Are Mitch Trubisky and Jay Cutler alike? Heck, no! Well, a little
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I have to be very, very careful about how I put this thought into words.
Mitch Trubisky is a lot like Jay Cutler.
I don’t suppose that was careful enough. Let me try again.
Mitch Trubisky and Jay Cutler weren’t separated at birth, but . . .
Mitch Trubisky isn’t as hot-button controversial as Jay Cutler was, but he’s still pretty hot-button controversial.
I think that’s safe enough where I won’t be in fear for my life around here.
Cutler was a dour, haughty, up-and-down Bears quarterback. Trubisky is an eager, bright-eyed, more-up-than-down Bears quarterback.
Trubisky aims to please. Cutler aimed to pretend that you, marginal human being, did not exist.
So why is Trubisky such a polarizing figure? I’m not sure I know. The most negative thing that anyone possibly could extract from his performance this season is that the jury is still out. You say he’s special. I say I haven’t seen it consistently yet and we agree to wait for more data.
But that’s not the case for a lot of people.
Last week, a few national-media outlets made Trubisky out to be a bust-in-the-making. Bears fans, Bears teammates and some in the local media rushed to his defense, saying he has shown steady improvement.
That there’s not a consensus yet about Trubisky in his second season makes perfect sense. That there’s a raging, sometimes-angry debate about him doesn’t. If you can’t see that he has made gains this season, then you’re not watching or you’re choosing blindness.
Trubisky threw for a career-high 355 yards Sunday against the Lions, one yard more than his previous high, which he set against the Buccaneers in Week 4. You’d think that would turn some frowns upside down, but I’m guessing not.
People have dug in their heels about him, and it will take hydraulics to change their minds. I suspect that has a lot more to do with their intractability than with Trubisky’s ability. It’s hard to argue with his 101.6 passer rating this season, but argue they do.
‘‘You couldn’t get me to buy Mitchell Trubisky if you had him on a discount rack at Filene’s Basement,’’ former Browns general manager Michael Lombardi said last week in a radio interview. ‘‘There’s no chance. There’s no chance. He can’t throw the ball inbounds half the time.’’
In response to a pro-Trubisky tweet after the Lions-Bears game, Lombardi tweeted, ‘‘We will see how this plays out.’’ Interesting how he couldn’t seem to find his flame-thrower after Trubisky had thrown three touchdown passes.
A possible reason for all the Trubisky hate is the Bears’ decision to trade up one spot to take him with the second overall pick in the 2017 draft. General manager Ryan Pace came under heavy fire for giving up draft picks to get a player he almost surely would have gotten if the team had stayed put at No. 3. In NFL circles, it was declared Not the Right Thing to Do. And once something like that has been pronounced, it’s very hard to get out from underneath it. That well might be a factor in the depiction of Mitch as the spawn of Satan.
We indeed will see how this plays out. The Bears face the Vikings and their very nasty defense Sunday in prime time. The Vikings will not be mistaken for the Lions or Buccaneers, both of whom are weak defensively. Let’s see how Trubisky handles the pressure.
Bears coach Matt Nagy has been extremely protective of his quarterback, both in word and deed. He compliments him at every turn, even when Trubisky doesn’t deserve it. He has gone out of his way to design game plans aimed at keeping Trubisky’s confidence high (read: short passes). If there’s one theme this season, it’s Nagy’s determination to raise Trubisky’s feelings of self-worth. Maybe Nagy understands better than most how deep the divide is about Trubisky and wants to shield him from it.
There’s a needless battle being fought here. For all the arguments on either side, the position that makes the most sense is to be on the fence about Trubisky. The arrow might be pointing up, but he has yet to wow large swaths of football fans consistently. That’s fair.
Should he be penalized for having wide-open receivers, as he has had in several games, thanks to defensive breakdowns? No. But it’s OK to point it out.
It’s also OK to point out the subtle improvements he has made. At least twice against the Lions, he waited patiently until he found an open receiver. Earlier this season, he ran at the first hint of confusion.
Two armies are entrenched, though not nearly as bitterly as they were with Cutler. One side says Trubisky is awful. The other side, like a schoolyard debater, says, ‘‘Is not!’’
Not knowing yet what Trubisky is going to be is the right stance. It might be boring. It might be noncommittal. But it’s the right one.