MORRISSEY: Mitch Trubisky offers hope where there was little before

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Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky throws against the Saints on Sunday in New Orleans. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

I think I’ve been very good about refraining from mentioning my dear friend Jay Cutler this season. The Bears are going through a rebuild, their up-and-down former quarterback is dealing with cracked ribs in Miami and the eye-rolling past is the eye-rolling past.

But wherever you fall on the Cutler spectrum — whether you think he’s the most misunderstood player in NFL history or a physically gifted, tragically flawed quarterback (hello!) — you have to admit what’s going on in Chicago now is better.

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It’s better with Mitch Trubisky. Even if none of us has any idea if the rookie quarterback will become a star, it’s better this way. Better to have a future full of possibility than to have the same meal three times a day into infinity. Better the unknown than the known.

The Bears head into the bye week and the halfway point of the season with a 3-5 record. The team would never say it, and coach John Fox surely doesn’t believe it, but the record means absolutely nothing because this season is about developing a player who started only 13 games in college.

The Bears are 2-2 with Trubisky as a starter. Not bad. And not at all the point. They beat the Panthers in Week 7 with their quarterback throwing only seven passes, and if you were happy with that because the Bears won, you’re in need of some serious deprogramming.

Even the coaching staff, whose future depends on victories, saw the ridiculousness of the Carolina game and adjusted its mindset accordingly. The Bears-Saints game Sunday, although not Trubisky’s finest hour, offered much more in the way of hope. The Bears’ day all but ended with his lone interception, but the excitement, the prospect of good things ahead, didn’t.

It’s there with the kid. You can see it. He’s not a block of marble waiting for a sculptor’s chisel.

Four games have told us all sorts of things about Trubisky.

He struggles under an intense rush, which makes sense because he hasn’t seen this kind of blitzing before and certainly not blitzing by such large, angry human beings. It’s fixable unless, of course, he’s reduced to crushed limestone. He has taken sacks he probably won’t take once he gets used to standing in the pocket and delivering. This is where his inexperience shows the most. The NFL is about identifying where the pressure is coming from and throwing the ball quickly.

He’s smart enough and athletic enough to eventually figure it out.

He has wheels. The best run of his very young career came with the Saints rushing seven players. He stepped into the pressure, saw a hole and sprinted 46 yards, setting up a fourth-quarter touchdown for the Bears.

He’s dangerous when he rolls out, not just in that moment, but as an implied threat anytime he’s under center. The defense has to think about a run as a distinct possibility. Imagine the increased threat if he starts rolling left instead of right all the time.

I see Cutler’s athleticism here. I don’t see Cutler’s recklessness.

Think about how far the Bears have come in half a season. With Mike Glennon as the starter, they couldn’t complete a pass of more than 20 yards even if they were spotted 19 yards. In the Saints game alone, Trubisky had three completions of more than 20 yards. He would have had one more if replay officials, experiencing group blindness, hadn’t ruled Zach Miller’s 25-yard touchdown reception an incomplete pass.

Trubisky didn’t play particularly well in New Orleans, and that’s encouraging. The two parts of that last sentence might seem incompatible. And yet, despite going 14-for-32 for 164 yards and throwing a bad interception that flew high and behind receiver Tre McBride, Trubisky didn’t look out of place. He didn’t look in over his head. He looked like he belonged.

Belonging — that was the concern when the Bears took him with the second overall pick in April. Would someone with very little in the way of a track record fit in, and if so, how quickly? The preseason games told us Trubisky could play, and his four regular-season starts tell us that he’s progressing. He’s not close to being a finished product, but he already can make all the throws.

Oh, and he seems like an engaging, well-adjusted, team-oriented person.

Cutler’s passer rating is 78.8, 28th among starting quarterbacks.

Trubisky’s is 66.2. Only the 49ers’ C.J. Beathard (65.2) has a lower rating among quarterbacks who have thrown at least 80 passes. So why the excitement about Trubisky? Why aren’t people pining for the good old days of Cutler?

Because there’s hope.

Remember hope?

Follow me on Twitter @MorrisseyCST.

Email: rmorrissey@suntimes.com

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