Why the Bears are excited to see Mitch Trubisky succeed — and fail
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Adam L. Jahns’ “Inside the Huddle” column appears in game-day editions of the Chicago Sun-Times.
Rookie Mitch Trubisky will fail. He’ll throw interceptions and get sacked. He’ll look bewildered and appear overwhelmed.
And all of that is OK.
As strange as it sounds, the Bears don’t mind if it happens. They don’t mind seeing their prized quarterback struggle. They want to see Trubisky under duress.
Because how Trubisky responds matters more than all the mistakes he’ll make Monday night against the Vikings and beyond now that he’s the Bears’ starter.
“There will be some sort of success, no matter what,” veteran quarterback Mark Sanchez said. “There are going to be bad plays. I don’t care who you are. Tom Brady. Drew Brees. Aaron Rodgers. All those guys have bad plays in the game.
“It’s what you make of those plays. Are they going to ruin the entire game? Or is it just going to be, ‘Oh, man, I’d like to get that one back’? I know [Trubisky] can handle it. He’ll be fine.”
Of course, the Bears, as an organization, believe that, too. It’s why Trubisky was their consensus choice at quarterback. They see a player who has first-round physical talents and the right mental makeup to make it all work.
Truth be told, though, Trubisky hasn’t experienced much on-the-field adversity since becoming the Tar Heels’ quarterback, a top draft prospect, then the Bears’ starter.
The magnitude of Trubisky’s mistakes will be greater now, too. It’s vastly different than getting away with bad throws in the preseason or concluding a practice in training camp with an interception.
“The makeup is his demeanor, his confidence, his swag,” coach John Fox said. “However you want to put it, that’s important at that position. Really, it’s important at any position at this level, but more important at quarterback. I don’t know many of them who have been meek or mild-mannered and lack confidence.”
Waiting to start at North Carolina was an adverse situation for Trubisky, a record-setter in high school who was Ohio’s “Mr. Football” in 2012. But it still isn’t the same as consistently responding to on-the-field failures.
Trubisky’s worst game in college was Virginia Tech’s 34-3 pummeling of the Tar Heels on the road. He completed 13 of 33 passes for 54 yards and threw two interceptions. But it was a calamitous outing in a rainstorm with driving winds that were the result of Hurricane Matthew.
Trubisky led the Tar Heels to three consecutive victories after that: at Miami, at Virginia and against Georgia Tech. He completed 77 of 109 passes for 938 yards and six touchdowns and had no interceptions in those games.
The best example of Trubisky’s in-game resolve came in North Carolina’s 25-23 loss to Stanford in the Sun Bowl.
With Bears general manager Ryan Pace in attendance, Trubisky lost a fumble after colliding with an official and threw an interception in the first half. He then had a pick-six early in the fourth quarter.
Trubisky didn’t quit, though.
Pace saw that.
He led the Tar Heels on a 10-play, 97-yard touchdown drive in the final 90 seconds to cut Stanford’s lead to two points. Trubisky officially threw a two-yard TD pass, but it was an improvised play, which included a spin move to elude pressure and a laser-like throw from the 20-yard line.
North Carolina’s comeback attempt ended when Trubisky was sacked by eventual third overall pick Solomon Thomas — who easily beat his block after the snap — on the two-point attempt.
Regardless, Trubisky’s effort resonated with Pace. He witnessed everything. Trubisky handled the in-game adversity; he gave his team a chance.
“It was pretty special,” Pace said April 27.
In a way, Trubisky has prepared to fail. He has studied how quarterbacks handle adversity.
“A lot of the great ones are able to just put bad plays behind them very quickly,” Trubisky said last week. “The more mentally strong you are, the quicker you’re able to get past that and create plays for your team. You can’t get down. You can’t show your teammates it bothers you. You have to handle it, move forward and take care of business from there.”
Trubisky needs to go through all the experiences, good and bad.
Just ask Sanchez. He started 15 games for the Jets in 2009 after being the fifth overall pick. He said it’s important for Trubisky to compartmentalize what’s important. Media narratives and the extra attention he’ll get are not.
“Sometimes when you categorize them improperly, you run the risk of screwing up your mental outlook or approach on something, and that can be disastrous,” Sanchez said. “This game . . . it’ll bring grown men to their knees crying like little kids. There’s a lot that goes into it.
“Being able to trust your preparation, being able to trust the coordinator and the guys around you, there’s a lot to be said for that because those adverse times, they’re inevitable. How you weather those storms — not too high, not too low — is important.”
Sanchez said the Bears have been consistent with their messages with Trubisky. It includes the realization that there will be good plays to build on, too.
Overall, the team wants Trubisky to be who he is — a young, talented player who has “swag,” as Fox said.
“He’ll be ready to go, and they’ll do their very best to put him in advantageous situations,” Sanchez said. “And then when things go to crap, he’s got to be able to rely on his instincts and everything he’s grown up doing that’s gotten him to this point and make decisions. We’ll encourage him to do all that. He’ll be fine.”
@NJBearsFan : Would it make sense to put [wide receiver Tanner] Gentry and [tight end Adam] Shaheen with Mitch [Trubisky] and have them grow and build together?
A: I get your point. But there is an earn-it factor. Shaheen has been active every week, but still is behind Zach Miller and Dion Sims. He needs to become a more consistent blocker. That said, he’s a natural pass catcher. It could be time to feature him in red-zone situations. The Bears were 29th in scoring after four weeks. Gentry is a curious case. He was one of the Bears’ best playmakers in camp and the preseason. The Bears need those right now. He also developed a rapport with Trubisky. The Bears, though, want him to improve as a special-teamer. He could eventually pass Josh Bellamy, Deonte Thompson and others at receiver. But as a rookie who is currently the fifth or sixth receiver, he needs to play special teams.
@8Matchi : [Safety Adrian] Amos has [zero] big plays in [two] solid [years] and [Quintin] Demps is out. When does [Deon] Bush start? Is he a long-term strong safety? He and [Eddie] Jackson the future?
A: The Bears have struggled to find consistent playmakers at safety for years. It spans different regimes, too. Under coach John Fox and defensive coordinator Fangio, the Bears have had seven starters: Amos, Bush, Jackson, Demps, Antrel Rolle, Harold Jones-Quartey and Chris Prosinski. Jackson beat out Amos in camp because of his playmaking skills and interceptions. And Demps’ injury does allow for another competition to take place between Amos and Bush. A hamstring injury has hindered Bush. He made his 2017 season debut against the Packers. Fangio likes Bush’s range. He just needs to make plays in practice to beat out Amos, who hasn’t made an interception in 31 career starts. That’s what Jackson did in camp.
Focusing on Floyd
Outside linebacker Leonard Floyd understands what rookie Mitch Trubisky might be feeling going into his debut Monday night against the Vikings.
Before the Bears traded up and drafted Trubisky this year, the Bears did the same with Floyd last year, trading up from the 11th selection to the ninth.
“He knows expectations being that first-round pick,” Floyd said. “Going out Monday, he just needs to be himself. Don’t try to be anybody else. And whatever happens, happens. I have total confidence in him. I just look forward to him going out and doing ‘him.’ ’’
The Bears, meanwhile, still are waiting for Floyd to be himself. He only has one sack this season. The Vikings have allowed only five sacks.
Certain matchups have required Floyd to drop in coverage more this season. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio also said that Floyd was slowed by “a wrenched back” against the Falcons and Buccaneers.
“He’s had his good moments and not-so-good,” Fangio said.
The Bears worked out kickers Roberto Aguayo and Josh Lambo last week after Connor Barth missed his second 47-yard field goal this season against the Packers.
Players slipped often at Lambeau Field after a thunderstorm passed through Green Bay and halted the game. But special-teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers said the conditions weren’t a factor on Barth’s miss. He also missed a 47-yarder against the Steelers at Soldier Field.
“His mindset’s fine,” Rodgers said. “All those guys like to make every kick they attempt. We expect them to. Anytime you put a guy on the field in that capacity, you expect to come away with points. It’s about fundamentals and going back to basics and making sure that he’s focusing on the process, not necessarily the result.”
Follow me on Twitter @adamjahns.