Two days after the end of the NFL draft, Chicago Bears fans might be asking themselves, and others: What’s the deal with this Mitch (or Mitchell) Trubisky?
The Bears selected Trubisky, the former North Carolina quarterback, with the second overall pick in the draft. They traded up to do so, and gave up something of a small ransom (four draft picks, including the No. 3 overall pick) to take Trubisky.
And so, evidently, the Bears feel quite strongly that Trubisky is their man – maybe not now (given that the team back in March signed former N.C. State quarterback Mike Glennon) but certainly in the future. Trubisky, at least, is accustomed to waiting.
He waited three years for his chance to become the starter at UNC. Undoubtedly, Chicago Bears enthusiasts might wonder about that. They might be wondering about a lot of things related to Trubisky.
And so, as a public service, here’s a Frequently Asked Questions of sort – a handy-dandy FAQ on all things Trubisky, from a guy (me, if you’re wondering) who covered the duration of his time at UNC:
Q: Why should we, as Chicago Bears loyalists, be excited about Trubisky?
A: Because he checks all the boxes, as they say, and, physically, there’s a lot to like. At 6-foot-2, Trubisky has good enough height. He’s sturdy. He enters the NFL without any sort of injury history whatsoever (at least in college).
And, to use one of my favorite NFL draft clichés when analysts talk about quarterbacks: He can make all the throws. But no, really: He can. Trubisky throws a nice deep ball. He’s accurate. He’s calm. He has great footwork, and is perhaps deceptively mobile. All the tools are there for him to be a successful NFL quarterback.
Q: If he’s so good, why didn’t he start earlier?
A: Ah, yes. The question that’s been asked more than any other. The best way to answer it: UNC coach Larry Fedora expected that he’d be able to start Trubisky for two seasons, both in 2016 and in 2017. If Fedora had known that Trubisky would have a chance to go pro after such limited starting experience, my guess is that Trubisky would have started sooner.
It wasn’t because Trubisky wasn’t good enough to start. He was, based on his talent. Even so, he had to wait his turn behind Marquise Williams, who developed into a very good college quarterback in his own right. Williams, who wasn’t drafted in 2016, lacked the sort of polish and prototypical NFL quarterback talent that made Trubisky such a tantalizing pro prospect.
But Williams’ hard-nosed running ability – he embraced contact – added a dimension to UNC’s offense that Trubisky didn’t, or couldn’t. Williams also possessed a magnetic, positive personality. His teammates gravitated toward him. He was popular. Fedora has said that he didn’t want to disrupt the team chemistry by supplanting Williams with Trubisky.
And, again: Fedora believed that Trubisky would start at UNC for two seasons. It didn’t work out that way and, as a result, the best quarterback to ever come through Chapel Hill wound up only starting for 13 games.
Q: I never really paid attention to Trubisky when he played in college – what’d he do at UNC?
A: Last season he had the best passing season in UNC history: 3,748 yards, a 68 percent completion rate, 30 touchdowns, six interceptions. He set the school record for most consecutive pass attempts without an interception and by early October he’d played well enough for the NFL draft talk to start building. Individually, Trubisky had a fantastic season.
As a team, though, UNC underachieved, and finished 8-5. Something seemed off with the Tar Heels during the second half of the season, and it was difficult to identify the main problem. They fell flat in disappointing defeats against Duke and N.C. State, two rivals, and then lost in the Sun Bowl against Stanford in a game in which Trubisky threw two interceptions.
After a victory against Georgia Tech on Nov. 5, UNC was 7-2. The Tar Heels won just one game from then on, and that victory came against The Citadel. Trubisky wasn’t the problem in UNC’s late collapse, but he wasn’t necessarily the solution, either. He was at his best during the first half of the season, before UNC lost its best deep threat, Mack Hollins, to a season-ending injury in mid-October.
Q: What were some of Trubisky’s most memorable moments?
A: Two come to mind from last season. The first was against Pittsburgh on Sept. 24. UNC trailed by two touchdowns late before Trubisky led the Tar Heels to a dramatic comeback victory. His 2-yard touchdown pass to Bug Howard with two seconds to play was the difference, but on the game-winning drive Trubisky completed three passes in must-convert fourth-down situations.
Overall, he threw for 453 yards and five touchdowns. That was essentially Trubisky’s national arrival, the point at which people took notice. The next week, at Florida State, Trubisky was even better: 31-of-38 for 405 yards and three touchdowns. He simply carved up the Seminoles’ defense that day, though UNC still needed Nick Weiler’s 54-yard field goal to win the game at the end of regulation.
Q: OK, what about the other side. Some, um, unmemorable moments for Trubisky.
A: One in particular stands out. During a 34-3 loss against Virginia Tech on Oct. 8, Trubisky completed 13 of his 33 attempts for 58 yards and two interceptions. Did I mention that this game was played during tropical storm-like conditions, in constant 25 mph winds and through a steady downpour? No?
Well, that’s an important detail. The Tar Heels and Hokies played through a monsoon, and neither Trubisky nor his Virginia Tech counterpart (Jerod Evans, who was 7-for-17 for 75 yards) could really throw the ball downfield. It was like watching a couple of guys try to throw up-wind in a wind tunnel, and then add a lot of rain to the visual.
Q: Did anyone down yonder at UNC see this sort of ascent coming for Trubisky?
A: Didn’t know Chicago folks had an appreciation for “yonder.” Good stuff. The short answer is yes, people at UNC believed this sort of thing to be possible … next year. Not this year. For years, there was tremendous positive buzz, for lack of a better way to put it, surrounding Trubisky behind the scenes. Everyone heard for a long time about how good he looked in practice.
And he often looked good in games, too, during his limited opportunities. But no one thought that he’d start 13 games and be off to become a top-five NFL draft pick. That sort of ascent clearly caught the coaching staff off guard, and forced it to pursue a graduate transfer quarterback, LSU’s Brandon Harris, who’s now in line to become Trubisky’s successor.
Q: How would you describe Trubisky’s personality – what kind of guy are the Bears getting?
A: Trubisky is not going to be winning many press conferences, though there’s nothing wrong with that in the least. He leaves UNC with plenty of memorable moments on the field, but he often shied away from publicity and didn’t seem to particularly enjoy the media responsibilities that came with his role.
Again: nothing wrong with that. Trubisky’s quieter nature, though, might have played a role in his wait for the starting job. Fedora and his staff had to demand that Trubisky become more vocal, and more of a leader. It wasn’t something that necessarily came naturally to him.
Trubisky doesn’t enter the NFL with a take-charge, rah-rah-rah kind of persona. He doesn’t lack for confidence, but it’s a quiet confidence, and he’s content to let his play do his talking for him.
Q: What will be Trubisky’s greatest challenges while he transitions to the NFL?
A: It’s going to be learning NFL terminology, for one, and adjusting to an entirely different kind of offense than the one he played in college. UNC uses a spread offense in which its quarterbacks are in the shotgun essentially all the time. Trubisky has virtually no experience lining up under center, and so that will be an adjustment.
He’ll also need to become more adept at reading defenses, which are about to become much more complex than the ones he saw during his lone season as a college starter. The good news for Trubisky is that it seems like he’ll have time to make these adjustments while playing behind Glennon for the foreseeable future.
Q: Mitch, Mitchell – what do we call this young man?
A: Here’s how Trubisky answered this question during UNC’s pro day in March: “Mitch, Mitchell, you guys are welcome to use either one. If you’re close to me and you’re my mother, she prefers Mitchell. It doesn’t bother me if you call me Mitch, because a lot of people call me Mitch, including my teammates.”
So there you have it. Mysteries of the universe, solved.