By Sam McPherson
Name: Mitchell Trubisky
Weight: 222 lbs.
School: North Carolina
Draft Pick: 2nd overall in First Round
There is always pressure for any college quarterback selected in the first round of the NFL Draft, but when you’re drafted No. 2 overall—and your team gave up three extra picks to move up one spot to acquire you—that pressure is multiplied significantly. That’s the reality for Chicago Bears rookie QB Mitchell Trubisky as he comes to the Windy City with a lot of expectations on his shoulder and a lot of questions about whether or not he can live up to those expectations.
The Bears organization clearly saw special characteristics in the 22-year-old QB, and the team took no chances at losing the opportunity to draft the former North Carolina Tar Heels starter. Even though former Chicago quarterbacks Rex Grossman and Jay Cutler somewhat recently led the the team to moderate playoff success, you have to go back to the late 1980s to find a Bears quarterback adored and beloved by all fans: Jim McMahon.
In the end, that will be the ultimate comparison for Trubisky in his time with Chicago: Can he be the “next McMahon” and lead the Bears to a second Super Bowl championship that has proved so elusive since that magical 1985 season so long ago? Clearly, the Chicago front office thinks so, as it gave up 2017 third- and fourth-round picks and a 2018 third-round pick for the right to swap spots in the 2017 first round with the San Francisco 49ers in order to secure Trubisky’s services.
That’s where the questions come in: Trubisky started just one season at North Carolina, earning third-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference honors in 2016. He’s not that experienced as a starting QB, and the number of collegiate starts is one of the predictive factors of NFL success for quarterbacks. The more starts in college, the easier the transition to the pros for the young QB. In that regard, Trubisky already is behind the learning curve.
However, what Trubisky did in the one season with the Tar Heels is why the Bears gambled on him in the draft. As a junior, he completed 68 percent of his passes while adding 30 touchdown tosses and throwing only six interceptions. Those are impressive numbers for a team like North Carolina, a squad that posted just a 6-5 mark against Football Bowl Subdivision competition in 2016. The completion percentage is a good sign, too, as another predictor of professional success for QBs.
Trubisky led the Tar Heels to 20-plus points in 12 of 13 games last year, struggling to move the ball only against Virginia Tech and its traditionally stout defense. He was at his best against two big-time opponents last fall on consecutive weekends: Pittsburgh and Florida State. In these two wins combined, Trubisky completed 66 of his passing 84 attempts for 858 yards, eight TDs and no INTs. Beating the Seminoles—the eventual Orange Bowl champions—on the road particularly was impressive for Trubisky and UNC.
The NFL is a whole different beast than the ACC, of course, and what will help Trubisky accelerate that learning-curve deficiency is his mobility. In his three-year career in college, he ran for 439 yards and eight TDs, and as a young NFL QB gets his feet wet, the ability to evade the pass rush comes in handy when building confidence and an experience base for the future. Now it’s just a matter of determining when that future starts for Trubisky.
The Bears have made just one postseason appearance (2010) since losing Super Bowl XLI in February 2007, and before the draft, the team signed former Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Mike Glennon to a three-year, $45 million contract, of which only $18.5 million is guaranteed. Glennon has been announced as the starter for the upcoming regular season, so Trubisky will have some time to grow and learn as a professional football player.
Due to the rookie’s lack of excessive experience in college, this is the correct route to take with him. While past rookie QBs—and eventual Super Bowl champs/Hall of Famers—like Troy Aikman and Peyton Manning stepped right into NFL action as rookies in Week 1, they also had a lot of college playing time under their belts. The Bears already have invested a tremendous amount in Trubisky’s future, so getting him ready at a comfortable pace is the wise thing to do.
Whether he takes over the starting job later this fall, next year or even in 2019, the pressure still will be there for Trubisky, however: He cannot avoid that now, because that’s just the way it goes for QBs chosen so high in the first round of the NFL Draft. If he cannot win a Super Bowl with Chicago, he will forever live in infamy for Windy City football fans.