It’s both the greatest compliment and the greatest indictment of Mitch Trubisky as a quarterback to say he did everything he possibly could.
It just wasn’t enough.
Bears coach Matt Nagy benched Trubisky in the third quarter Sunday against the Falcons, with backup Nick Foles stepping in with three touchdown passes to pull off a 30-26 victory. Nagy said Foles is his starter going forward, beginning Sunday against the Colts, which likely signals the end of Trubisky’s run with the Bears.
The team somewhat saw this coming when it declined Trubisky’s 2021 option five months ago. He’ll almost certainly find a home elsewhere in free agency after this season.
It was hard to tell how much of that had sunk in for him after he was benched for performance for the first time in his career, then watched Foles take his job.
“This is still a team-first game, so if Nick’s the starter . . . I’ve got to have his back, just like he had mine,” Trubisky said. “It’s always team-first. . . . I’ve got to just continue to get better, work on my craft and make sure I’m pushing my teammates, because I’m still a leader on this team and I feel like guys still look at me.”
This approach has been typical of Trubisky throughout his time with the Bears, and it’s the reason neither his teammates nor the fans have turned bitterly against him despite his disappointments on the field. If he had Jay Cutler’s personality, this would have gone down much differently.
Trubisky can’t be thrown in with other draft busts who underachieved and wasted their opportunities. He has done everything right in terms of effort and professionalism, all the way down to showing up for the postgame news conference Sunday when it never has been easier to duck the media.
Imagine being in Trubisky’s position. He endured his most humiliating failure and a demotion, likely sensing it will mean he’s gone at the end of the season, and now a few dozen reporters who constantly criticize him want to grill him over it.
“The fact of the matter was we weren’t doing too well in the first half, and Coach felt like taking me out would help us do better,” Trubisky said. “The only thing I can control is me playing better . . . and I didn’t do that, so I gave him the opportunity to pull me.
“You’ve just got to move forward, accept it and continue to be a great teammate. But it’s a tough deal sometimes.”
Trubisky’s entire circumstances with the Bears have been a tough deal. He isn’t to blame for general manager Ryan Pace trading up to take him No. 2 overall in the 2017 draft, bypassing future stars Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson. He never said he’d outshine those two.
It’s not on Trubisky that the Bears drafted him into a no-win situation with then-coach John Fox headed toward a firing, or that they’ve cycled through three offensive coordinators in his four seasons. It’s not on him that he was told to “win from the pocket” nonstop after he got as far as he did thanks in large part to his running ability.
Trubisky just isn’t good enough. It’s simple. Not good enough to win from the pocket. Not good enough to keep up with the stars of his draft class. Not good enough in the first three games of this season, and certainly not good enough for Nagy to bet the rest of it on him.
Maybe he gets another shot and makes good on it, like Ryan Tannehill did with the Titans, but it won’t be here. The Bears moved on Sunday, not just in that game, but permanently. It’ll be Foles for now, and then the search for the next franchise quarterback starts anew.