I always wonder what it is we expect — verbally — from a pro athlete whose worth is constantly questioned, who’s asked why he failed.
I’m thinking of Mitch Trubisky here.
A press member says something like, “You know, Mitch, your career passer rating is 85.8. Which stinks. Explain.”
Do we really want him to say, tears forming, “It’s just that I’m no good. Ryan Pace never should have drafted me No. 2 overall. I’m average at best. No, let’s be honest. I’m terrible.”
Open weeping would come next.
I suppose the cynical media horde would turn away, at first shocked, then dusting hands, smug with success.
No, it is a measure of an athlete’s makeup that he/she never agrees with the naysayers. Even when the naysayers are right.
To be great at anything — to even attempt to be great at anything — a competitor must resist all messages of doom and gloom.
How would David have fared if he moped around before his Goliath thing, mumbling to the Israelites (sounds best in an Eeyore voice), “I’m little. I’m weak. I’m gonna get my a— handed to me by a freaking giant! Woe is me.”
Not good. Not a champion.
So I am, in a sense, proud of Trubisky for not giving in. I’m proud that even when goaded constantly, he keeps his chin high — his “dauber up,” as they say (or said back when I was a youth).
The guy won the Bears’ quarterback competition with Nick Foles, fair and square.
Foles himself is a good man, quite successful at times, a tough competitor, but governed by sportsmanship. His response to head coach Matt Nagy when told of the quarterback derby outcome was to ask if he could phone Trubisky and congratulate him.
Yeah, you say — so what? This isn’t about role-modeling and brownie points.
And the odds of Trubisky having changed in his fourth year as a starter from a bust to a beauty are very slim.
I tried to find stats showing great NFL quarterbacks who were average to bad for three seasons, then bloomed like orchids. There’s all kinds of stuff in the stat archives, and quarterbacks’ careers often go all over the place like pinballs. But here’s a sampling:
Peyton Manning had a breakout second year for the Colts, then a good third year, then a bad fourth year. So there’s that.
Journeyman Wade Wilson was finally pretty good in his seventh year. Vinny Testaverde at last had a season that justified his being picked No. 1 in the 1987 NFL Draft in his — hold on — 12th year.
But, here we go — Packers quarterback and Hall of Famer Brett Favre finally lit it up in his fourth year as the starter, passing for 4,413 yards, 38 touchdowns and just 13 interceptions. Over his first three seasons, he went for 70 touchdowns and 51 interceptions.
It can happen.
NFL teams are almost always searching for the next great quarterback. It comes with the game. The quarterback is all-important, so much more vital than any other position that you get two young QBs, the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes and the Texans’ Deshaun Watson — both entering their fourth year — signing combined deals worth somewhere around $700 million.
You know, as does everyone, that the Bears could have drafted either one of those stellar players instead of Trubisky. So be it.
It all just makes Trubisky open to endless criticism. General manager Pace, too.
“I just accepted it as a challenge,” Trubisky said Monday. “It really pushed me every day mentally to just want to get better and want to prove everyone wrong and make sure that this was still my team.”
Gotta like that. I mean, he could have wept and hid in a corner of the weight room, sheltering behind tackling dummies and JUGS machines.
Not every team can be as lucky as, say, the 49ers were when they had Hall of Famers Joe Montana and Steve Young for a combined 21 years. Or the Packers with Favre and now Aaron Rodgers for — amazing! — 29 years.
Why would Trubisky suddenly get better now, get . . . good?
I have no idea. Except maybe hard work, mental and physical development. And confidence.
And what is confidence? It’s knowing you’re good, because you’ve been good, and you are good.
Mitch, just do it.