The proper approach to evaluating rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky’s first NFL start Monday night for the Chicago Bears involved not expecting any immediate miracles, but instead looking for glimpses that he can be the long-term solution.
That’s precisely how it played out. Trubisky, the No. 2 overall selection in this year’s draft, did some very good things, although several were negated by the Bears’ all-around dreadfulness. He gave Chicago a chance to win. And then he ultimately ensured that they lost, throwing a late interception that set up a game-winning field goal in the Minnesota Vikings’ 20-17 victory.
But the final score means very little in the big picture. The Bears fell to 1-4 in what was going to be a lost season with Mike Glennon at quarterback. It’s still going to be a lost season with Trubisky at quarterback, at least in terms of wins and losses. All that matters now is his development, and doing everything possible to enhance the possibility that he will become the franchise quarterback the Bears so desperately need.
The Bears’ offseason approach to their quarterback situation made little sense. They signed Glennon to a significant contract in free agency, then traded up for Trubisky. So they were committed, in some way, to seeing things through with two different quarterbacks. That’s not the right way to operate. If the plan was to play Glennon while Trubisky sat, waited and learned for a while, that plan lasted all of four games.
Trubisky’s numbers weren’t good Monday night. He connected on 12 of 25 passes for 128 yards and a touchdown. He committed two turnovers, losing a fumble to go with his costly interception.
But his debut passed the eye test. He threw the ball pretty accurately from the pocket. He showed an ability to move around and improvise reasonably well. He demonstrated pretty good poise, particularly for a rookie who was only a one-year starter at North Carolina.
The overall offensive operation is a mess for the Bears. They made mistakes. They committed costly penalties. In one particularly inept first-half sequence, they called a timeout, then sent out the punt team, then rushed the offense back on the field for a fourth-down gamble, then were penalized for delay of game when they didn’t get the snap off in time.
Even so, Trubisky had moments of competence. He also had some good luck on his first NFL touchdown pass, a tipped ball that ended up in the hands of tight end Zach Miller. He followed that by reaching the end zone for a successful two-point conversion via a trick play on which he ended up running in an option-play pitchout.
But Trubisky looked like a rookie on the game’s key play, when he rolled to his right and threw into tight coverage for an interception by the Vikings’ Harrison Smith with 2:32 left. That led to the decisive 26-yard field goal by Vikings kicker Kai Forbath with 16 seconds remaining.
The Vikings should have won this game. They needed to win this game. They made a mistake by starting Sam Bradford at quarterback after he’d missed three games with an ailing knee. Bradford clearly wasn’t right and shouldn’t have been on the field. That led to a switch to Case Keenum, who energized the Minnesota offense and was the catalyst to the triumph.
Keenum actually wound up the night’s second-most efficient passer behind Bears punter Pat O’Donnell, who threw a 38-yard touchdown pass on a fake punt. It was the Bears’ first completion this season of 30 or more yards. That shows just how desperately the Bears needed help at quarterback.
Trubisky will provide that … eventually. Just not right away.
There will be ups and downs for the remainder of his rookie season. It will be ugly at times. Bears Coach John Fox might not emerge from the season with his job intact. But for the Bears, it’s all about Trubisky now, and the first night of that went about as expected.
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