For their first high-leverage situation of the preseason Thursday night, the Chicago Bears handed the keys to their offense to rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky.
Based on the way he drove them, the Bears and coach John Fox may want rethink their plan to have Trubisky spend the season working under a learner’s permit and just put him behind the wheel for good.
Though he did so against second- and third-teamers, Trubisky further stoked a smoldering quarterback controversy in Chicago by far outperforming projected starter Mike Glennon and backup Mark Sanchez.
Stepping in for Sanchez with 1:55 left on the clock in the first half, the second overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft immediately drove the Bears to their first score, which came on a 2-yard toss to Victor Cruz.
Trubisky went on to complete each of his first 10 passes and produced two more scores before finishing the night with a 103.1 passer rating after completing 18 of 25 passes for 166 yards, the one touchdown and no interceptions.
The only thing Trubisky didn’t do was bail out the Bears defense after it gave up two late scores in what proved to be 24-17 loss to the Denver Broncos. He may have bailed out Bears general manager Ryan Pace, though.
Pace has taken a bit of a beating for trading up to get Trubisky after overpaying for, er signing Glennon to be his starter for this season, but now everyone else has seen what Pace must see in the North Carolina product.
The stunning thing is that we saw it so soon. Though no one doubts his talent, the general consensus among scouts and general managers was that after starting just 13 games as a collegian, Trubisky would need a year or two to develop.
And maybe he still does. There’s no reason to get too carried away just yet with one strong performance against a bunch of second- and third-teamers, but it’s also hard to ignore the obvious.
Trubisky never looked out of place in this game, not even under center and especially not in the waning moments of the game, when he took the Bears as far as the Broncos’ 22-yard line before time ran out on him.
What got them there was an impressive combination of poise and athleticism, Trubisky smartly making one good decision after another while consistently making plays with both his arm and his legs.
Even better, he made plays from both inside and outside the pocket, standing strong in the face of the rush to deliver on several completions and rolling out and throwing sharp strikes for several others.
He even ran on occasion, scrambling three times for 38 yards, including once during the Bears’ final drive for 16 yards on a first-and-16 play from the 50 with 29 seconds left in the game.
Bottom line, he looked like a fast-rising star and when placed against the dull backdrop painted by Glennon (0.0 passer rating, pick-six) and Sanchez (1-for-4, 4, 0, 0) his outing gave Bears fans something to be excited about.
It also gave the Bears brass something to think about. No, they’re not going to immediately abandon their plan to have Glennon start the season, not based on one bad outing for Glennon and one good one for Trubisky.
But they very well may start to rethink their plan to bring Trubisky along so slowly. Though Fox has no intention of altering his depth chart just yet, there’s no reason he can’t alter the way he works Trubisky in practice.
The Bears know what they’re going to get out Sanchez. They still have no idea what they’re going to get out of Trubisky, who may have nowhere to go but down after such a stunning debut.
The best way to find out, though, is to increase his snaps, first in practice and then in games, and not to the detriment of Glennon, who clearly needs them as much or more than Trubisky.
Sure, Sanchez needs them, too – obviously — but Sanchez is not part of the future in Chicago. Glennon may not be a very big part of it either, especially if he keeps playing the way he did on Thursday.
The future is Trubisky, and while it wasn’t part of their original game plan, the Bears may want to start asking themselves if the future isn’t already here. It sure looked like it was on Thursday.
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