Who knew you could have this much fun watching football in August?
At the outset of a season most prognosticators have predicted will go poorly for the Bears, the buzz rapidly soared to peak levels Thursday night. That’s thanks to Mitch Trubisky, the No. 2 overall draft pick and the guy Ryan Pace’s front office hopes will be quarterbacking for a very long time on the shores of Lake Michigan.
Here’s the thing, though: They probably didn’t plan for Trubisky to be quarterbacking quite so soon.
Thursday night was supposed to be the first dip in the water for Trubisky as the one-day heir to Mike Glennon, the high-priced free agent signed this offseason when Trubisky was just a gleam in Pace’s eye. Instead, the preseason debut against the Denver Broncos was Trubisky’s coming-out party.
After Glennon failed to exorcise memories of his predecessor, Jay Cutler, by throwing a pick six on his second pass of the game, Trubisky led three straight scoring drives. He completed a touchdown pass to a wide-open Victor Cruz and nearly made it two scoring tosses with a completion to Rueben Randle that left the Bears a half a yard shy of the goal line. Benny Cunningham punched it in to make it back-to-back touchdown drives for Trubisky’s offense, and a field goal was the result of the next march down the field. Even the last drive of the game, after the Broncos took a late lead, was dramatic, with Trubisky & Co. marching to just outside the red zone before time ran out.
Trubisky, who completed his first 10 passes, finished 18-for-25 for 166 yards and a touchdown. And no interceptions.
Sports talk radio hosts around the city couldn’t have written this any better. Here comes the quarterback controversy.
Of course, it’s all hyperbole for the time being. Fantasy, really, and speculation at best. One exhibition game into Trubisky’s career — against a bunch of defensive reserves, it should be noted — won’t blow up the depth chart. It won’t unseat Glennon from the starting job. It also won’t be the be-all-end-all definition of Trubisky’s play. There will be three more preseason games in which the rook sees action — the Bears want you to remember that.
“Our depth chart is not going to change after one game, in particular after a preseason game,” head coach John Fox said after the game. “You have to look at a lot of different things. We aren’t going to change a lot after one game.”
“It’s all preseason stuff,” Cruz said. “There’s still room for growth and to get better and things like that. But he’s got a good body of film tonight to hang his hat on and be proud of and to build from. I think that’s the biggest thing is letting him know, hey, there’s a lot more learning to do, there’s a lot more things that we need to get better at, all of us as a unit and we just gotta take it one day at a time. But it’s a good start for him.”
Not long ago, in the very early days of training camp, the Bears talked in terms of Trubisky’s upcoming season as a redshirt year, one whole 16-game season’s worth of clipboard duty for the guy who will someday take over. There’s maturation, development and so much more on the docket for Trubisky. He can’t possibly be ready to go this quickly, right?
But boy did he look a whole lot better than Glennon on Thursday night.
Glennon had that hideous interception into triple coverage. He was constantly throwing to blanketed receivers. He stood in the pocket like a statue. And he had a ball snapped over his head that ensued to cartoonishly bounce around the field before ending up a recovered fumble by the Broncos. All of that, obviously, wasn’t all Glennon’s fault. The Broncos’ first-team defense was better than the Bears’ first-team offense, something that would’ve surprised no one before the game started.
“Obviously not the start we wanted at all,” Glennon said. “I didn’t necessarily play well, but it’s early in the preseason. We’re still a month out, a lot to improve on. I’m looking forward to getting back to work.
“I don’t think we need to (overanalyze) a first preseason game or one quarter of it. Was it what we wanted? Absolutely not. It was one quarter of the first preseason game. It’s definitely fixable.”
Trubisky, though, was a completely different sight to behold. After Mark Sanchez — also still ahead of Trubisky on the depth chart, by the way — helmed a pair of forgettable series, Trubisky took over and flashed mobility, found open receivers, established a nice connection with Deonte Thompson and most importantly produced points.
“I appreciate the amount of reps I got,” Trubisky said. “I think that’s what I need at this point. The more situations I can go over, the more reps I can get, it’ll help me to improve my game and continue to get better and better. I just wanted to show what I could do tonight, and luckily I was able to get a lot of reps to really get comfortable.”
“We were going crazy on the sideline,” running back Tarik Cohen said. “I didn’t want him to get an incompletion. I was hyped for him. He was 10-for-10, and I was like ‘Oh yeah, he’s about to go perfect the whole game.’ His passer rating would be, like, 158.3. I was keeping stats for him. And then I don’t want to hype him too much when he comes to the sideline, so I gave him like a slight dap like, ‘You’re doing good out there.’”
Just like Glennon shouldn’t be blamed for all the first-team offense’s failings, Trubisky shouldn’t be dubbed the sole reason his unit performed so well. But you didn’t need to be football’s greatest mind to recognize that one guy had a great night and the other guy didn’t.
As Fox said, you could tell why Trubisky was the No. 2 pick in the draft. Maybe Trubisky showed fans Thursday why Pace made that much-debated draft-day trade. Maybe they’re finally on board.
“I’ve been watching him for two months,” Fox said, asked if he was as surprised as everyone else by Trubisky’s performance. “And then I watched probably another three months of college tape. Obviously, we picked him where we picked him because we felt pretty good about his abilities.”
As mentioned, and as Fox spoke to, one preseason game isn’t going to have dramatic effects on the Bears’ depth chart. No matter how much every Bears fan on Twitter and every radio host in the city is already clamoring for Trubisky’s ascent, the plan likely won’t change too much — yet. Glennon will be given plenty of opportunity to right the ship. Trubisky will be given plenty of time to develop.
But there was something Thursday that was just different. It was football in August, but it was must-see TV. Trubisky turned a narrative of patience into one of immediacy. And while there’s very little chance he’ll trot out on the team’s first drive against the Atlanta Falcons in a month to open the regular season, Trubisky showed what he could one day bring to the Bears.
And it was pretty damn fun to watch.