It’s the No. 1 game in Chicago. You can play it anywhere and any time. No equipment is necessary.
It’s called Ditch Mitch, and it goes like this: You’re given two quarterbacks, and you have to choose one to replace the Bears’ Mitch Trubisky. To reiterate, you pick only one, no matter how tempting it is to answer “both’’ — even if every fiber of your being screams to go for two.
Lately, the choices have been laid out for us like a great, big football buffet. Saturday, it was Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson or Tennessee’s Ryan Tannehill as they battled in an AFC playoff game. Sunday, it was Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes or Houston’s Deshaun Watson in another AFC showdown. Monday, it will be Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence or LSU’s Joe Burrow in the CFP national championship.
Tuesday, it will be a cantaloupe or a nicely packed snowball.
We figure to be playing this all offseason, even though Bears general manager Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy insisted during an end-of-season news conference that Mitch would be their starting quarterback in 2020. Few of the compliments the two men threw Trubisky’s way that day lined up with the reality of his mediocre season. But there was no stopping Pace and Nagy and their stubbornness. So we dream.
Much of this truly is fantasy football. Young stars Jackson, Mahomes and Watson aren’t going anywhere. They’ll be tied to their respective teams for a long time. Tannehill, coming off a career season and playoff victories over Tom Brady and Jackson, will hit the jackpot in free agency. The Bears should be interested in him. Will they be?
Burrow likely will be the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft. The Bears don’t have a first-round pick. Lawrence still has one more year of college football before he can be eligible for the draft. He’s projected to be the top pick in 2021. It would take a truly atrocious season for the Bears to sink (and rise) to the level of the No. 1 pick. What do you root for?
If I know the Bears, and I think I do, they believe that Trubisky is better than either quarterback. If I know the Bears, and I think I do, they’re wrong.
Little of this is Trubisky’s fault. That probably isn’t pointed out enough. He didn’t select himself with the second pick of the 2017 NFL Draft. If you slipped some truth serum into his protein shake, I’ll bet he’d say he was as shocked as anyone that the Bears used such a high selection on him.
But here he is in Chicago, coming off a forgettable season and having to listen to knuckleheads like me suggest who should replace him. That’s on Pace, who wrote in his journal after the 2017 draft about the importance of being bold. Too bad somebody didn’t get to him before that draft: If you want to be bold, be bold about Mahomes or Watson.
Trubisky’s problems don’t stem from a lack of effort. They stem from a lack of skill.
It’s why Ditch Mitch, Chicago’s favorite game, rages on.
Brady or Teddy Bridgewater?
Marcus Mariota or Jameis Winston? Philip Rivers or Eli Manning? Oh, wait. One other rule: “Neither” isn’t an allowable answer, either.
It occurs to me that, eventually, this exercise will drive all of us crazy. If you watch every football game through a Mitch-colored lens, you’ll inevitably walk away feeling empty. It’s a game of wishful thinking, but unless Pace and Nagy were hiding their true intentions during that news conference almost two weeks ago, it’s all we have.
Would you rather replace Trubisky with Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers or Seattle’s Russell Wilson? That was Sunday night’s NFC playoff matchup. Both players have great arms. Both can escape trouble.
Both make you think: Why can’t the Bears ever have a quarterback like that?
We’ll play our game of wistfulness until Trubisky turns things around or until the Bears move on from him. The best outcome would have the kid discovering his inner quarterback and becoming a success. The next-best outcome would have the Bears acknowledging their mistake sooner rather than later.
The pessimist in me suspects that we’ll be playing some version of Ditch Mitch well after he’s gone. That’s because the people who chose him in the first place likely will be choosing his replacement.
Case Keenum or Matt Moore?