With the Bears just six months removed from eight consecutive years of Jay Cutler at quarterback, Jon Gruden’s opening comments Monday night on the Bears quarterback history said it all: “They’ve had no continuity, no consistency at quarterback in a long time,” Gruden said on Monday Night Football’s broadcast of Mitch Trubisky’s NFL debut against the Vikings. “I hope Mitchell’s the answer.”
Trubisky isn’t the only reason to watch the Bears against the Ravens on Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, just the biggest reason by a mile. The Bears have other developing impact players — linebacker Leonard Floyd, running backs Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen and safety Eddie Jackson among them. But none makes the 1-4 Bears watchable as much as Trubisky does.
“Being here since 2013, I’ve definitely understood the obsession with the quarterback position in this town,” guard Kyle Long said. “Mitch is a young guy with a lot of talent and this is a town that’s hungry for success in their sports, especially football. And I think they see a beacon of hope and light with Mitch Trubisky. And it’s my job and the guys around me to keep that beacon of light nice and shiny and keep him upright.”
It’s a team game, but with the current state of the Bears —who have been in last place in the NFC North for 25 consecutive weeks —the team takes a back seat when it comes to the quarterback. The Bears have a lot of issues, but two in particular dominate the rest: 1) Mitch Trubisky’s development; and 2) whether John Fox and offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains will be around next season to see that through.
Just about everything else — except defensive coordinator Vic Fangio’s future — is in last place. Even the Bears’ record is on the back-burner. As the rebuild accelerates, whether the Bears won or lost means less today than anytime since Lovie Smith’s first season in 2004. That’s how great the fixation on the rookie quarterback is.
And Long, for one, gets it.
“You look at the New England Patriots; you look at the Green Bay Packers,” Long said, “you look at the great dynasties and one of the things they have in common is great quarterbacks. And if it’s not a great quarterback, it’s 11 all-pros on defense.
“The reality is you’re not going to have 11 all-pros on defense. But we’ve got a pretty good young quarterback and he’s ours. And we want to take care of him. And we want the fans to celebrate it with us.”
On the other side of the ball, Bears linebacker Sam Acho is not even aware of just how much attention Trubisky is getting.
“Honestly, I’m not,” Acho said. “We make a quarterback change and you’re like, ‘All right. Cool. Let’s do our job to help our quarterback.’ But until you asked me, I didn’t realize how much focus there was or if it was a lot or not. That’s kind of how we operated. We’re dialed in [on defense].”
Acho disputes the notion that the quarterback is all that matters at this point. “I don’t think fans are sitting there sahing, ‘As long as he plays well, even if they lose the rest of their games, we’ll be happy,” Acho said. “If Mitch Trubisky has five touchdown passes and 350 yards but the defense gave up 500 yards, I don’t think the fans are going to be cool with that.”
But Acho acknowledged that as a player he doesn’t see the Trubisky obsession the same way the rest of us do.
“We don’t see it,” he said. “but if I worked in your job, I would be like,’ Man, this is the story.’”
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