The time has come. Mitch Trubisky, the No. 2 pick in April's NFL draft, has completed his ascent to the top of the Bears depth chart. The rookie quarterback will make his first start Monday night when the Bears host the Vikings at Soldier Field. And with that news breaking this week, the city of Chicago has been letting its imagination run wild thinking about how the young quarterback might accelerate the team's return to prominence.
Right now, the Bears — with a 1-3 record and coming off a 35-14 drubbing last week in Green Bay — need help. There is hope that Trubisky can become the parachute to prevent an ugly free fall. There's confidence that the young quarterback has the composure and playmaking ability to rejuvenate a lifeless and error-prone offense. Beyond that, there's belief throughout the organization that Trubisky can stabilize the most important position for years to come.
As the tents and spotlights get set up for Mitch-a-palooza, Bears writers Dan Wiederer and Rich Campbell weigh in with their insight and some ground rules for the party that's ahead.
Dan Wiederer: Let's please agree on this right out of the gate. No matter what happens with Trubisky on Monday night — success or failure — let's not use this one game as a referendum on his future. Please. Heck, let's not use his first eight or 10 starts to create closing arguments in order to solicit a rapid verdict on Trubisky's ability to attain NFL success. These evaluations take years to complete. And we can't repeat that enough even as this city gets swept up in emotional week-to-week assessments of the Bears' new toy.
Rich Campbell: I'm with you 100 percent. The long view is the proper view, and it's the view the Bears will take. But based on how Trubisky's first preseason performance colored so many fans' expectations for the rookie, I'm afraid measured perspective will be in short supply Monday night.
I covered Robert Griffin III in 2012 when he won offensive rookie of the year honors and led the Redskins to the NFC East title. He put that franchise on a rocket ride. They had hope. After years of quarterback mediocrity, they had the most important position solved.
Until they didn't. Griffin lasted only three more seasons before the Redskins cut him. Even a full season of success and accolades was a cruel mirage. That's just a cautionary tale about a quarterback once drafted No. 2. Folks, please remember Monday night is only the beginning of Trubisky's story.
Wiederer: I'll see your RG3 tale and raise you a Marcus Mariota. For a different perspective. The Titans current starter was also drafted No. 2 and labeled by many as a can't-miss prospect because of his aptitude and athleticism, his leadership skills and ability to improvise. Mariota's ascent has been steady and remains promising with little to indicate that the Titans got that pick wrong. Yet still, here in his third full season, he has a 13-18 record as a starter. He has yet to reach the playoffs. And there's no guarantee that happens this year. Similar story for Jameis Winston, the top pick that same year. Encouraging growth into his third season. Still a sub-.500 record as a starter. Steep climb ahead to finally make the playoffs.
Three-word summary: It. Takes. Time. Even with the really good ones.
All that said, here's my own appraisal of Trubisky's strengths through his first five months as a Bear. Talent-wise, we've seen with our own eyes his pinpoint accuracy and his knack for making plays on the move. Those skills offer legitimate hope.
I've also been thoroughly impressed with Trubisky's demeanor. He's self-assured and highly driven. He has an impressive ability to understand the big picture while also retaining a micro-focus on each day. Those are invaluable assets for a quarterback.
Campbell: His athleticism is obvious and fun to watch. It's going to look downright electric after the Bears were unable to overcome Mike Glennon's limitations as a pocket passer.
I will say, in my estimation, Trubisky's accuracy since he joined the Bears has not been as consistently sharp as it was advertised to be. Misfires in training camp practices and exhibition games were too frequent. But that should improve as he gains command of the offense and learns to process his reads quicker. And that will help us measure his progress.
Overall, I'm stoked to see him play like everyone else who follows the team. I'm eager to see a better brand of football every week, and Trubisky offers that hope because of his physical and intangible traits. But my expectations for him early on are measured, to say the least.
He was more ordinary in the exhibition games against Cardinals, Titans and Browns than he was in that stellar debut against the Broncos. His receiving corps is the same one that struggled to separate from defenders when Glennon was in. And he's going to make mistakes in a variety of areas because of his inexperience. In all likelihood, he won't be an immediate cure for all of the Bears' self-inflicted problems.
Wiederer: Trubisky's August emergence was a lesson in first impressions. His first 10 preseason passes: all completions. His first three possessions: all scoring drives. His injection of adrenaline and hope into a desperate fan base: through the roof. You felt that energy jolt in Soldier Field on Aug. 10 the same way I did.
But remember this: over the next two-plus exhibition games, Trubisky was on the field for nine other possessions. The results: two touchdowns, five punts, a missed field goal and a turnover on downs. The stats: 21-for-33, 231 yards, two touchdowns, zero turnovers. (And no, I'm not including the exhibition finale against the Browns for obvious reasons.) That production is solid but not stellar. And it came mostly against second-, third- and fourth-stringers. The degree of difficulty will be far greater Monday against a Vikings defense packed with talent and known for creating confusion.
Far be it from me to set the mood for an entire fan base at a time as energizing and hopeful as this. I'm just a stickler for perspective.
Campbell: Perspective and excitement aren't mutually exclusive. In fact, having the former should only increase the latter. Those who expect the sudden dips and the loop-the-loops are going to enjoy this roller coaster more.
One of the strongest lenses I'll use to look at Trubisky's growth is an obvious one applied to all quarterbacks: Does he lift others around him? Or does he have to be lifted by his supporting cast? For the No. 2 draft pick, it has to eventually be the former.
Throwing accuracy is such a big part of that. Can he throw his receivers open? Can he fit passes through tight windows? Is he mentally processing his reads quickly enough to throw on time and create opportunities for receivers to gain yards after the catch? Again, we saw only inconsistent flashes of that in the preseason, but Trubisky's accuracy was so highly touted coming out of North Carolina that the standard for him ultimately is very high.
Wiederer: In Trubisky's own words, the Bears offense will have to become a little more basic with him at the controls this week. The rookie is still absorbing the playbook, still learning about the complexities of NFL defenses and still working to gain command of an entire offense. But I've also seen that as an impressive strength: his understanding of his current limitations, his acceptance of the learning curve, his patience to grind through the process without skipping steps.
To this point, he has been unaffected by the outside hype. Furthermore, talk to enough people from Trubisky's background — from his high school days to the University of North Carolina to the Bears — and there's repeated praise of his steadiness and ability to naturally energize those around him. These are major pluses.
But, no, the Trubisky we'll see Monday night is not a finished product. And I think that's worth reemphasizing for the "If you're good, you're good," crowd. That, as you know, is a foolish oversimplification of the most complex position in sports.
Campbell: Success and failure for NFL quarterbacks is dependent on an interconnected set of complex factors. It would be way too closed-minded to look back at the highly drafted quarterbacks who busted and conclude they were always destined to fail because they were somehow flawed physically or mentally or both.
No quarterback is perfect, and every situation is different. Tom Brady fell to the sixth round. Ryan Leaf went at No. 2. The position is so complex that there's a necessary nurturing process to help quarterbacks overcome their weaknesses, foster strengths and build confidence. Whether that occurs in practices or games is a meaningful decision because it accounts for factors like speed of the action. Obviously, the Bears wanted Trubisky's to continue in practice longer, but Glennon's play compelled coach John Fox to fast-forward to the rookie.
Wiederer: This is the most complicated position in arguably the most sophisticated sport. Among the long list of factors that figure into quarterback success: talent, aptitude, mental toughness, physical toughness, coaching, offensive system, readiness to play, leadership ability, supporting cast … You get the point.
So it's beyond ignorant to assert that high-level NFL success for a quarterback is a binary equation when they enter the league. You're either good or you're not, right? Hogwash.
By that logic, shouldn't we argue that either you can drive a car well or you can't? Then let's call for every high school in the state to do away with driver's ed. At least that way we'll be able to more quickly identify who belongs on the road.
And why stop there? Either you can swim or you can't, right? Which is why I've now canceled my 4-year-old son's swimming lessons and will just toss him in the pool to see if he has it or not.
This is just my final plea for patience and perspective as the Trubisky era begins. Look, the arrival of a player like this is supposed to be fun and full of hope and energy. I don't want to suppress that. I just feel a weird obligation to be like the narrator at the end of every drug commercial, rapidly reciting the potential side effects and hazards.
Campbell: Fox set the proper expectation level Monday and Tuesday with his public comments, saying the switch to Trubisky does not equate to fairy dust on the Bears season and rebuilding project. Their problems through four games stretch far beyond the quarterback.
Plus, the Bears, specifically general manager Ryan Pace, were very clear in the caution they determined was necessary for Trubisky's timeline. Now that timeline is accelerated, the factors they hoped to mitigate aren't suddenly gone. We just get to see how Trubisky handles it all.
As you mentioned, the rookie seems to have his head screwed on well. The talent is there. I'd be shocked if the opportunity overwhelmed him over the long term. Keep in mind what Fox said Tuesday: "Everybody says, 'Well, you need to have confidence.' Well, usually something good has got to happen to have confidence."
So let's see if Trubisky can be that something good and spark that self-propelling cycle.