Mitchell Trubisky of the Chicago Bears knows this: First-round draft selections, across all professional sports, commonly have the highest amount of expectations tied to their names, just as soon as the ink is not even dry yet on the paper of their first professional quarterbacks. But among all of the major sports and their respective players, a first-round pick used on a quarterback in the NFL seems to reign supreme in being the situation that provides the most pressure.
In the 2017 NFL draft, the first round produced three quarterbacks that will forever be tied to each other throughout the remainder of their careers – Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson, and Mitchell Trubisky. And while the playing styles of each of these three players differed in each of their own respective ways in college, Trubisky of the Bears ended up being the player who drew the most conflicting reactions.
With the Chicago Bears jumping up one spot in the draft, moving up from third overall to second overall, to grab the former University of North Carolina Tar Heel, the future of the offense and the franchise was handed over to a player that was coming out of a school more known for their pipeline to the NBA. Having produced a very competent season for the Tar Heels in his final collegiate season, Trubisky was seen as being a member of the top three signal-callers in the draft, but he was quite notably not seen as the top option out of that crop.
But, as seems to be a part of the Bears’ way, they decided to make Trubisky their selection, passing on the absolute legend that Mahomes has become, as well as letting one of the current generation’s star field generals in Watson slide down to the Houston Texans. And how those dominoes have fallen into place will forever dictate the paths of each of these three teams.
The Bears, who have most notably been on the unfortunate wrong side of that draft debacle, have made their intentions very strongly known about their quarterback, as they declined the fifth-year option on Trubisky’s rookie contract, paving the way for him to make the 2020 season a make or break year, something that could very well play into his favor.
Over the offseason, as the likes of Cam Newton, Teddy Bridgewater, and others were floating around as free agents, the Bears felt they needed to bring in some internal competition in an attempt to push Trubisky, so instead of having to give up nothing in return for one of those two previously-mentioned players, then, in turn, made a deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars to acquire QB Nick Foles for a compensatory fourth-round pick.
While Foles has a ton of experience under his belt, including a storied Super Bowl run, he also comes with quite a bit of financial baggage for the Bears.
Having signed a huge four-year, $88 million deal in March 2019 with the Jags, they moved on from after only one season, pushing the buck down the line and over into the NFC, now to be dealt with by the Bears. While they were able to come to an agreement over a new contract, which was a restricted deal worth $24 million over the next three seasons, the Bears are still going to be on the hook for around a $16 million cap hit for two QBs, both of which truly are not worthy of being starting quarterbacks at this current time.
But for Trubisky, the ‘20 season acts essentially as a dress rehearsal for where he will be playing next year, which could still be as a member of the Bears. However, with the team seemingly not confident in the QB that they spent the second-overall pick on, the days for Trubisky in blue and orange look to be numbered.
But not so fast. With all of the cards in the deck coming up two’s and the chips stacked against him, Trubisky finds himself in a much better position than originally perceived.
Lessened expectations can lead to fantastic results, and Trubisky was handed the keys essentially right out of the gate in his NFL career without having to have shown much (outside of his collegiate games), so expectations for him have been high ever since he arrived in the league. But with a viable means of competition in Foles sitting right behind him, Trubisky may very well have been gifted the perfect situation by the Bears, unintentionally.
Give this outlook a quick think: Star players seem to always show up in most moments, even if the moments are not that large and the lights are not that shiny. They come to work each and every day, get things done and produce above-average results, and that is what makes them be revered by fans, their athletic peers, and media members all over.
But for Trubisky, never having been that star (even if he was unfortunately dubbed it by the Bears faithful) can make his life much easier now with the Bears.
Bluntly, the Bears are not expected to be contenders for the NFC North title this year, as both the Minnesota Vikings and the Green Bay Packers, at least on paper, have superior rosters on both sides of the ball. Playing spoiler is exactly the role that can help Trubisky thrive, all while boosting his chances at a decent-sized payday for his first contract, post rookie deal.
Head coach Matt Nagy is the offensive guru that made him a very intriguing option for the Bears to hire back in January 2018 as the replacement for John Fox, and while the former Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator has failed to live up to the big-time billing that he got as one of the hottest first-time head coaching candidates, his coaching career lives – and dies – with how Trubisky performs.
With that being the case, and with the Bears having been performing quite under their expectations the past few seasons, Nagy would be extremely wise to try and maximize what is left in the tank for Trubisky, which could involve any sorts of playbook alterations, schematic changes, and just an overall mindset change for what is realistically expected for Trubisky.
Knowing that after this season he should be able to command, at minimum, a solid backup QB contract for the next two-plus seasons, Trubisky is in a solid spot, even if everything around him seems to point otherwise. The Bears, while failing to live up to lofty expectations, would be very smart to at least give Trubisky one final fair shake to make their investment worthwhile, all the while knowing that Foles can come in and carve out a few victories if the team’s season so depends on it.
The skill level is there for Trubisky, as his first-round billing did not stand on unsteady ground. The circumstances around him may have contributed more to his uneasy NFL career up to this point, but the fact still remains that his age, abilities, and just overall status in the NFL is still quite solid, meaning that his ‘20 season performance is not an end-all, be-all situation.
Overcoming low expectations is exactly the role that the Bears should be looking to take on this upcoming season, and with all other health-related elements affecting teams all across the league, rolling out Trubisky (potentially) one final time as the team’s starter could actually produce benefits not seen up to this point.