After all the anticipation, Mitch Trubisky’s season debut against the Packers on Sunday night was unfulfilling, providing barely a hint of affirmation that he’s the franchise quarterback the Bears think he is.
Given a golden opportunity, there was no evidence of the innate “it” factor that often makes elite quarterbacks elite. With 10-, 17- and 20-point leads, he didn’t appear to raise his focus the necessary notch to “laser” to put the hammer down. And when he had the final 2:08 of the fourth quarter to drive 50 yards for a game-winning field goal, he never put any pressure on or instilled any fear in the Packers’ defense.
But it was one game — hardly a defining moment. Just because Trubisky didn’t have “it” Sunday night doesn’t mean he’s never going to have it. They call them growing pains for a reason. But the reality is that while one game is part of a process for Trubisky and the Bears, every game seems like a defining moment for those watching and analyzing his play — you are what your passer rating says you are.
“For me, it’s not accepting that reality,” Trubisky said Thursday. “But that’s how people are looking at it. We want immediate results — the media, the fans, myself. But unfortunately that’s not always part of it. I’ve just got to continue to work and get better every day and realize that’s the level we’re at and those are the expectations.
“But I’m not gonna hold any pressure over my head or do anything more. I’ve just got to do what I’ve got to do, and hopefully people will understand. But I think I understand the situation that I’m in and what comes with it.”
Dealing with the day-to-day, frame-by-frame scrutiny in this era of microanalysis is one of the biggest challenges facing any young NFL quarterback. The issue came to the fore when Trubisky was asked about the third-and-three play against the Packers in the first quarter when a swing pass to wide receiver Taylor Gabriel lost five yards, and the Bears settled for a field goal and a 10-0 lead.
A screenshot of the play that was posted on Twitter showed tight end Trey Burton wide-open in the end zone and implied that Trubisky missed a play that any of us could have made. In live action, with Packers safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix closing on Burton, the opportunity missed was not nearly as egregious as the screenshot indicated.
“I’m sure everyone saw what I saw, and they’re like, ‘Oh, Mitch, throw to the wide-open guy in the back of the end zone.’ Trust me — I wish I would [have],” Trubisky said. “If I want to evolve into the quarterback I want to be, you’ve got to take the opportunity, and I’ve got to anticipate that even more. That wasn’t something that happened in practice at all. But you’ve got to know as a quarterback if that opens up, take your chances and get it to the wide-open guy.
“But it’s a little less wide-open when you’re playing it full motion on film. The still picture, which I’m sure a lot of people saw, it looks like I don’t know what I’m doing. Trust me, I’m hard on myself. You want touchdowns, not field goals. But I thought I put myself and my team in a good position in that instance — first quarter, check it down, three points, we’re up 10-0.”
Trubisky has a long way to go, but there’s always hope when the quarterback can handle scrutiny as adeptly as Trubisky did Thursday — an explanation without defiance or condescension and an acknowledgement that he sees the same game we do and could have done better. Sundays matter most. But taking the heat is a big part of the gig, too.
So far, so good.
“I’ve still got the best job in the world,” Trubisky said, “so [I] can’t complain too much.”