Chicago nervously waits for a glimmer of greatness from Mitch Trubisky
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At this point in his career, Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky has done nothing exceptional.
He’s 24, and his next game against the Buccaneers will be his 16th NFL start in two seasons.
Maybe it’s still too early to make any judgment on this athlete the Bears thought so highly of that they moved up to No. 2 in the 2017 draft to snag him.
We are restless with Trubisky’s mediocrity.
What we need is at least one moment of transcendence from him, a shining display of great talent and leadership and, yes, beauty, an episode like a tiger swallowtail emerging from its chrysalis.
What we talk about now is that long pass he completed to wide receiver Allen Robinson in the third quarter against the Cardinals. Thirty-nine yards. Very nice. Yay.
But amazing? Not really. Winning NFL quarterbacks better make completions like that consistently or else they’re just pretenders. The speed of defenders in this pro league is what separates it from anything below. College ball is football underwater compared to the NFL.
And Trubisky started only 13 games at North Carolina before the Bears took him, which means, one supposes, he is still learning — and perhaps still baffled by — a swift and complex sport that has been thrown in his face like a bowl of spaghetti.
‘‘Mitch doesn’t mess up the same thing twice,’’ running back Tarik Cohen said Sunday after the Bears’ 16-14 victory against the Cardinals.
That means Trubisky is learning — which is good — and probably will be for some time.
But you can learn forever if you don’t have certain innate, intangible skills, and the education will mean little because you don’t have the talent to use it. Ever taken a course in astrophysics or Hegelian philosophy? You’ll know what I mean.
Trubisky so far is a hanger-on, a confused student. That is, he’s a player at the most important position who doesn’t win games but merely survives them. He very nearly lost the Cardinals game several times with bad passes or decisions. The defense bailed him out. Just as in the Seahawks game the week before.
The pressure is this: The Bears’ defense is so good that Trubisky must be proficient right away, not three years from now. A Khalil Mack comes along about as often as total eclipses of the sun.
Passer ratings are complex and maybe kind of weird, but they tell a pretty good story. And Trubisky’s ratings are the epitome of blah.
He had a 73.5 rating against the Cardinals. He has a season passer rating of 77.8. He has a career rating of 77.6.
There is a consistency there that is alarming.
According to accepted analysis, a rating in the mid-90s to 100 is considered good, with anything above 100 being exceptional. The rating goes to 158.3 for perfection, so anything in the 110-140 range is great. Mediocre quarterbacks have ratings between 80 and 85. Bad ones are in the 60-70 range.
Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, taken behind Trubisky in the 2017 draft, threw an NFL-record 19 touchdown passes in his first seven games last season before going down with a knee injury, finishing with a 103.0 passer rating.
He’s back, and against the Giants on Sunday, he threw for 385 yards and two touchdowns, with a 98.4 rating. Watson just turned 23. Rookie quarterback Josh Allen is only 22, but he led the 16½-point-underdog Bills to an upset victory against the Vikings, throwing for only one touchdown but making no mistakes to finish with a 111.2 rating.
Quarterback Jared Goff, only 23, passed for 354 yards and three touchdowns in the Rams’ 35-23 victory against the Chargers. His season rating is 111.0. His career number is 92.2.
Indeed, Trubisky has done nothing so far to light up anybody’s hopes for stardom. Consider this. Of the quarterbacks drafted in the top 12 from 2015 to 2017, only Trubisky has never earned a player-of-the-week award. Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, Carson Wentz, Patrick Mahomes, Goff and Watson all have.
On Tuesday, Bears coach Matt Nagy said, ‘‘There were a few throws he made in there with conviction that I say to myself, ‘That right there is what we’re about to get to.’ ’’
Maybe. Maybe not.
Those few throws have to become the norm, not the anomaly.
Passer ratings aren’t everything, remember. Hall of Famer John Elway had a career rating of 79.9. But he did stuff like pass for 51,475 yards and rush for 3,407 yards. He also won two Super Bowls.
So we wait, fearful a breakout for Trubisky may never come. Praying one does.