.”
Quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone might’ve better summed it up to Dickerson in the form a rhetorical question.
“This is the time to push the envelope. If not now, when?”
Ragone was referring to training camp in Bourbonnais. But such a quote could well end up defining Chicago’s football fortunes in 2019 and the decade to come.