On Tuesday night, the United Center public-address announcer asked a young Blackhawks fan what he was going to be for Halloween. When he gave his answer — Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky — the kid got booed.
It was cruel but familiar. The night after the Bears drafted Trubisky No. 2 overall in 2017, fans booed him at a Bulls game.
In between those two United Center incidents, here’s what Trubisky has done: He has gone 18-13 in the regular season, he has played on a Bears team that won the NFC North for the first time since 2010 and he has made the Pro Bowl as an alternate.
But he also has taken a giant step back this year. He has been booed in both home games he has played start to finish, and with good reason: The Bears mustered three points in a loss to the Packers, and Trubisky played perhaps the worst game of his career — indecisive, inaccurate and inept — against the Saints.
Entering the game Sunday against the Chargers, Trubisky ranks 31st in yards per pass, 25th in passer rating and 29th in passing yards per game. There are real concerns that he might not make it to the end of his rookie contract as the Bears’ starter.
Still, it’s possible to muster some sympathy for Trubisky. The incompletions and the indecision are his fault. But the circumstances aren’t.
Criticism of Trubisky too often centers around who he’s not, not who he is. He hasn’t been an NFL MVP like the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes or become the face of the franchise like the Texans’ Deshaun Watson. General manager Ryan Pace took Trubisky over both quarterbacks — and doubled down on his conviction by trading four draft picks to move up one spot to take him.
When Bulls fans booed Trubisky during his first full day in Chicago, they were mad at Pace for the trade. Trubisky forever will be linked to Mahomes and Watson and might never finish higher than a distant third. Bears fans are reminded of that fact every time Mahomes throws a no-look pass or Watson describes a play in painstaking detail during a news conference.
While acknowledging the outside pressure, the Bears have preached all week about tuning out the noise. Trubisky, who’s notoriously hard on himself, was asked about how he kept positive during what must be the hardest week of his pro career.
“I guess you just practice that,” he said. “We’ve been playing this game a long time, and if you just don’t think you’re good enough to play or you think you have those bad thoughts in your head, then it’s definitely going to snowball and go bad from there. But I think we all know what we’re capable of, just talent-wise on offense and what we can be and what we did last year. And if you don’t believe in that, you’re in the wrong spot. You’re in the wrong place.”
Chargers coach Anthony Lynn believes Trubisky is in the right place. In a backhanded compliment, Lynn called Trubisky “a starting quarterback in this league,” but he also praised his role in the Bears’ 12-4 season.
Lynn first liked Trubisky coming out of college. He had inside information — UNC backup quarterback Nathan Elliott grew up a block from Lynn’s home in Celina, Texas. Elliott mowed Lynn’s lawn as a boy for $25.
“The more I looked at [Trubisky] and studied him, I saw something,” Lynn said. “He only started for that one year, but I knew his work ethic because the guy that backed him up . . . just raved about his leadership and work ethic. So I knew a lot of intangibles about him that some others didn’t.
“Just watching him on the field, he made throws, he had a quick release. He reminded me sometimes of Aaron Rodgers, the way he moved around. If he ever got in a bind, he could create. I thought he had the total package.”
As if Trubisky needs another quarterback comparison.