Now we’re going to find out if Mitch Trubisky is a good quarterback.
I think he can become one. Some of you don’t think so. But by the end of the 2018 season, thanks to some of the acquisitions the Bears made official Wednesday, we’ll know definitively whether the kid can play.
That is, unless he turns out to be another up-and-down tease like Jay Cutler, who was the civic debate that never ended, in which case God help us all.
Or unless the players the Bears picked up in free agency turn out not to be players at all, in which even God won’t be able to help general manager Ryan Pace.
Their biggest free-agent signing figures to be Allen Robinson, who is a mixed bag of spectacular and frightening: 1,400 receiving yards and a league-high 14 receiving touchdowns in 2015 for the Jaguars; shrunken production the next season; and a torn anterior cruciate ligament in 2017, ending his season after just one game and one catch. The Bears deserve credit for going after the top wide receiver in free agency and spending the money to get him. Now watch them hold their breath and cross their fingers at the same time.
They also found a fast slot receiver (the Falcons’ Taylor Gabriel) and a tight end (the Eagles’ Trey Burton) for their quarterback. All their eggs are going in one Trubasket, the way it has to be. The moment they traded up to get him with the second overall pick in the 2017 draft, they announced that they were going to live and die with the choice.
There’s so much we still don’t know about the 2018 version of the Bears, but it’s a hell of a lot better than all the unfortunate things we did know about last season’s model.
Here’s what we do know: None of this seems too big for Trubisky. Think back to when you were 23. (If you are 23 or younger, I hate you.) But if a very public corporation said that it was going to make the 23-year-old you the face of the franchise and that every personnel move it would make was going to be with you in mind, what would your freak-out factor be on a scale of one to 10 with one being “I’m having trouble breathing’’ and 10 being “Just go ahead and institutionalize me right now?” I’m guessing most of us wouldn’t be able to get out of bed in the morning.
But Trubisky, despite having made just 13 starts at North Carolina, acts as if he were made for all of this. He carries himself like a veteran. When he struggled last season, it wasn’t because he was nervous or overwhelmed. His struggles had to do with his rawness, a bad offensive plan and his teammates’ deficiencies.
But those excuses won’t work anymore. He has a new head coach, Matt Nagy, who has been lauded for his work with the Chiefs’ offense in the six games he was allowed to call plays last season. The arrival of Robinson, provided he doesn’t have knee issues, gives Trubisky a big target he didn’t have last year.
And the quarterback needs to take a big step in Year Two. There’s no such thing as a sophomore slump if you had a 77.5 passer rating and completed 59.4 percent of your passes as a rookie. Both numbers were near the bottom among NFL QBs.
Whatever last season was for Trubisky — a real learning experience or a spin class thanks to an offense seemingly designed to go nowhere — it’s over. This will be a fresh start for him under Nagy, who is tasked with coming up with ideas about how to gain more yards and score more points. Pace is following the template set by the Rams, who drafted quarterback Jared Goff first overall in 2016, watched him struggle and then hired a new coach, Sean McVay, who unlocked the mysteries of Goff’s universe.
It can’t be overstated how much the Bears need Trubisky to succeed and to succeed soon. If he doesn’t work out, it will set back the franchise for years. Another quarterback search will start, the same kind of search the Bears have conducted for the better part of three decades, and a city will repair to its sickbed again.
Choosing a quarterback that high in the draft was something the team had to do. But the applause for the boldness of the move has stopped, and now it’s all about results.
Meanwhile, the Vikings are expected to sign quarterback Kirk Cousins to a three-year contract, and Green Bay will give Aaron Rodgers a nice present in tight end Jimmy Graham. So, yeah, time for progress in Chicago.
I’d like to say that 2018 is Trubisky’s year, but when Mike Glennon announced that he was taking ownership of 2017, it didn’t work out so well. So let’s just say lots of things are lining up for Trubisky.
Now we’re going to find out if the kid is a good quarterback. Most of what we think we know about his abilities is based on conjecture, extrapolation and a few nice throws. We just don’t know yet. But getting answers should be a lot more fun now.
Follow me on Twitter @MorrisseyCST.