The Bears have hitched their wagon to Mitch Trubisky, just as the Eagles did a year earlier to Carson Wentz.
For better or worse, for playoff richer or 5-11 poorer, they are joined in holy quarterback matrimony until free agency, trade, pink slip or retirement do them part.
The marriage between the Eagles and Wentz has been absolute wedded bliss. In just his second season, the kid leads the league in touchdown passes (25) and third-down passing (124.4 rating) and his team owns the best record in the NFL, in large part because of Wentz’s MVP-worthy play.
As for Trubisky — who, like Wentz, was taken with the second overall pick in the draft last spring — he is where Wentz was a year ago, trying to take baby steps toward becoming a franchise quarterback. He will make his seventh professional start on Sunday against the Eagles at the Linc.
“He’s a good player,’’ said Eagles rookie wide receiver Mack Hollins, who was Trubisky’s teammate at North Carolina. “There’s a reason why he went No. 2, and there’s a reason why he’s the starting quarterback for them.’’
Trubisky’s first six starts for the 3-7 Bears are about what you would expect from a rookie. He has thrown just four touchdown passes and has had just one game with more than 180 passing yards (297 against Green Bay in Week 10). The good news is he’s kept mistakes to a minimum. He has thrown just two interceptions in 145 attempts.
“He’s making steady improvement,’’ Bears coach John Fox said earlier this week. “Our coaches have done a really good job with him as far as what they’re asking and expecting.’’
That’s the most important thing you want from a rookie quarterback: Steady improvement, which you can use to build on going forward.
“The one thing we tried to do with Carson last year was show incremental improvement each week,’’ Eagles coach Doug Pederson said. “What you saw at the end of the season last year, maybe the last three to four games, you started seeing that in Carson.
“With a young quarterback, you get him coached up during the week, but you really want to see those incremental improvements on Sundays and use that as fuel for your off-season, like we did with Carson. Be able to show him and watch the tape and build from that.’’
Trubisky entered the NFL with limited college experience. He started just 13 games for North Carolina, which was a concern to scouts. But it obviously didn’t dissuade the Bears from drafting him, or making him a starter five games into his rookie season.
“I wasn’t concerned at all [that I wasn’t ready for the NFL],’’ Trubisky said. “I know other people were. But I was very comfortable with where I was in my progression.
“I knew I could come in and start in the NFL as a rookie. That’s what I dreamed of doing. That’s what I worked for. I came in confident.’’
Hollins had no doubts that Trubisky was NFL-ready, either.
“I always told him to come out,’’ he said. “I knew he was ready. He’s a great player.
“He just has it. It’s hard to describe. But he’s got it. It’s like Carson. It’s hard to put your finger on what it is. But he’s got it.’’
The Bears are slowly but surely expanding the offense for Trubisky and putting more on his plate. He averaged just 16 attempts in his first three starts. He threw seven passes in the Bears’ 17-3, Week 7 win over Carolina. That’s right. Seven.
But he has averaged 32.3 attempts in his last three starts. He has completed 60 percent of his passes in each of the last two.
“They’ve been easing me into it,’’ Trubisky said. “But I feel like I’ve been able to handle it from the get-go. They’re trusting me more and more to open up this offense, and putting more responsibility on my plate because they think I’m ready for it.’’
A significant difference between Trubisky and Wentz are the situations they walked into. Wentz was drafted by a team with a rookie head coach with an offensive background, including 10 years as an NFL quarterback
He knew he was going to be given time to develop with the same coach in the same offensive system.
Trubisky was taken by a team with a third-year head coach — the 62-year-old Fox — whose expertise is on the defensive side of the ball and whose 9-23 record in his first two seasons as the Bears coach, and the team’s losing record this year, have raised questions about his job security.
“I’ve never worried about a job ever and won’t start now,’’ Fox said. “I’ve been in the league 28 years now. I do this for the competition and have a great passion for it.
“You do what’s best for the organization, whether you draft a guy in the third year of your contract, or your first or second. That stuff doesn’t matter.
“We started him after the fourth game. I thought when we started him was ideal as far as him understanding how pro football works and preparing for games.’’
The Bears were 3-4 at one point, with wins over the 8-2 Steelers, 5-5 Ravens and 7-3 Panthers, before dropping three in a row to the Saints (by eight), Packers (by seven) and Lions (by three).
I suspect that Bears general manager Ryan Pace, who was hired just a week before Fox in January 2015, will be reluctant to fire his head coach for a couple of reasons: 1) Fox still has another year left on his contract, and the Bears are a cheap organization; and 2) getting rid of Fox and his coaching staff would mean making Trubisky learn a brand new system and get used to a brand new offensive coordinator and position coach. And I don’t think they’re eager to do that, particularly when they can see the monumental strides Wentz has made in his second season with the same head coach (Pederson), the same offensive coordinator (Frank Reich), and the same quarterbacks coach (John DeFilippo).
“I’ve always compared a rookie’s first year to being a miler your whole life, and all of a sudden, you’re a two-miler —but they don’t tell you until the first mile is over and you still have the second mile to run,’’ Fox said.
“It takes a year just to develop a pro-preparation mindset. Because it’s a completely different game than they’re accustomed to. Both the length of it and the demands. It’s a hard adjustment for any rookie, especially a quarterback.’’