It’s the middle of the preseason, which means it’s time for videos like this.
Browns game winning touchdown + Titanic music pic.twitter.com/UR3U833PRB— Matt Allaire (@AllaireMatt) August 11, 2017
Titanic-Browns mashups aside, there’s no better example of the preseason hype machine than Chicago’s Mitchell Trubisky. The no. 2 overall pick was the laughingstock of social media when he fumbled three of his first six snaps on the first day of padded practice. We seemed destined for a season of Trufumbleroosky.
It didn’t last long. Trubisky entered the Bears’ preseason opener against the Broncos last week with 1:55 left in the first half and went 4-for-4 (shout-out Jay-Z!) on his opening drive, throwing a touchdown to Victor Cruz with 13 seconds remaining that made even the Chosen One smile.
He finished the game completing 18 of 25 passes for 166 yards. Meanwhile, Chicago’s starting quarterback, Mike Glennon, started with a pick-six on his first possession, lost a botched snap on his third, and led a 12-play, 53-yard drive that ended with a punt in his final drive. He finished 2-of-8 for 20 yards and an interception.
Trubisky looked good in his debut, showing comfort out of the pocket and throwing under pressure with the same poise he exhibited at UNC. But he didn’t look that good, and it’s ludicrously unfair to compare Glennon’s struggles against Denver’s first-team defense (no. 1 in DVOA the last two seasons) to Trubisky’s experience against Denver’s benchwarmers.
Suddenly the Bears had a quarterback controversy and Mike Ditka was comparing Trubisky to Tom Brady. Trubisky started his NFL career 10-for-10! For 83 yards! Pro Football Focus assigned him an 85.1 game grade with a 90.9 percent adjusted completion percentage! (You don’t have to know what those numbers mean if they sound good.) The rookie didn’t even lose a single snap! The only voice of reason on ESPN the day after Trubisky’s debut was Stephen A. Smith! (During that same segment, Max Kellerman called Mike Glennon an “elite backup quarterback,” and my head exploded.) If Brock Osweiler’s $72 million contract is the Lufthansa heist, the Bears signing Mike Glennon for $15 million per year and then drafting Trubisky is this. When the Cubs get knocked out of the playoffs in October and the Bears are floundering at 2-6 while Glennon isn’t even a serviceable bye-week fantasy quarterback, what will the team have to lose by tossing Trubisky the car keys, Ferris Bueller style?
Expecting Trubisky to translate Thursday’s success to the regular season is completely unreasonable, but it’s also fun. Players have exploded onto the NFL scene with electric preseason performances before. In August 2010, an undrafted rookie out of UMass put on an outstanding preseason show for New York Giants fans. The then-anonymous receiver caught six passes for 145 yards and three touchdowns against the Jets, securing the G-Men a victory over their stadiummate in the first NFL game ever played at what would become MetLife Stadium. The preseason hype machine began buzzing about some dude named “Victor Cruz,” and even managed to catch the eye of the Chosen One.
Victor Cruz going nuts on the Jets tonight on #MNF. Undrafted rookie from UMass. He's gonna have a job this year for sure— LeBron James (@KingJames) August 17, 2010
Cruz torching the Jets that preseason was a harbinger of things to come. A year later he followed it up by torching them in the regular season and emerged as the star receiver of the Giants’ 2011 Super Bowl team.
Seven years after his own preseason breakout, Cruz caught Trubisky’s first professional touchdown pass. My knee-jerk curmudgeon reaction was to dismiss Trubisky’s touchdown as the soon-to-be-last moment of optimism in his career, but as I watched Cruz do his trademark salsa dance, it felt like a sign from above.
Long live Mitchell Trubisky. Long live preseason hype.