How would Mitch have done?
It’s a question that should have crossed the minds of the Bears and their fans as Super Bowl LIII played out in all its tedious brutality Sunday.
Under the same circumstances, against the same killer defense and with the same bright lights upon him, how would Mitch Trubisky have fared against the Patriots?
Probably about the same as the Rams’ Jared Goff did in his team’s 13-3 loss. Goff finished 19-for-38 for 229 yards with one interception and a 57.9 passer rating.
Trubisky might have had a better completion percentage, and it’s unlikely he would have been sacked four times, as Goff was. He probably would have been able to run the ball. In the Bears’ 38-31 loss to the Patriots in October, Trubisky rushed six times for 81 yards and a touchdown.
But even if you threw in two new Matt Nagy trick plays — we’ll call them ‘‘Little Miss Muffet’’ and ‘‘Candy Land’’ — it’s hard to imagine Trubisky being able to solve the game plan that evil genius Bill Belichick came up with to confuse Goff.
Too harsh? Is this a silly exercise, one that can’t lead to satisfying answers? I don’t think so, times two.
What happened to Goff in the Super Bowl should be a lesson to anyone who thinks a 24-year-old quarterback is ready for anything thrown his way, especially when Belichick is doing the throwing. Goff and Trubisky share a birth year and the fact they still have a lot to learn.
Coming into this season, Goff had been way ahead of Trubisky in terms of growth and maturity. But where did that get him Sunday, when he was faced with a Patriots defense that seemed to change colors every play? It got him about two steps backward in his development. Add that to his jittery performance against the Saints in the NFC Championship Game and his four-interception game against the Bears in December, and you’d have a hard time arguing he’s a whole lot better than Trubisky.
That doesn’t mean Trubisky is better than he has been given credit for. And it doesn’t mean Goff is going to descend into permanent mediocrity.
It means we all might want to slow down when coronating quarterbacks, especially when Belichick has two weeks to prepare.
The Bears loomed large in this Super Bowl. Belichick mimicked Vic Fangio’s defensive game plan from earlier in the season, when the Bears beat the Rams 15-6 in a cold Soldier Field. I could have sworn that was Bears linebacker Khalil Mack, not Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower, causing havoc Sunday. I could have sworn that was the Bears’ scheme and that was Fangio switching between man and zone coverages throughout the game.
If you thought Belichick was above copying someone else’s work, Sunday should have disabused you of that notion. He apparently thought the game was a wedding: something borrowed, something blue, orange and white.
If the Bears had gotten to the Super Bowl, you can bet Belichick would have come up with something to stifle Trubisky. The kid’s numbers in the loss to the Patriots this season (26-for-50, 333 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions, 69.8 passer rating) weren’t a whole lot better than Goff’s.
This is a long road. We still don’t have all the answers about Trubisky. He struggled for the first three quarters of the Bears’ playoff loss to the Eagles, looking very much like Goff would end up looking in Super Bowl LIII. Trubisky played well in the fourth quarter of that game, but it wasn’t enough.
And Goff ends his season with the worst taste possible in his mouth.
‘‘It kills,’’ Goff said. ‘‘It’s terrible. It’s a game I wish I would have played better. I wish I could have a million plays back.’’
The Rams have been the blueprint for the Bears since general manager Ryan Pace hired Nagy to take Trubisky under his wing. Nagy was considered a cutting-edge offensive mind, the way Rams coach Sean McVay was. Goff was the first overall pick in the 2016 draft; Trubisky was the second overall pick in the 2017 draft.
We’ve been quick to compare the two, and that hasn’t always been favorable to Trubisky.
We don’t know as much about them as we’d like to think we do. And that’s understandable, borderline predictable.
We’re always in a rush to declare someone the Next Big Thing. We should know better. The side of the road is filled with them. Let’s wait to see where Trubisky and Goff land.
One thing is certain: No matter how smart the coach is and how high-tech the offense is, the quarterback still has to make plays when it matters. Sunday was further proof of that.