Here on the Midway, everyone has an opinion about the Bears’ decision that Mitch Trubisky is the next Johnny Unitas, Joe Montana, Tom Brady and RG3 all rolled into one.
Either they applaud the bold move of giving the 49ers three draft picks to move up one slot, from third overall to second overall, to secure the one-year starter from North Carolina.
Or they think the Bears are desperate.
Among those who approve are talk-radio hosts, who feel like budding standup comics who have just been given a notebook of unused Seinfeld jokes.
This Trubisky pick gives them hours and hours of sure-fire material.
Others are ripping the decision to give the Niners the 67th and 111th picks in this year’s draft, plus a 2018 third-round pick, for the privilege of swapping their No. 3 pick for San Francisco’s No. 2.
These critics include some national media analysts. And some Bears fans sitting on barstools with shots and beers, yearning for the days when Da Coach, Mike Ditka, presided over the only sports dynasty that won exactly one championship.
I, however, am not going to give a thumbs-up or thumbs-down on Trubisky until we actually have a clue as to whether Trubisky is going to be an NFL winner.
Until then, I will wonder how the Bears’ young GM, Ryan Pace, determined that Trubisky is so much better than, say, Deshaun Watson, Patrick Mahomes and the other two or three QBs to be named later in this draft we’ve never heard of who will end up being pretty good NFL players.
This much I do know from following the Bears for more than a half-century: There are two inalienable truths in the Bears’ constitution:
–They always either do too much or too little.
–Even when the Bears are good, they win without great quarterback play.
Let’s take the second tenet first. The Bears haven’t had a certifiably great quarterback since Sid Luckman was operating their T formation.
You know, the one in the Bears’ fight song: “We’ll never forget the way you thrilled the nation, with your T formation. Bear Down! Chicago Bears!’’ Etc. Etc.
That’s the other bedrock in the Bears’ constitution: They have the best fight song in professional sports. The Packers, by contrast, don’t even have a fight song. But they make up for it with a well-stocked trophy case.
Jim McMahon was a really good quarterback. The problem was, McMahon couldn’t stay healthy, in part because he threw his body around on the field like his lineman party-buddies. But the Bears won their dynastic lone Super Bowl because of defense. Oh, and Walter Payton.
In my youth, the Bears won the 1963 NFL championship with 33-year-old journeyman Billy Wade throwing balls to Da Coach, who was then Da Tight End, and a little flanker named Johnny Morris.
That team also won with defense. And it didn’t hurt that Packers halfback Paul Hornung and Lions defensive tackle Alex Karras were suspended that season for gambling.
Also in my youth, the 1965 Bears made a solid run with 35-year-old journeyman Rudy Bukich taking full advantage of rookie halfback Gale Sayers. Bukich had been the backup in ’63. Wade returned the favor in ‘65, backing up Bukich.
It was like two guys changing the batting order on the bowling team.
What made the ’65 Bears team memorable was that it won 9 of its last 11 games after an 0-3 start. In those days, the Bears played their first three games—and sometimes their first four games—on the road every year. They played their home games at Wrigley Field, and had to wait until the Cubs’ season was finished before building the East Stands in center field and right field. George Halas wasn’t about to miss the revenue from the East Stands, which boosted capacity by about 10,000 seats.
Except that, playing your first three or four games on the road—in a 14-game season—is probably not a recipe for success.
What does all of this have to do with Trubisky?
Well, the Bears have a long history of doing things the hard way, which is another way of saying they do too much or too little.
They ignore the quarterback position for years, or simply pick the wrong guy. And then they throw money at Jay Cutler like the team’s life depends on it. Now they go out and win a bidding war for Mike Glennon—and then they draft Mitch Trubisky. (Glennon must love this, by the way.)
This could work out. Glennon could be a good quarterback in Chicago for a year or two, until Trubisky removes the training wheels. And then the Bears could deal Glennon—for one or two draft picks, but certainly not three.
But it could also get complicated. Let’s say, for example, the Bears are 2-6 or 1-7 this fall, entering their bye week, which is very possible, if you look at their brutally front-loaded schedule.
Do ‘ya think those guys downing shots on the bar stools will be saying, “It’s a shame Trubisky isn’t ready?” Or do ‘ya think they’ll be clamoring for Trubisky while cursing Glennon? (And never mind that if the Bears are in a tailspin, their problems will go far beyond the quarterback.)
But as I said, I’m not predicting this kind of messiness, even if it is familiar turf for the Bears. I may be intrigued by the drama of it, but I would be very happy if the beloved Bears provided entertainment that included Winning.
I must say that I was impressed with Trubisky last fall. I saw him “romp’’ past Illinois 48-23 in Champaign. I thought he did a lot of good things for North Carolina against good teams—with his arm and his feet, and his decision-making. He was a winner.
But the No. 2 pick overall in the NFL draft? Nope. Didn’t see that coming.
I know the book on Watson is that he doesn’t see the field well enough yet, and he needs to improve his mechanics. But he’s in such good hands with Texans coach Bill O’Brien that it wouldn’t surprise me if he becomes a big-time NFL quarterback.
And there always seem to be a couple of QBs who come out of nowhere—well, Eastern Illinois or Nevada-Reno—to be quality NFL signal-callers.
So the point is. . . kudos to the Bears for realizing that quarterback is an important position. But this sure seems like a risky business, putting all the draft eggs in one Trubisky basket.
It’s too soon to know whether there’s a Lombardi Trophy in Trubisky’s future.
But we do know the Chicago Bears have not been kind to quarterbacks over the years. And vice-versa.
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