Franchise QB Teaches Football To Youth As He Prepares For Most Important Season Yet
By Ryan Bukowiecki (@ryanbski)
Getting the right quarterback to lead your NFL team can be a life-altering experience for a franchise and the devoted fans that follow it.
Think about how many Kansas City Chiefs fans must be dying for football to return this fall so they can see quarterback Patrick Mahomes fuel their next potential Super Bowl run? Because the reality of life in the NFL is that you need a quarterback that is able to make big throws in big games and get big W’s. Very few quarterbacks in the league can put a team on their back and be the reason for success.
Then after the gamble comes the harder part, which is developing that player into a combination athlete/role model that establishes a lasting winning standard.
Flash back to the NFL draft of 2016, when the first two picks of that year’s draft were two quarterbacks — the Rams’ Jared Goff, followed by the Eagles’ Carson Wentz. Wentz exploded out of the gate looking solid his rookie season then followed it up with an MVP type season before injuries cut him down short. At the same time, Goff was a mess his first year and was quickly labeled a bust, but his second season was much improved by head coach Sean McVay.
Both Goff and Wentz have been to a Super Bowl already, Wentz has one ring but has yet to play in the playoffs, Goff came close but lost to the G.O.A.T of quarterbacks in Tom Brady. What does this case study tell us, well one thing is that development isn’t linear. When Wentz played last year he struggled and as good as Goff’s turnaround has been, questions remain about his ability in big games. It is so tricky to develop quarterbacks but with those two we also saw what aids development which is great coaching, weaponry, a run game and a defense that can provide short fields.
The Bears took as big a gamble as there’s been in recent draft history by trading up to take quarterback Mitchell Trubisky No. 2 overall in 2017. Unfortunately for Trubisky, Mahomes was in that same class and after red-shirting his first season, put together arguably the greatest regular season in history in 2018. Pressure on Trubisky to be great has existed throughout his time as a Bear and its only been ramped up in the face of the game-changing success of a comparable player like Mahomes.
To predict the type of season Trubisky will have is somewhat fool’s gold because again, development isn’t always linear.
Recently, Trubisky held a youth football camp in Lake Forest, and his evolution as a person was as evident as his evolution on the football field has become.
Looking Back & Giving Back
Talented quarterbacks have come and gone throughout the history of the NFL. Why do some make it while others fail? Part of it is luck by being around the right coaches and system but another factor is the mental fortitude the position requires.
Remember that a quarterback in today’s NFL is essentially a coach on the field. They must know everyone’s job and then be able to put the offense into a better position to succeed after they see the opposing defense’s pre-snap alignment. Trubisky would understandably struggle in this area a year ago being in a brand new complex offensive system. Even still, the young quarterback was always professional and never used unfamiliarity as an excuse.
Trubisky’s arrival to Chicago and the NFL in 2017 elicited a mixed reaction at best — along with the consistent pondering of whether he was selected at the right spot (or worth selecting at all), he was infamously booed at a Chicago Bulls game when shown on the Jumbotron.
A raw prospect coming out of the University of North Carolina, Trubisky had a very pedestrian rookie season with seven touchdowns to seven interceptions and throwing for 2,193 yards. In fairness to him, the receiver group was probably the worst in the league and maybe the only thing worse than the receivers was the offensive coaching directed by Dowell Loggains (thought you wouldn’t hear that name again, didn’t you?).
When the Bears gave Trubisky a Goff-like make over last year with a totally revamped receivers group and coaching from Matt Nagy. On top of the improved offense, the Bears defense took another step and became a takeaway machine. Add all these factors up and Trubisky’s season drastically improved with 24 touchdowns thrown to only 12 interceptions along with 3,223 yards. The combined effort and his leadership as part of a division winner led to Trubisky being named a Pro Bowl alternate.
This season looks set up to be an even better year with a revamped run game and his progression as a dual threat runner and passer. The young flamethrower displayed every physical skill with his arm and legs now it just needs to translate into big plays downfield.
If Trubisky is able to become consistent using his physical tools and gifts then no doubt he will have his best season as a pro. In order to reach that level of consistency, it will be the mental side of his game developing just as much.
Trubisky will be better at understanding the schemes given to him at Halas Hall; watching him at his football camp fans could just as confident a teacher of the game as well as an emerging public figure. One kid after another was smiling ear to ear receiving throws from Trubisky from whom loud words of encouragement poured out as he coached the young players and drew up routes for them to run.
Football camps were some of the highlights in Trubisky’s youth.
“I was back at Mentor (OH) last week and I was a part of the same camp I went to growing up. I just know how much it did for me,” Trubisky said. “Being outside, playing with my friends, learning the game of football and just going through drills and having fun. Those are some of the best memories I had growing up.”
During his press conference Trubisky was calm, cool and comfortable. He joked around with reporters talking about how much he enjoyed going to the White Sox game earlier this summer or his perfect response to how his baseball swing is looking these days, “awesome,” he said. There is a likability trait with Trubisky that is undeniable and in the limited team workouts this off-season, the players and coaches are singing his praises.
Wide receiver Taylor Gabriel called Trubisky’s development night and day from last year. Coach Nagy has said similar sentiments and even asked his young quarterback to get away from football after OTAs since he has been working so hard.
Relaxing is something Trubisky will look to do more of but it sounds like he will do so begrudgingly when he says the plan is to “(relax) a little bit, back to training then getting ready to report for camp.”
Because the truth is that Trubisky is in love with football. Even now, during the last off-period before training camp, Trubisky has held four camps in two states. But it is also his maturity as a person that will hopefully propel his career. The starting quarterback of the Chicago Bears is an emerging rock star, but such a personality is far from what Trubisky would apply to himself.
“I’m a quarterback for the Chicago Bears. I’m also a person, I’m Mitchell Trubisky so if (people) get to know that side of me I think that’s pretty cool for them and its a unique experience. So I’m going to try and get out to the community as much as I can and give back cause its important to me and its how I was raised.”
Being a leader is critical to the quarterback position and listening to Trubisky you feel he has that he possess that quality.
Time To Step Up
The growth and trajectory path that Trubisky is on is encouraging. At this point it looks like Mahomes will be the best quarterback from the 2017 draft class, but that doesn’t mean Trubisky won’t be a success.
Championships matter more than anything and a player that can deliver those rings is worth more than any passing record. This season might go a long way in determining whether Trubisky is the player on the verge because the Bears can’t win a Super Bowl without him being one of their best players.
If you ask Trubisky in his heart of hearts, he believes he can be that quarterback for this quarterback starved franchise. The only thing left to see is how much has Trubisky evolved.
Ryan Bukowiecki covers the Chicago Bears and professional football for WARR