By Chris Emma—
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (CBS) – Bears rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky can’t remember ever losing four consecutive games at anything. Not in high school football, Little League baseball or even pickup basketball.
With the Bears now 3-8 and their season spiraling away, the 23-year-old Trubisky has plenty on his plate, starting with 52 teammates looking his way.
“You just find a way to get back in the win column,” Trubisky said. “You definitely don’t get used to losing. You just hate it and find a way to win.”
These are uncharted waters for Trubisky, the second overall pick in the NFL Draft in April. But as the leader of a team sputtering along, it’s all a part of the learning process.
Come Sunday at Soldier Field, Trubisky will be matched up against Jimmy Garoppolo, the coveted former backup to Tom Brady who’s finally getting his chance to start with the 49ers. San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan sees similarities between Garoppolo and Trubisky, both of whom he scouted extensively when they were entering the NFL.
Comparisons between Trubisky and Garoppolo will be natural. After all, Shanahan’s 49ers entered draft night holding the second pick that was traded to the Bears. San Francisco could have instead made Trubisky its franchise quarterback, but the Bears were offering a haul and the 49ers had other needs to address.
The Bears explored possibilities of acquiring the 26-year-old Garoppolo from the Patriots before turning their attention to the draft, where they ensured Trubisky would be theirs. They gave the 49ers a third- and fourth-round pick in 2017 and a third-rounder in 2018 to move up a single spot. It was a large haul they deemed worthwhile for Trubisky, in whom they saw franchise-altering potential.
Trubisky and Garoppolo are roughly at the same stages of their careers – inexperienced quarterbacks with tremendous raw tools. Their futures in this league likely will come down to development.
An ugly loss in Philadelphia on Sunday revealed the worst of Trubisky, who lacked poise in the pocket and missed open receivers. Bears offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains described it as being “hoppy.” It’s something Trubisky acknowledged in addressing the film, admitting his footwork was “bad.” That footwork was one of the great concerns as he transitioned from a college system to the NFL.
As the game went from bad to worse for the Bears, Trubisky began seeing ghosts in the pocket. He began rushing progressions and forcing decisions. With that, a quarterback touted for his accuracy became unhinged with his throws.
“When you get in the heat of the game, it’s all the time and all the work you’ve done in the offseason (and) at practice,” Loggains said. “It becomes muscle memory instead of thinking about those things. Sometimes in a game when it’s going like that, you have to go back to the fundamentals.
“Think about your footwork. Make sure you’re going through the right progression. Make sure your eye is on the right spot. Those things we can help him in-game and it’s going to be a process, just continue to work through it.”
Now, the key is for Trubisky to avoid mistakes becoming habits. He’s a dedicated student of the game and spends ample time studying ways to improve. Trubisky is often on the practice field long after the final whistle, spending extra time throwing with his receivers and working through those precious mechanics. He said there will be plenty of additional work to correct his mistakes this week.
Like when a golfer shanks a tee shot, sometimes Trubisky realizes in releasing the football that his footwork or motion was off. Other times, he doesn’t know it until watching the film. The key is getting it fixed.
“Sometimes you can overcompensate with your arm talent and just get it there, but that’s not going to help you be consistent,” Trubisky said. “When you have really good footwork and you throw with your lower body, that takes a lot of pressure off your arm and just allows you to be more consistent.
“Sometimes I get away with it, and I can put the ball where it needs to go. But over time, it’ll catch up to you, and it won’t allow me to be as consistent. That’s where you can see in some of the throws that I usually make were a little off target.”
Trubisky showed his readiness in earning the Bears’ starting job at quarterback. Their initial intentions were for him to develop this season as Mike Glennon led the team, while Mark Sanchez would serve as the backup. But Trubisky earned his place as the No. 2 quarterback entering the regular season, and Glennon earned his way to the bench after four poor games.
The Bears were running a risk by starting Trubisky so soon. He had just 13 starts at North Carolina and is working with a subpar supporting cast at this next level. Their hope was – and is – that he could grow by managing the learning curve.
The challenges are now here for Trubisky now, hitting him square in the facemask. This is what a rookie quarterback must overcome to be great.