In one meaningless preseason game, Mike Glennon made Bears fans yearn for Jay Cutler, and Mitch Trubisky made them forget Sid Luckman.
Let’s not start crafting the bust of Trubisky for Canton based on one performance, but you sure have to admit it’s been a while in these parts since Bears fans have seen an incoming quarterback look that good.
After relieving Glennon late in the second half, Trubisky completed his first 10 passes and led the Bears on all three of their scoring drives in the 24-17 loss to the Denver Broncos. He finished the night 18 of 25 for 166 yards and one touchdown. His 90.9 passer rating was the highest for any quarterback debut in the past four years.
“Our depth chart is not going to change after one game,” Bears coach John Fox said. “Particularly a preseason game. Mike’s the starter. This is his team.”
Trubisky might not be settling for second just yet, though.
“Honestly, I think your teammates can see it in your eyes,” Trubisky said. “If you’re ready, how bad you want it, and what’s about to happen.”
Just how does Trubisky’s debut compare to some of the NFL greats? Well, that’s pretty hard to assess, considering that individual stats from old preseason games are hard to come by — again, maybe a testament to their insignificance. But we dug around to find first performances by some notable quarterbacks. If first impressions are any indication, Trubisky could be … er, let’s give it time.
Peyton Manning: Perhaps no quarterback came into the NFL with more hype than Manning, who was taken by the Colts with the No. 1 pick. The Colts were awful and had no option but to hand Manning the reins in his rookie season. On Aug. 8, 1998, Manning threw his first pass, a short one to Marvin Harrison, who cut up field and took it 48 yards for a touchdown. Manning finished the game 8-of-15 passing for 113 yards, with a pick and a TD. A few weeks later in a much-anticipated dress rehearsal, Manning squared off with No. 2 pick Ryan Leaf and lost the showdown. Leaf went 15 for 24 for 172 yards passing and ran for one touchdown in a 33-3 victory over the Colts. Manning was 11 of 21 for 123 yards and was picked off twice. Manning went on to play 18 great seasons and win two Super Bowl rings in a surefire Hall of Fame career. Beset by personal problems, Leaf was out of the NFL in four years.
Tom Brady: Brady’s career began at Canton, Ohio, in 2000 and will probably end there. The Patriots were up 20-0 against the San Francisco 49ers when coach Bill Belichick decided to bring in their sixth-round draft pick for garbage time. Brady connected on his first three passes and finished the game 3 for 4 for 28 yards. But the interesting sidelight was the game featured one of the six quarterbacks taken ahead of Brady in that draft, Giovanni Carmazzi, who was 3 for 7 for 19 yards for the 49ers. Also in that game was Tim Rattay, another 49ers quarterback who the Patriots nearly took ahead of Brady. Rattay was 10 of 21 for 105 yards.
Belichick told this story about Brady’s debut to CSN New England in 2016: “That was an interesting game, because we started out a little bit on the Tim Rattay trail and [late quarterbacks coach] Dick Rehbein went down there and worked him out at [Louisiana Tech],” Belichick recalled. “They ran a big spread offense and he had a lot of big numbers. We kind of liked him, thought that might be a late-round pick. Then we got on Brady, so it was kind of Brady [in the late sixth round] and Rattay in that seventh round. As luck would have it, we took Brady, they took Rattay, and here they are playing against each other. So, we kind of got a look at that. Guess we took the right one.”
Andrew Luck: Like his predecessor Manning, Luck’s first NFL pass was a touchdown. Playing before a sellout crowd in Indianapolis, the No. 1 pick in the 2012 draft hit Donald Brown with a dump pass, and Brown ran it 63 yards untouched by the Rams defense. Luck finished 10 of 16 for 188 yards and two TDs in a half of play. The Colts defeated the Rams 38-3.
Aaron Rodgers: No. 12 took a position that would become all to familiar to start the game on Aug. 11, 2005, at Lambeau Field — watching Brett Favre from the sideline. Rodgers waited his turn on the Packers side, while second-year QB Philip Rivers waited to sub for Drew Brees on the San Diego Chargers sideline. Rodgers, the 24th pick of the draft, was just 2 of 7 for six yards. Favre went 9 for 10 for 91 yards and a TD in the Packers 10-7 victory. Rodgers waited two more seasons behind Favre before he got his chance to start in Green Bay in 2008.
Russell Wilson: Though taken in the third round, Wilson faced a situation in 2012 quite comparable to Trubisky’s circumstances with the Bears. The Seahawks signed free-agent Matt Flynn in the off-season to be their starter, just as the Bears had done with Glennon. Wilson could be brought along slowly as a backup or a No. 3 to Tavaris Jackson. Well, after Wilson went 12-of-16 for 124 yards and a touchdown in his first game, that all changed. By the third preseason game, the Seahawks named Wilson their starter where he has been ever since.