How Mitch Trubisky compares to other notable QBs after four starts
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A caller on sports radio the other day started comparing Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky’s first four starts in the NFL to those of Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Sure. Why not. Let’s compare a 23-year-old QB with 13 college starts to Rodgers, who sat, watched and learned under Hall of Famer Brett Favre for three years in Green Bay before making his first NFL start at age 25.
The caller’s point, I guess, was that Rodgers threw four picks (more on this later) in his first four games and struggled so … So, it looks like Trubisky is on his way to a Hall of Fame career.
Fact is, no conclusions can be drawn from Trubisky or any other quarterback’s first four games. Four years? Yes. Four games? No. Every situation is different — the receivers, the play-calling, the opponent’s strength, the head coach’s job security, etc. There are way too many factors involved to even begin to draw conclusions after such a small sample size. Just ask Robert Griffin III.
But hey, it’s a bye week, and there’s not much else going on, so let’s see how Trubisky’s first four games stack up against some other notable quarterbacks. Remember, this portends absolutely nothing. It’s just for fun.
Based on traditional quarterback stats, the Bears would probably like a redo in the draft. With games of eight and four completions among his first four starts, Trubisky is conjuring up memories of Bears great Sid Luckman in his 1939 rookie season. Trubisky has completed just 47.5 percent of his passes and has yet to throw for more than 164 yards in a game. But in the most telling stat of all, he’s 2-2. Similarly, the most prolific quarterback in Bears franchise history, Jay Cutler, won exactly half his games (51-51) during his eight seasons in Chicago. And, Cutler had Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Martellus Bennett and Matt Forte, among others, as targets. Trubisky’s best weapon is 5-6 rookie running back Tarik Cohen. Expect to see the numbers rise as the talent around him rises as well.
Before going down with the ACL injury on Thursday, Watson was off to one of the best rookie seasons in memory. The Texans moved up from No. 25 in the draft to take Watson at No. 12, and the move looked brilliant through four games. (Note: In Week 1, Watson came into the game at halftime and has been starting since.) The former Clemson star improved each week with incremental passer ratings of 60.4, 75.9, 90.6 and 125. In his last four games, he had 100-plus passer ratings, including a 402-yard, four-TD performance in a loss to the Seahawks last week. Get ready for years of Trubisky vs. Watson comps.
Like Trubisky, Goff got his shot mid-season for the Rams last year and had few weapons to work with. It showed.
Playing mostly catch-up, the No. 1 pick in the draft went 0-4 with four TDs, five interceptions and no more than 235 passing yards in any one game. His passer ratings were a pedestrian 65.8, 100.3, 43.9 and 54.4. After finishing up 0-7 last season as a starter, Goff has led the surprising Rams to a 5-2 record this season with a passer rating of 77.5.
Chosen just behind Goff in the draft, Wentz has started from Day 1 with the Eagles and has been nothing short of superb. In fact, Wentz played his best last season in his first four games, going 3-1 and recording passer ratings of 101, 86.6, 125.9 and 102.8. He didn’t have another 100+ passer rating the rest of 2016. This season, Wentz has led the Eagles to the best record (7-1) in the NFL and has cut down on his turnovers. After throwing 16 touchdowns against 14 interceptions last season, Wentz has 19 TDs and just five picks so far this season. It helps that Wentz has Jeffery at wide receiver. With 416 yards, former Bears wideout has more yardage than Bears starters Kendall Wright (259) and Deonte Thompson (125) combined.
You can’t start any better than Mariota did. The No. 2 pick of the 2015 draft pitched a perfect game on opening day for the Tennessee Titans. In a 42-14 victory over the Tampa Bay Bucs, Mariota connected on 13 of 15 passes for four touchdowns, no interceptions, no sacks, 209 yards and a perfect passer rating of 158.3. Best part? He did it against Jameis Winston, the quarterback taken ahead of him the draft. Mariota came back to reality, getting progressively worse in his next three games with ratings of 96.3, 84.2 and 68.1. He finished the season with a 91.5 and improved it to a 95.6 in 2016, but he’s fallen back a little this season (83.1).
Winston had pretty much the typical four-game start you see from young quarterbacks — a passer rating as high as 114.6 and one as low as 57. He had more picks (7) than touchdowns (6) during the Bucs’ 1-3 start. But from then on, he was very consistent his rookie season. Winston had 16 TDs and seven interceptions in the final 12 games to go along with three passer ratings of 120-plus. Winston has a career passer rating of 85.7.
Cutler got his chance near the end of the Broncos’ 2006 season. The rookie out of Vanderbilt showed promise, going 2-2 with eight touchdowns, four interceptions and passer ratings of 62.3, 97.6, 101.7, 88.9. It earned Cutler the starting job the next season.
If bad starts are a harbinger for greatness, then this is how you want to begin. Everyone knew the No. 1 pick in the 1998 draft was going to have a rough go of it with the hapless Colts. But no one could have imagined it being this bad. In four consecutive losses, Manning posted passer ratings of 58.6, 51.1, 39.3 and 63.2. The 22-year-old finished the season 3-13 with the Colts and a career-high 28 interceptions. He quickly turned it around the next season, though, as the Colts began to build around him.
As it turns out, the radio caller couldn’t have been more wrong about Rodgers. With all the pressure in the world after taking over for fan-favorite Brett Favre, Rodgers put up passer ratings of 115.5, 117 and 80.1 in his first three games, while throwing four TD passes and no interceptions. It wasn’t until his fourth game that Rodgers tossed a stinker — two touchdown passes but three picks for a 55.9 passer rating, the third worst of his career. But Rodgers followed that up with three consecutive games of 100+ passer ratings. Rodgers is the NFL’s all-time leader in passer rating at 104.1, and the only player over 100 — Russell Wilson is at 99.7 and Tom Brady is at 97.5.