I think Mitch Trubisky will end up being a good NFL quarterback, but Saturday was a reminder of just how precarious the whole situation is for the Bears.
If he turns out to be bad to mediocre, if he’s more the struggling quarterback he was against the Lions than the successful quarterback he was the week before against the Bengals, the franchise is in huge trouble.
This has to work. If it doesn’t, the Bears will be in danger of becoming — gasp! — the Browns.
Not to be alarmist or anything.
A Bears-to-Browns mutation is harsh, I know. Probably overly harsh. The Browns are the Rembrandts of losing, the Mozarts of futility, the Picassos of scattered body parts. Their last winning season was 2007. Thirteen of their last 15 seasons have ended with 10 or more losses. After a loss Sunday to the Ravens, they are 0-14 this season.
So the Bears in the Browns’ league? What kind of twisted, dystopian timeshare are you trying to sell us, Rick?
The 4-10 Bears now have four consecutive seasons with double-digit losses. That’s not Browns-esque, but Rome wasn’t torn down in a day. They haven’t won a Super Bowl since January 1986, but they’ve had the decency to throw in a postseason appearance now and then. Mostly then. They haven’t made the playoffs since the 2010 season.
They traded up one spot to take Trubisky second overall in the 2017 draft. Missing on the second pick in the draft and missing with that high of a pick on a quarterback is the kind of blow that leaves destruction and devastation in its wake. Missing on a pick you traded up to get is even worse. It guts an organization of valuable draft picks. These kinds of misses are how the Browns happened.
So no pressure. None at all.
That the Bears play the Browns next is appropriate, if not somebody’s idea of a sick joke. The Browns recently fired vice president of football operations Sashi Brown after only 28 games (and one victory). Under his leadership, the franchise decided against drafting quarterbacks Carson Wentz and Deshaun Watson. But the team’s historic badness isn’t the work of one man. Bad draft has followed bad draft, and the result has been a franchise that has slid into a ditch and can’t extricate itself.
The Bears haven’t had that level of ineptitude or dysfunction, but they don’t inspire confidence when it comes to hiring the right people to coach or find talent. The jury is still out on Trubisky, in part because the jury has found Bears management guilty time after time.
Ryan Pace-philes will say the Bears’ general manager is no Sashi Brown, pointing to the drafting of running back Jordan Howard and the signing of defensive end Akiem Hicks as proof of a higher football acumen. But Pace is also the man who identified Mike Glennon as a starting NFL quarterback when, in fact, he wasn’t.
If that doesn’t send a chill down your spine on the topic of Trubisky’s long-term viability, I don’t know what will.
Bears ownership seems as bewildered by the game of football as a string of Browns owners has through the years. So there’s no comfort to be found there, either.
Drafting Trubisky was a huge step for the Bears. A gutsy step, too, one that deserved applause. The last time they had taken a quarterback in the first round was in 2003, when they used the 22nd overall pick on Rex Grossman. The last time they had used the second overall pick on a quarterback was in 1951, when they chose Notre Dame’s Bob Williams.
Trubisky threw three interceptions Saturday, and, of course, the needle swung back to the ‘‘He’s awful!’’ zone after visiting the ‘‘He’s wonderful!’’ sector the week before. It’s what we do.
If he can come through this with his body and spirit intact, he’s a tough kid.
I think he will. Interspersed among his struggles against the Lions were some beautifully precise passes. There’s no doubt about his arm strength. He has the physical ability to make all the throws successful NFL quarterbacks make. Someday, Bears coaches even might call plays that require those throws. For some reason, that day hasn’t arrived.
I see a good quarterback who needs seasoning before he can emerge. Success certainly isn’t a given, not with the way he has played in his rookie season and certainly not with the way he has been coached here. Still, there have been enough good throws to offer hope.
But if he doesn’t progress, you can say goodbye to hope. And hello to Lake Erie.
Follow me on Twitter @MorrisseyCST.