CHICAGO – The Cubs play a home postseason game at Wrigley Field on Monday, which remains a hot ticket a year removed from their curse being extinguished. But that won’t be the most compelling story in town.
The Chicago Bears found something that trumps cuddly Cubs fascination: Mitch mania, as one Chi-town writer described the NFL debut of rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky.
The Bears’ never-ending search for their first franchise quarterback since Sid Luckman (sorry, Jay Cutler’s tenure deserved a “C” grade, at best) will reach a new milepost when Trubisky faces the Vikings and Mike Zimmer’s defense at Soldier Field.
The Cubs have their World Series title, and the Bears believe they’ve finally found their quarterback. Which one would be more miraculous?
The Vikings’ wild-goose chase for quarterback stability has nothing on the Bears’ painful history at that position. Hope becomes seductive when it involves believing a young quarterback might become an organizational savior.
“Euphoric,” veteran Chicago Tribune NFL writer Brad Biggs said of fan reaction to Trubisky’s promotion to starter. “And for a good portion of them, probably the next thing on their minds was, why didn’t it happen two or three weeks ago? But fans were ecstatic.”
Bears coach John Fox finally conceded the inevitable and benched Mike Glennon when it became abundantly obvious that his struggles warranted a nod to the future.
Bears fans have clamored for Trubisky from the moment the front office handed a sizable haul to the San Francisco 49ers to move up and take Trubisky with the No. 2 overall pick.
Glennon became nothing more than a placeholder at that point. The Vikings know all too well about placeholders. Or bridges or stopgaps, or however you choose to label quarterback limbo.
If the Bears are ultimately proven right about Trubisky, that would leave the Vikings as the lone NFC North team without a franchise quarterback in place.
They thought Teddy Bridgewater would fill that blank until his knee buckled last season. Maybe he’ll still reach that potential once he returns to action. Or maybe Sam Bradford will return from his knee injury and prove that he’s worthy of a long-term contract, though this latest knee flare-up should weigh heavily in those discussions.
NFL teams tend to fall into three categories with their quarterback situations: 1) Those with franchise quarterbacks that seek to maximize their window for winning; 2) Those who are starting over with a young quarterback and clinging to hope; 3) Those who are stuck in between and spinning their wheels.
Biggs described teams in that third category perfectly.
“The further you go, it goes from hoping you maybe have the guy, to fooling yourself thinking you have the guy,” he said.
The wide gap between haves and have-nots among starting quarterbacks creates a sense of desperation that compels front offices to take risks. Trubisky started only 13 games in college at North Carolina. But the Bears fell in love and aggressively maneuvered to draft him, making Trubisky their first quarterback selected in the first round since Rex Grossman in 2003.
Trubisky showed flashes of his strong arm and athleticism in preseason games, which are meaningless, except nothing is ever meaningless when it carries the future of an organization.
“He seems confident, and No. 2, he strikes me as pretty composed,” Biggs said.
No doubt Zimmer will test Trubisky’s composure with a game plan heavy on different pressures. Zimmer’s scheme is difficult to decipher even for veteran quarterbacks who have seen just about every blitz package imaginable.
“You try to fool the experienced guys, too,” Zimmer said.
Trickery or not, Trubisky’s debut will hinge on simple football mechanics. If the Bears offensive line protects him, Trubisky will have a chance to show why the organization has placed its faith in him.
If the Vikings relentless pass rush overwhelms the Bears and Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter smell blood, Trubisky will spend his first NFL game in survival mode.
Either way, a city will be captivated.