Arrival of Khalil Mack brings even more expectations for Mitch Trubisky
Subscribe for unlimited digital access.
Try one month for $1!
Subscribe for unlimited digital access. Try one month for $1!
A week ago, the public-expectations rating for Mitch Trubisky was a five on a scale of 10, with one being ‘‘Give him a break, he’s practically a newborn!’’ and 10 being ‘‘Does the name ‘Tom Brady’ ring a bell?’’
No matter how often Bears coach Matt Nagy warned everyone during training camp that Trubisky was going to need time and space to improve in his second season in the NFL, a significant percentage of fans and media was going to expect something substantial heading into Year 2.
And that was before the Bears acquired pass rusher extraordinaire Khalil Mack on Saturday.
Now the expectations needle for Trubisky is quivering at seven, a rating that means ‘‘Mitch had better not let down the vaunted Bears defense!’’
The massive trade for Mack changed a lot of things, but none more than the importance of a certain young quarterback’s development. Trubisky was already the most important Bear. Mack’s arrival means that, fair or not, people are thinking about the playoffs now. The trade moved the Bears from 24th to 15th in NFL.com’s power rankings this week.
They have a playoff-level defense. Do they have a playoff-level offense?
People who say they know for sure should find themselves a designated driver.
There are still more unknowns than knowns about Trubisky. For those seeking enlightenment, it didn’t help that he and most of the other starters sat out the second-to-last preseason game, traditionally the game considered the ‘‘dress rehearsal’’ for the regular season. The Bears’ biggest offseason signing, receiver Allen Robinson, hardly played in the preseason, as the team took a slow, cautious approach with someone who missed almost all of last season with a knee injury. And Nagy is in his first season as a head coach.
If you’re looking for positives in the haze, perhaps all those question marks can work in the Bears’ favor. The Packers, their opponent in the season opener Sunday, very well might be in the same boat and the same fog as the rest of us. Who knows what to expect from the Bears’ offense?
Will Trubisky improve on his rookie season, when he threw seven touchdown passes and seven interceptions in 12 games? Will he make the kind of developmental leap Carson Wentz and Jared Goff made in their second seasons in the league?
No one can say for sure. But the arrival of Mack will change how people look at Trubisky. If it’s a given that Mack will produce a pass rush the Bears haven’t had in a long time, it’s also a given that the defense will hand Trubisky better field position.
Does the idea of that ease some of the pressure on Trubisky or add to it? That might seem like an odd question — Are you crazy? Of course, Mack will help! — but if the offense struggles or Trubisky starts to channel Mike Glennon, then Mack’s presence and the two first-round picks the Bears gave up for him might start to feel like the weight of the world for the kid.
The Bears, of course, see no such scenario.
‘‘It’s not going to change how Mitchell plays,’’ Nagy said Wednesday. ‘‘He’s worried about himself and how he controls the offense.’’
‘‘If anything, it takes pressure off us,’’ Trubisky said. ‘‘What is pressure? There’s going to be a lot of it, there’s going to be a little of it, if you pay attention to it. I don’t. I know if he’s a great player, he’s going to help this team. But I’m not going throw it to him. He’s not going to score touchdowns. So that ultimately falls on [the offense].
‘‘ . . . I know he’s going to make our team better, but definitely no added pressure. It’s just going to add more excitement to what this team can accomplish.’’
How much patience Bears fans will have with Trubisky if he struggles is a real question. If the rebuild is going like gangbusters in every area but quarterback, how will the city react? If it were any other position, it probably wouldn’t matter as much. But because it’s the most important job in sports, everything is magnified.
The long view is the right one: Trubisky turned 24 two weeks ago. He started only 13 games in college and 12 in his rookie season with the Bears. He’s a painting that’s not even a quarter done. But that doesn’t mean a success-starved fan base will take the long view.
Asked what a realistic goal would be for the team this season, Trubisky said, ‘‘Sky’s the limit.’’
We’ll finally start to get some answers Sunday.