Mitch Trubisky has to feel like a man surrounded by hostile territory on all sides. Here’s a guy entering the third year of his NFL career. He just made the Pro Bowl as an alternate and led his team to the playoffs for the first time in eight years. One would think he’d garner a bit more respect. Yet the prevailing belief around most of the league is that the 24-year old quarterback has been a failure. He is one of the lesser at his position in the NFL and destined for likely mediocrity the rest of his career.
This has so many Chicago Bears fans puzzled. They’re the first to admit Trubisky isn’t perfect. Over his first two years, he’s been prone to occasional bad decisions, costly turnovers, and a nagging issue with accuracy on his deep passes. Yet the headhunting throughout both the national and social media scenes is jarring. Not even Jay Cutler got such a sustained campaign against him. He had haters, sure but this is something different.
It really feels like there is something greater at work. There is no way him simply being somewhat uneven at times is the sole reason for all this criticism. It goes deeper somehow. That is what this article will strive to uncover. What helps to explain the anti-Trubisky movement? After careful consideration, it can be broken down into five parts.
Why is Mitch Trubisky so heavily scrutinized?
1. His college legacy (or lack thereof)
The NFL may be king, but don’t be mistaken. College football is immensely popular. A lot of these players who come to the pro level already have established foundations of fans already in place. Those fans then help push the narrative forward that this player or that player will be great. Don’t believe it? Just look at Peyton Manning.
He was a #1 pick. Everybody knows how his career eventually worked out. However, his first five years in Indianapolis were marked by inconsistency. He threw 138 touchdowns but also 100 interceptions and had an average 85.9 quarterback rating. Seeing this, why didn’t more people get on him about not performing up to the standards of his draft position?
The simple answer is Manning had leeway thanks to his exploits at Tennessee. He was a star there and provided loads of great memories across three years as a starter. The same is true for the more celebrated quarterbacks from Trubisky’s own class.
Patrick Mahomes was a stat and highlight machine at Texas Tech across two years. Deshaun Watson put on two epic performances in the national championship game and slew Alabama. Even Nathan Peterman still bizarrely gets a lot of love even today. Why? A lot of people still remember his exploits at Pitts where he won a number of games in heroic fashion.
Trubisky? He wasn’t around long enough to do any of that.
He had to spend two years on the bench waiting his turn at North Carolina. A school that, in case you forgot, is primarily known for its basketball exploits. Not until his junior year did he finally get on the field. He ends up having a great season with over 4,000 total yards, 35 total touchdowns and six interceptions in 2016. At that point, he had a decision to make. Return for his senior year and risk a down season or take a chance on being a high draft choice.
He chose the latter. The decision proved to be the correct one as he was taken 2nd overall. While it was a personal triumph for him, it was a loss for his college legacy. Trubisky is viewed as little more than a blip on the radar. He appeared for one season, played well, and then was gone. The wider college world didn’t get a chance to latch on to him like they did Mahomes, Watson, Baker Mayfield, or Sam Darnold.
This made his goal of winning over fans around the country that much harder.
2. Drafted ahead of Patrick Mahomes
Trubisky was the first quarterback taken in the 2017 draft at 2nd overall. Eight picks later, the Kansas City Chiefs traded up to the 10th spot to secure Mahomes. A year later, both quarterbacks went 12-4 and made the playoffs. The big difference is Mahomes threw 50 touchdowns and won league MVP. Those exploits were immediately held against Trubisky. He was the higher selected quarterback. He should be the one doing that stuff.
That must mean he’s bad.
Nevermind the fact that Trubisky had zero control over who selected him in the draft. That onus falls on Bears GM Ryan Pace. Unfortunately, that doesn’t matter. Being a top 5 pick comes with big expectations. All anybody will be able to say until Trubisky starts to rack up huge stats is that they could’ve had Mahomes. Conveniently ignoring the fact that most experts had him going later in the 1st round than he actually did.
In fact, several “experts” had Trubisky rated ahead of Mahomes on their draft boards. They also ignore the fact that the latter was adopted into perfect offensive conditions right from the jump under Andy Reid. He didn’t start until his second season and was surrounded by All-Pro weapons.
Trubisky had no such luck.
He went into an offensive system under John Fox that was built for the 1960s and was surrounded by weapons like Kendall Wright, Josh Bellamy, and Dion Sims. Then he had to forget that offense the next year, learn a completely new one under Matt Nagy and get acquainted with new receivers on top of that. Despite that, he managed a 95.4 season passer rating (a franchise-high), won 11 games, and became the first Bears QB to ever throw for 300 yards in a playoff game.
Nope though. Since he didn’t do what Mahomes did, that means he’s terrible.
3. The Bears’ quarterback history
People will deny that the Bears quarterback legacy has nothing to do with Trubisky. They’re lying. Rest assured everyone is looking through that lens when they watch him. They see the utter misery of Chicago QBs past. Names like Bob Avellini, Steve Walsh, Cade McNown, Craig Krenzel, and Rex Grossman among many others can’t be unseen. Even hopefuls like Jim McMahon and Jay Cutler ended up underachieving here.
Overcoming seven solid decades of disappointment and disaster at the most important position in the sport can’t and won’t be ignored. Being quarterback of the Bears comes with a simple reality: you are expected to fail. If for no other reason than it’s happened over and over and over again for so long that it’s viewed as the rising and setting of the sun. There is no stopping it because it hasn’t ever been stopped.
That’s the thing though. Nothing lasts forever. They say all good things come to an end. Well, the same is true for bad things. Ask the Chicago Cubs. It may take longer than fans wanted, but sooner or later the streak will end. After almost 70 years of almost constant misery at quarterback, the Bears are long overdue for a good one. In terms of talent, mental makeup, and work ethic Trubisky is the best they’ve had in years.
Why can’t it be him?
4. Plays in the same division as Aaron Rodgers
Whenever one gets drafted into the same division as a future Hall of Fame quarterback, there will be comparisons. Aaron Rodgers has owns the NFC North for the majority of his career as a starter for the Green Bay Packers. He’s a two-time league MVP, a Super Bowl champion, and one of the most efficient and accurate passers in the history of the NFL. The guy has thrown 10 or more interceptions in a season just twice in his career.
Even in a league with Tom Brady still winning Super Bowls, many consider Rodgers the gold standard of quarterbacks. That is the hornet’s nest Trubisky walked into the moment he was drafted. When he stepped on the field for Chicago back in 2017, the comparisons were going to start. Every time he misread a play, made a bad decision, or threw an interception, people judged him against the massive shadow of Rodgers.
This is a big reason why even to this day Matthew Stafford still doesn’t get the respect he deserves. There’s a quarterback who has thrown for over 38,000 yards, 239 touchdowns, and led 26 comebacks in the 4th quarter before his 30th birthday and yet only been to one Pro Bowl and widely viewed by many as an average player. Even by some of his own fans. That is what the presence of Rodgers can do.
Look at what the AFC East quarterbacks have accomplished during Brady’s era. The pressure to perform in the presence of an all-time great can be crushing because it’s not just actual great player you’re battling. It’s his legions of followers who will do whatever it takes to protect his legacy.
5. National television bombs
Sometimes timing can be everything when it comes to the perspective of a player. Bears fans see Trubisky all the time. That’s because they either easily have a way to see him each week or make sure they take the necessary steps to do so. Here’s the thing though. The vast majority of fans of the 31 other teams don’t do this. They’re focused on their own teams. So the only times they get to see Trubisky in live-action is in nationally televised games.
This is Sunday Night, Monday Night, and Thursday Night Football.
Suffice to say, the Bears QB seemed to always pick those times to play some of his worst games. Through his two seasons as a starter, Trubisky has played in a total of six games that were on national television. He completed 61.6% of his passes for 1,077 yards, six touchdowns, and eight interceptions in those games. That works out to a 71.46 passer rating. In the remaining 20 games that were locally broadcast? He’s completed 64.1% of his passes for 4,339 yards, 25 touchdowns, 11 interceptions, and a 94.1 passer rating.
It’s little wonder the national media have been so negative towards Trubisky. Only those who have truly dug into tape for an entire season came around to the fact that he’s actually pretty good and was getting better over the course of 2018. His most recent nationally televised performance, the playoff game against Philadelphia, was by far his best. The Bears will play in five primetime games this season starting with Week 1. So Trubisky will have a big opportunity to change the narrative.