Lots of people in Chicago tried much too hard when it came to Mitch Trubisky this season. The civic push for him to be great was enough to move skyscrapers.
Nobody pushed with more gusto than Bears coach Matt Nagy, who used his press-conference podium like a pulpit all season, glorifying his quarterback almost beyond recognition. No, wait. I did recognize the person Nagy described. It was Drew Brees.
I know the drill, and I know that the coach was trying to win hearts and minds for Trubisky. And given Nagy’s earnestness, he probably believed most of the gushing he did about him.
But I know what I saw when I watched Trubisky this season, and it didn’t resemble the portrait of him that Nagy and many others painted.
I think – think – the kid can be good, but ask me in a year or two. I’m not a believer yet, but I’m also not a hater. I’m a Mitch agnostic who has seen enough consistent inconsistency from him to make me both optimistic and uneasy.
Nothing about his performance in the Bears’ torturous 16-15 playoff loss to the Eagles on Sunday changed that. It was a game that summed up his season.
Trubisky was a huge disappointment throughout most of three quarters, throwing two passes that should have been intercepted and another that could have been. He played very well in the fourth quarter, leading the Bears on an 80-yard touchdown drive that gave them a 15-10 advantage. And he was very good right before kicker Cody Parkey’s monumental miss.
“We looked at each other with whatever time, under a minute to go, and we knew we were going to move the ball and go down there and have an opportunity, and he did that,’’ Nagy said of Trubisky after the game. “He looked at me and he gave me a smile, and I just told him, ‘This is where the story begins.’ He did it. He did a great job.’’
In reality, the story began at 3:40 p.m., at kickoff, and Mitch was very late to the party. Pointing that out automatically puts a person in the Debbie Downer category that Nagy wants no part of. But to focus on Trubisky’s one very good quarter (six of 10, 115 yards and a touchdown) is to miss a huge storyline of the game. If he had played well in the first three quarters, no one would be talking about the upright and crossbar that Parkey assaulted to deprive the Bears of a trip to Los Angeles to play the Rams this weekend.
Instead, that’s all anyone is talking about. Still.
What did your Trubisky glass look like after Sunday’s game? One-quarter full? Or three-quarters empty? You won’t be surprised how Nagy saw it.
“No one, not one person, truly knows how far that kid has come this year (more) than me,’’ Nagy said. “I mean, we’re lucky. We’re lucky to have him. I’m looking forward to the future. I really am, with him, because the city of Chicago is lucky to have that kid at quarterback.’’
It was Trubisky’s first season in Nagy’s system, and in that context, it was a good one. Not Patrick Mahomes good, but pretty good. He was middle of the pack in most of the statistical categories for quarterbacks.
I think he can be good. I know he’s not good enough yet. I’m certain he has plenty of time to improve.
A lot was made of Trubisky’s leadership skills, his maturity, his willingness to be coached and his overall enthusiasm. Those attributes often received more public attention than his actual performances did.
Some of us raising an eyebrow are pushing back against the narrative, not the player. Trubisky had an up-and-down season, an almost predictable season for someone with such limited experience coming into the year (13 college starts, 12 pro starts). But the narrative throughout this season said that he was very good on his way to great. Sometimes he was very good, but sometimes he was bad, too. As for the idea that he’s headed for greatness, well, that’s a massive leap, based on the evidence to date.
Nagy said he saw transcendence Sunday when Trubisky led the fourth-quarter drive that put the Bears in position to win the game in the final seconds.
“Those are the moments that you live for in any sport,’’ he said. “You want to hit the game-winning three, right? In this situation, you’re down, and you get a chance to bring your team back, kick a field goal, win the game, and he did that. He did everything we asked him to do. He made big throws at big-time opportunities that he had.
“So that’s another part of how he grew. In big-time situations, how did you respond? Well, I know this: I want him on my side.’’
When Trubisky struggles, Nagy often frames it as a learning experience: Mitch will never make that mistake again, etc. It’s a coach’s job to do so. It doesn’t mean it should be everybody else’s job.
It’s OK to be hopeful. But it shouldn’t get in the way of being realistic. Anything less than that is a disservice to a quarterback who says he wants to get better.