The Mitchell Trubisky era is underway and while it ended with a loss to the Vikings, the Bears finally have some hope and someone to root for this year.
“Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things.”
That’s a snippet of the quote from The Shawshank Redemption that Andy writes to Red after he is granted parole and finds his letter buried by a tree and under a rock that had no business being there. And that’s the takeaway I have after watching Mitchell Trubisky make his NFL debut on Monday night.
It came a month late but Trubisky finally made his first NFL start for the Chicago Bears on Monday night and the No. 2 overall pick in the NFL Draft looked like he belonged. This was an unprecedented event for Bears fans who have never watched a Bears quarterback that was drafted that high and it was a welcome change from the short-lived Mike Glennon era. Trubisky didn’t get the win, he showed some rookie mistakes, but he also showed there is plenty of optimism surrounding him.
Trubisky showed a calm and cool presence that didn’t appear to be fluctuating wildly as the game went on. He didn’t let the Monday Night Football stage get to him as he joined Aaron Rodgers (2008) as the last first round quarterback to make their first start on MNF. That was a significant departure from the always-flappable Glennon and the ever-combustible Jay Cutler.
The first completion was an out route to Kendall Wright on third-and-six that was perfectly placed where only the receiver could catch it. Trubisky showed off his mobility as he routinely rolled out of the pocket and threw on the run, without sacrificing his pinpoint accuracy in the process. His best throw came on a designed roll-out when he tossed a bullet that would have been the Bears longest pass play of the year but it was called back on a penalty. The play didn’t count in the record books, but the crowd saw it and the millions of Bears watching at home saw it.
And that’s the thing. Trubisky gives Bears fans something to watch for, someone to root for and someone to watch develop. This is part of the reason Trubisky should have started all season. The Bears are not going to the playoffs this year and Trubisky needs all the development he can get after only starting 13 games at North Carolina. The best way to get experience is on the field and John Fox has already cost the franchise quarterback four games worth of development.
Rookie mistakes are going to take place as Trubisky adjusts to the speed of the NFL. It was on display when he was baited by Pro Bowl safety Harrison Smith into an interception. Trubisky had a chance to lead the Bears on a game-winning drive with two minutes remaining, but the interception ended up leading to the game-winning field goal for the Vikings who won 20-17.
The final score stings and the interception is not the lasting image fans want to take from Trubisky’s debut, but it did serve as a teaching moment. After the game, Trubisky didn’t shirk from the mistake that cost the Bears the win, he owned it and took accountability for the interception, and that’s what you want to see in a quarterback and future leader of the organization.
A positive came from a negative. That’s something Trubisky will have to do often with this Bears team that’s devoid of talent. The Bears have the worst wide receiver corps in the NFL. Former No. 7 overall pick Kevin White and last year’s leading receiver, Cam Meredith are out for the year with injuries. Second round pick, Adam Sheehan, can’t get on the field as he tries to make the jump from Division II college football.
Meanwhile, rookie running back Tariq Cohen has seen his snaps decrease dramatically since a breakout performance in the season opener. Jordan Howard is a rock at running back, but Trubisky is lacking weapons and with his skill-set capable of doing things Glennon couldn’t, the lack of weapons was so apparent on Monday night.
Trubisky is used to being the most talented player on his team. In his final college game, Trubisky threw the would-be game-winning touchdown three times on the same drive against Stanford, only to have his receivers drop perfect dimes that fell in their hands. North Carolina lost that game, but it wasn’t because of Trubisky who did everything he could to lead the team to a win.
That’s going to happen often over the next 11 games as Trubisky will try to elevate the play of his skill position players. In time, Bears general manager will have to drastically upgrade the talent at receiver and hope Shaheen develops. If that happens, Trubisky will have the weapons necessary to show off the array of skills that were on display in his debut.
It wasn’t a perfect debut, the Bears still stink, but for the first time in a long time, there is a reason to believe in better days ahead and a quarterback who may finally solve the centuries-old problem the Bears have had under center.