Bears go all-in, engineer jaw-dropping trade to draft QB Mitch Trubisky

This much we can say for sure. Ten years from now, every Bears fan will still be talking about Thursday night and that jaw-dropping moment this football-crazed city will never forget. It came at 7:16 p.m. when general manager Ryan Pace took a massive swing at finding his quarterback of the future.

Pace’s man: North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky.

After months of curiosity and speculation about who the Bears might select with the No. 3 overall pick in the NFL Draft, it turns out Pace couldn’t wait that long to pull the trigger.

In a momentous trade that sent jaws to the floor, the Bears dealt the 49ers a four-pack of picks — Nos. 3, 67 and 111 in this year’s draft plus a 2018 third-rounder — to slide up one peg to No. 2 on the draft board. That’s the intense urgency Pace felt to make sure he landed Trubisky.

Call it a bold move. Call it insanity. (And a success-starved fan base is already in quite the lather as that debate explodes.)

Pace identified it late Thursday night as a decisive vote of confidence in the upside of Trubisky, a talented quarterback with impressive pocket awareness but a very limited sample size from which to project his NFL potential.

“If we want to be great, you just can’t sit on your hands,” Pace said. “There are times when you’ve got to be aggressive. And when you have conviction on a guy, you can’t sit on your hands. I just don’t want to be average around here. I want to be great and these are the moves you have to make.”

The years ahead will determine once and for all whether this landmark move was a sound one. What can’t be denied is that the final judgment of Pace’s success as a general manager will forever be linked to Thursday night’s decision.

The all-in move stunned even Trubisky, who claimed his only visit with the Bears was a brief workout in March. After that, he insisted, he never heard from the team again. Not even before NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced his name from the stage in Philadelphia.

“I didn’t see that coming at all,” Trubisky said. “I was surprised.”

This much we can say for sure. Ten years from now, every Bears fan will still be talking about Thursday night and that jaw-dropping moment this football-crazed city will never forget. It came at 7:16 p.m. when general manager Ryan Pace took a massive swing at finding his quarterback of the future.

Pace’s man: North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky.

After months of curiosity and speculation about who the Bears might select with the No. 3 overall pick in the NFL Draft, it turns out Pace couldn’t wait that long to pull the trigger.

In a momentous trade that sent jaws to the floor, the Bears dealt the 49ers a four-pack of picks — Nos. 3, 67 and 111 in this year’s draft plus a 2018 third-rounder — to slide up one peg to No. 2 on the draft board. That’s the intense urgency Pace felt to make sure he landed Trubisky.

Call it a bold move. Call it insanity. (And a success-starved fan base is already in quite the lather as that debate explodes.)

Pace identified it late Thursday night as a decisive vote of confidence in the upside of Trubisky, a talented quarterback with impressive pocket awareness but a very limited sample size from which to project his NFL potential.

“If we want to be great, you just can’t sit on your hands,” Pace said. “There are times when you’ve got to be aggressive. And when you have conviction on a guy, you can’t sit on your hands. I just don’t want to be average around here. I want to be great and these are the moves you have to make.”

The years ahead will determine once and for all whether this landmark move was a sound one. What can’t be denied is that the final judgment of Pace’s success as a general manager will forever be linked to Thursday night’s decision.

The all-in move stunned even Trubisky, who claimed his only visit with the Bears was a brief workout in March. After that, he insisted, he never heard from the team again. Not even before NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced his name from the stage in Philadelphia.

“I didn’t see that coming at all,” Trubisky said. “I was surprised.”

“With all these top quarterbacks, it’s just their ability to quickly process defenses, process coverage, find open targets, not panic under pressure, deliver accurate throws when there’s a noisy pocket and things are collapsing,” Pace said. “… And Mitch has those traits.”

In the short term, Trubisky will be given time to learn and develop, almost certain to spend much of 2017 backing up Mike Glennon, who now appears to be a high-priced bridge to buy the rookie quarterback time.

“It is what it is,” Trubisky said.

The new Bears quarterback also has experience playing the waiting game. He was a redshirt freshman in 2013 then spent two seasons as a back-up to Marquise Williams before finally breaking through as a starter.

“It was tough,” Trubisky said. “Because I definitely felt like I had earned the starting role and should have been the starter. But I found other ways to get better. … It taught me a lot about patience.”

Pace may need to beg for similar patience from Bears fans, many of whom reacted with shock and confusion at what went down on the first night of this draft. It wasn’t merely the selection of Trubisky that prompted the passionate outcry. It was the draft capital the Bears surrendered to make sure they landed their guy.

Shielded from that public reaction in the Bears’ Halas Hall war room, Pace seemed taken aback when he was asked late Thursday night whether he’d have to sell the fan base on his bold move.

“I hope everybody’s excited about it,” Pace said. “The most important position in all of sports is quarterback. And I don’t think you’re ever a great team until you address the position and you address it right. I think everybody should respect that. We’re addressing the quarterback position.  We’re being aggressive with that position because it’s the most important position in sports.”

And it’s now the most conversation-worthy topic in the city. And it will be for years to come.

Photos of quarterback Mitch Trubisky, who the Bears selected with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft. Getty Images


The Mitch Trubisky deal: Are the Bears rebuilding or hallucinating?

Let me get this straight:

The Bears swapped their first-round pick and gave up three additional picks their weakness-riddled roster couldn’t afford for a quarterback who started only one year and won’t play next season because they’re paying $18.5 million to a quarterback who couldn’t get nearly that much from any self-respecting team.

Do I have that right?

All along, it looked the Bears were rebuilding. Turns out, it looks like they’re hallucinating.

In order to move up one spot in the first round Thursday, Bears GM Ryan Pace dealt the third overall pick, the 67th pick and the 111th pick in this year’s draft, along with next year’s third-rounder for the right to take a strong-armed quarterback coming off a bad bowl game.

Couldn’t they have gotten Jimmy Garoppolo from the Patriots for that? Couldn’t they have gotten Garoppolo for less? Wasn’t that the rumor — a first-rounder and a fourth-rounder?

Garoppolo would’ve come from a Super Bowl champion for whom he started a couple games. He would not be coming from the ACC where he wasn’t named first-team all-conference or even second-team.

Pace acted on his quarterback obsession. Fine. Pace treated the position as if it’s the most important in the game. Good. Pace was going to answer that question, period, no matter the cost, no matter how many other positions get filled by street free agents, no matter that Pace himself said championship teams are built through the draft and he left himself less material to build with.

It looks like the Bears got played by the 49ers for the chance to draft Trubisky the way they got played in overpaying Mike Glennon in free agency.

Because it’s the Bears, because it’s the quarterback spot, because this move came out of Halas Hall, we start with the mindset that this is the Lake Forest version of Ryan Leaf.

And because it’s the Bears, we have to wade through apparent cluelessness. Where’s the follow-through?

The Bears made the biggest move they could, and then they assured everyone they intend to retard Trubisky’s progress.

Look, when you pony up that many draft choices for a quarterback, you start him. Immediately. Next.

The Bears made the biggest investment imaginable — unimaginable, really — to move up one spot, and it didn’t happen just Thursday. This had been planned for a while, probably planned before the Bears signed Glennon.

So, why did the Bears sign Glennon?

Pace said Glennon is the starting quarterback. Trubisky will have to develop on his own. Under Dowell Loggains’ tutelage, nyuk, nyuk, nyuk.

And so, the problem I’ve pointed out previously is here:

Trubisky desperately needs reps. He has started 13 games since high school, and they all came last year. But Glennon also desperately needs reps. He hasn't started any games since 2014. There aren’t enough reps to go around.

Pace said he was willing to do whatever it took to get Trubisky because the GM had a special conviction about the quarterback’s talent. Yeah, such a special conviction that the Bears don’t plan on letting Trubisky start.

Oh, Trubisky still might start if Glennon gets hurt, and remember, everyone gets hurt on John Fox teams. In that case, Trubisky will start without nearly enough pro practice snaps. Is that the way to treat a guy who cost you all those draft picks?

Man, Pace must have some hellacious job security. Nobody makes such an outsized move without it.

Or maybe he doesn’t care that he might’ve hastened his firing.

Or perhaps he just hastened Fox’s firing. Now this thing’s looking up, huh?

After a 3-13 season that was worse than anything Marc Trestman foisted on Bears fans, Fox just has to sit there and take it, even if he felt he had to make the playoffs next season to stick around and knows this deal makes missing the playoffs a big favorite at this point.

Fox got no help here. In fact, it looks like he lost a ton of territory. The holes on his roster were never going to get filled in this draft, and now he can just forget even coming close.

Which brings us to this: If we can ultimately connect the move on Trubisky to Fox’s move out of town, then I don’t think it’s possible for Pace to overpay.


The Bears Do the Quarterback Shuffle

PHILADELPHIA — Mitchell Trubisky was standing at the top of the famous Philadelphia Art Museum stairs, a Bears cap fitted atop his head, when his new team’s social media director excitedly rushed up to him, ready to capture the moment on SnapChat. “Chicago!” she exclaimed.

Trubisky shook his head in amazement. “You have no idea—I’m pumped,” he said.

The No. 2 pick in the 2017 NFL draft turned to walk toward the media tent, where a catering worker extended a hand.

“Congratulations, man,” he said. “The. Chicago. Bears.”

This well-wisher said it slowly, as if emphasizing the astonishment that had swept over the crowd of some 100,000 near the Schuylkill River; the Bears’ hardy fan base back in the Windy City; and even Trubisky himself. The reaction on the NFL Network broadcast summed up what most of the viewing public was thinking: Is it OK to be left speechless by the second pick of the NFL draft?

Last year at this time, Trubisky had exactly zero starts for the University of North Carolina. But he was the first quarterback off the board in the 2017 draft, ahead of reigning national champion Deshaun Watson, and he’s going to a team that signed quarterback Mike Glennon to a three-year, $45 million deal in free agency six weeks ago. And Chicago didn’t just take Trubisky. The team traded up for him, investing significant present and future draft resources—third- and fourth-round picks this year, plus a third-rounder next year—to ensure they got their guy by moving up just a single slot. Few people outside of Halas Hall saw this coming. And Trubisky was as surprised as anyone.

“I didn’t have a lot of discussion with them,” Trubisky said shortly after his name was announced to a shocked Philadelphia crowd. “It was very secretive throughout the process. I think they didn’t want other teams to know they wanted me. But, they definitely did their research.”

The truth is, the Bears had zeroed in on Trubisky several weeks before the draft. Some NFL teams looked at his résumé and saw just 13 starts for the Tar Heels; the fact that he couldn’t beat out Marquise Williams, a quarterback not currently on an NFL roster, the previous two seasons; and no experience operating an offense under center. But the Bears saw, as GM Ryan Pace put it, a quarterback with “special attributes.” Trubisky is a tough pocket passer with good accuracy—he had a 67.5 career completion percentage and a 41:10 TD:INT ratio in college—and that imprecise quality teams refer to as “upside.”

Even more than usual, there was great uncertainty in how the first round would unfold, mostly because no one knew how strongly the quarterbacks would be coveted. The Browns had discussed taking Trubisky at No. 1, presciently knowing they likely wouldn’t be able to come back up to get him with their second pick in the first-round (they stood at 12 before the night started), but Cleveland ultimately took the consensus best player in the draft, Texas A&M pass rusher Myles Garrett. Fearing that other teams would trade with the 49ers to get into the No. 2 position, the Bears made a bold move and set in motion a run on a group of quarterbacks that may not include a 2017 Day 1 starter. The Chiefs moved up 17 picks, into the No. 10 slot, to draft Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes as a successor to starter Alex Smith. Then Houston struck a deal with the Browns to jump from pick No. 25 to No. 12 to nab Watson.

Of the three teams that took a quarterback in the first round, only Houston had an immediate need at the position. And it’s a safe bet that most teams around the league would not have had those three quarterbacks rated among the top 13 rated players on their draft boards. The strongest positions in this year’s class were unexpected ones: defensive back and tight end. So why did this happen?

The crowd in Philadelphia needed to look no further than its hometown team. Remember last year, when the Eagles spent big on two quarterbacks in free agency? Sam Bradford re-signed on a two-year, $36 million deal, and Chase Daniel inked a three-year, $21 million pact . . . and then a few weeks later Philly traded up in the draft and used the No. 2 pick to select North Dakota State QB Carson Wentz. They ended up trading Bradford to Minnesota before the season began, and inserted Wentz sooner than expected into the franchise QB role. Daniel was cut this offseason.

The Eagles certainly didn’t know last spring that their QB situation would unfold that way, but the intent was simple: They were arming themselves with options at the most important position on the field. As Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie explained last May: “Having a lot of assets at the most important position in the NFL is a good strategic move for now. Because in the NFL, it’s the one position you can’t just go get. So when you have an opportunity, you’ve gotta take your shot, and you’ve gotta be bold. Otherwise, if you say to yourself, you know, it is probably a 50-50 shot that maybe the quarterback will be really good, you can’t let that deter you. So that’s how I look at it: You either have a really good QB and you compete for the Super Bowl, or you don’t and you are probably not competing for the Super Bowl.”

So the Bears, after breaking free from eight seasons of Jay Cutler, and in the third year of the Ryan Pace-John Fox regime, pushed all their quarterback chips into the middle. They liked Glennon, so they signed him in free agency. They liked Trubisky, so they traded up to get him. In their mind, passing up a potential franchise safety or running back (plus a bunch of mid-round picks) was worth it for another chance of answering their long-running quarterback quandary. (Pace on Thursday night did refer to Glennon as the team’s starting QB.)

But this is how the draft works: Only time will tell if the gamble was worth it. Trubisky’s night was a blur, but it would have been impossible not to feel the shock waves set off by the Bears’ first-round stunner. “It’s my job,” he said, “to go in there and prove them right—that they made the right decision to [move up] and get me.”

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