By Tim Baffoe–
(CBS) A mark on that state of the Chicago Bears was the lack of serious buzz the past few weeks surrounding them having the third overall pick in the NFL Draft. Maybe it was the John Fox era packing the wounds of the Marc Trestman era with Ajax powder. Or it could be Bears fans being soured on Kevin White’s career so far as a recent seventh overall pick. An offensive lineman, Kyle Long, sort of being the face of your franchise doesn’t exactly stoke the coals either.
Regardless, entering Thursday evening, the vibe was a lot of this: “Who will they take? One of these three defensive guys? Probably. Maybe. Whatever. They’ll be 6-10 anyway.”
The underlying feeling — what you could hear in every echo of Bears draft speculation and every slight tic of an eyelid that looked at you praying you had an answer — was just don’t screw this up. Appear competent, and make us at least feel good in that. Safe even.
Holding that third pick didn’t cause me any anxiety until I heard late Thursday afternoon that the Browns were set on selecting defensive end Myles Garrett with the first overall pick. I had otherwise locked in on the Bears taking LSU safety Jamal Adams and was especially assuming either the Browns or San Francisco 49ers blocking the Bears from any whiff of drafting a quarterback with that pick.
I’d even gone so far as to email myself “Hooray for Safety” earlier in the day to remind myself to write about how satisfied I was that the Bears had gone the safe, right way and drafted a sure thing and an anchor on the defense for years to come.
Talk came shortly before the draft’s start that the Bears were looking to trade down, and I was cool with that. This draft is supposedly rich even into the fourth round. Accumulate value, especially if your guy isn’t there so early.
Then general manager Ryan Pace traded a third-rounder and fourth-rounder this year and a third-rounder next year along with No. 3 overall to move up one spot. And the name Mitchell Trubisky was announced.
It’s an all-in move of Karl Wallenda proportions. It’s a tattoo of whatever Pace’s tenure in Chicago ends up bearing. Yet it feels like it was decided on while drunk on spring break when you assumed you would live forever.
I don’t know if the Bears screwed this up. I don’t know what Trubisky will do in the NFL. I do know that a team needs a franchise quarterback, and if you think you spot one, you get him. Pace was all about convictions after the pick.
“You always feel like there’s competition,” he said late Thursday night. “It’s like in free agency when the agent tells you he’s got three other teams he’s working with. You never really know. You’ve just got to trust your conviction on it, and if you want a player, you aggressively go get him.
“The alternative is maybe you called the bluff and you miss out on a player. In this case, I wasn’t willing to take that risk.”
I also know that a supposedly rebuilding team needs to right itself through the draft, and one pick alone doesn’t do that. Giving up those draft picks to move up one spot — one spot — confuses me. It moans “Mitch McDermott” in my head. It makes me tweet smirking Jay Cutler picks looming over us like Julius Caesar’s ghost bound to meet us at Philippi. It means a general manager who was in the broadcast booth a few months ago baited you into not taking that risk.
“I didn’t want to sit on our hands and have some team jump us or (have it) not work out when we were this close, within reach of a player that we all really valued,” Pace said. “I didn’t want to sit on our hands and risk not getting that player.”
Fair enough. The rush we’re supposed to get from a power move like this one from Pace is the stuff of bad Kevin Costner films. I very much want Trubisky to be the best quarterback in Bears history (which wouldn’t take much). Pace has been criticized for not taking a quarterback at all the past two years as the sage of Cutler wound down. When a team makes a bold move like this, it’s supposed to inspire fans, yet the pulse of Bears nation right now is collectively less than enthusiastic.
Some consider how Cutler was sent away for less money than Mike Glennon was signed for. Now a lame duck takes snaps while Bears fans lather themselves in mustard and nasal “TruBINsky” all year as they do in worship of any marriage of football and Eastern European metallic names until Glennon cracks and/or Fox grows to hate him.
Some of the Trubisky hesitation is PTSD from pre-Pace Bears “splashes” in trading for Cutler and Brandon Marshall or offensive top-10 pick nightmares of Curtis Enis, David Terrell and Cedric Benson. It’s also undoubtedly Trubisky emerging late as the draft darling and not being a household collegiate name like, say, Deshaun Watson, for whom the Houston Texans traded up to draft Thursday.
In the 2017 NFL Draft, Trubisky is the favorite to be the first quarterback selected. Some team sources see him as a second-round talent, while others have him in Round 1. While he isn’t a true top-of-the-draft talent at quarterback like an Andrew Luck or Jameis Winston, Trubisky will probably go high in the first round because of teams desperate to find a franchise quarterback.
Trubisky’s nickname is Mr. Biscuit, the etymology coming from a coach’s mumbled mispronunciation of his name that stuck, which like his Bears career could be fantastic or come to be an awful joke. And prepare yourselves for the Tom Greene memes.
“The most important position in all of sports is quarterback,” explained Pace, “and I don’t think you’re ever a great team until you address the position and you address it right. I think everybody should respect that. We’re addressing the quarterback position, we’re being aggressive with that position because it’s the most important position in sports.”
But was this addressing it “right” when the reported Bears’ recon on Trubisky was thin? North Carolina quarterbacks coach Keith Heckendorf told the Spiegel & Parkins Show on Friday morning that the Bears never spoke to him. Right now the Bears are “that team” of this year’s draft that people are speaking of in the immediate — right or wrong in retrospect — as seemingly giving up too much. It feels … Cleveland Browns-ish.
“I didn’t see that coming at all,” Trubisky said, a la most Bears fans right now. “I was surprised.”
Yeah, the rest of us, too, dude.
I will gladly call myself out for being my usual idiot self on this if Trubisky is the goods. I want to look back on this years from now and mock myself as Trubisky is in a Pro Bowl and slap myself for caring about third- and fourth-rounders compared to an invaluable franchise quarterback. I will happily chamois Pace’s huge, shiny steel stones if the Bears are winning with Trubisky.
But right now the Bears aren’t in a state that has me feeling splashy. I’d rather feel safe.
Tim Baffoe is a columnist for CBSChicago.com. Follow Tim on Twitter @TimBaffoe. The views expressed on this page are those of the author, not CBS Local Chicago or our affiliated television and radio stations.