The question of when Mitchell Trubisky would make his first career start was always going to be a storyline this year, but Mike Glennon’s rough showing in Week 2 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers brought it to the forefront of Bears-centric debate this week.
Coach John Fox doesn’t want to deal in hypotheticals, and offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains shot down a question Wednesday about if Trubisky was taking snaps with the first-team offense in practice: “Mike Glennon is the starter.”
But when will Glennon not be the starter and give way to Trubisky? History shows you might want to circle Week 5 or Week 6 for Trubisky’s debut.
Since 1997, there have been 33 quarterbacks taken in the first 10 picks of that year’s NFL Draft (we’re using top 10 here as a rough cutoff point for drafting a guy expected to be the future of the franchise). Trubisky and Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes haven’t played yet. Among the 31 quarterbacks who have played, three waited at least one year to make their first start (Carson Palmer, Philip Rivers and Jake Locker). Of the 28 remaining quarterbacks, there’s an even split: 14 started from Game 1 of their rookie year and 14 made their first starts sometime between Games 2 and 17.
Of those 14 quarterbacks who didn’t start immediately, they on average made their first start in their team’s sixth game of the season, which for the Bears would be Oct. 15's trip to face the Baltimore Ravens. The median of that group is Week 5, which is the Bears' home Monday night game against the Minnesota Vikings.
Interestingly enough, none of them started their first game immediately after a bye week or even with an extra day of rest (i.e. the week of a Monday Night Football game). The Bears have 11 days off between facing Green Bay on Thursday, Sept. 28 and Minnesota on Monday, Oct. 9.
|Quarterback||Draft year (pick)||First start game #||QB rating|
|Tim Couch||1999 (1)||2||73.2|
|Donovan McNabb||1999 (2)||7||60.1|
|Akili Smith||1999 (3)||5||55.6|
|Michael Vick||2001 (1)||8||62.7|
|Joey Harrington||2002 (3)||3||59.9|
|Byron Leftwich||2003 (7)||3||73.0|
|Eli Manning||2004 (1)||10||55.4|
|Alex Smith||2005 (1)||5||40.8|
|Vince Young||2006 (3)||4||66.7|
|Matt Leinart||2006 (10)||5||74.0|
|JaMarcus Russell||2007 (1)||16||55.9|
|Blaine Gabbert||2011 (10)||3||65.4|
|Blake Bortles||2014 (3)||4||69.5|
|Jared Goff||2016 (1)||10||63.6|
Most of these quarterbacks didn’t have success parachuting in during the middle of a season — the highest quarterback rating among the group (Matt Leinart’s 74.0) is lower than the average quarterback rating for the 14 players who were starters from Week 1 (75.4). The three quarterbacks who waited at least a year to start had an average quarterback rating of 81.1, though that’s a small sample size.
Among the last 10 top-10-picked quarterbacks, only two made their starting debuts in the middle of a season — Blake Bortles in the Jacksonville Jaguars’ fourth game and Jared Goff in the Los Angeles’ Rams 10th game — while Cam Newton, Ryan Tannehill, Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck, Marcus Mariota, Jameis Winston and Carson Wentz started from Week 1 (Locker is the 10th guy here and started his first game a year after being drafted). So Trubisky, in not starting immediately for the Bears, would be somewhat of an outlier in recent history.
The Bears will have to hope that Trubisky is an outlier, too, in terms of initial success among quarterbacks who make their debuts mid-season, too.