It's Windy At The Bottom: The Bears, Mitch Trubisky, and The Public Fervor To Criticize
Three days before the draft I was hanging out with a friend of mine, Taylor (or Cray Tay from Abe for those who listen to The Hurt Take – plug!). The very start of the podcast we usually begin with an unrelated topic and transition into the show. Naturally, last week we chose the NFL Draft.
Who would the Browns pick, Taylor asked me. I said it would be silly not to pick Myles Garrett because, by all indications. He was the best player in this draft, regardless of position, and played a crucial position. I prefaced this by openly doubting whether Mitchell Trubisky from North Carolina was that good. I spouted off the same downsides that should be familiar to everyone now: inexperience, conference, and the inability to win the job until his final year of college.
One week ago I was a Trubisky skeptic and a Chicago Bears fan. Today, I am still a Mitch Trubisky skeptic and a Chicago Bears fan.
Let us dissect the Bears much-maligned move for Mitch Trubisky.
The story begins with Mike Glennon. When you think about the story of Mike Glennon, you start with his anointment as the starter in Tampa Bay. You think about how he played well, but struggled mightily, and how it was consensus around the league that the Bucs needed to upgrade the position. Enter Jameis Winston. Mike Glennon hits the bench, and nobody - nobody - says it’s the wrong move.
Rewind two months ago, Glennon is the top QB on the market. The Bears signs him to a three-year deal that pays $18.5 million in his first year. The consensus is that the Bears were not bidding against any other teams and overpaid.
Fast forward to today. The Bears are now under fire for drafting a top-3 talent at the position despite signing a guy who everyone felt deserved to lose his job to a former top-3 talent only three years ago. Really?
Ok, detractors point out, "But they gave him so much money!" Yes, they did – for one year. You know what the cap hit is if they cut Glennon one year form now? $4.2 million. They didn’t structure Glennon’s contract like a long-term commitment. They structured it as a one-year ‘prove it’ deal with two low-cap years to hold on to him. Another way to look at that deal was a preemptive strike to drafting a QB. Unless you expect to play a rookie in year one (which has proven a decent strategy in recent years), you need someone to sit in front of them. Ultimately, the concept of overpaying is qualitative in relation to great QB's. You can't overpay for a great one. You always overpay for an average one.
Ok, detractors point out, "But if you knew you were going to take a QB in the draft, why even sign Glennon in the first place?" Who knows who they are going to draft three months ahead of time? Maybe, maybe, the team with the first pick. Most teams go through a process. They evaluate their roster after the last game, evaluate the players set to hit free agency, and they begin evaluate the college players ready to come out of school. Rarely in that process does a team put the cart before the horse. Most teams put together a ‘short list’ of players for their draft position. If the Bears were picking third, they openly stated they had a short list of three players they would take there. It probably read something like 1) Myles Garrett 2) someone or Mitch Trubisky 3) Mitch Trubisky or someone.
The move for Glennon solved a number of issues for the Bears. It filled the QB spot with a competent player who they could win with now if things go right. It provided a bridge QB should they find themselves in position to take a top-3 QB (which they did).
If Glennon is a hit, they hold a valuable commodity they can trade should they decide Trubisky is the guy(a terrible decision to have to make, but one every NFL team would take over the alternative). If Gelnnon hits and they decide to hold on to him, they’ve found a player, and Trubisky then becomes a decent commodity a la Jimmy Garoppolo.
When it comes to the trade itself, no doubt the Bears gave up a lot to move up one spot to get Trubisky. That is certainly capital they could have used to improve their roster right now. That is certainly draft capital that would have benefitted them two to three years from now (but that line of thinking ignores that none of that would matter if they didn’t have a QB. It’s been said ad nauseum at this point, but look at every team that made the playoffs in 2015-16. Which ones are QB impoverished? Houston and Denver. Teams don’t win consistently without a QB.).
Pace said during his press conference that the Bears were fielding calls for the third pick in the draft. Teams he knew liked Trubisky. Which means those same teams were calling the 49ers at number two with the same aims. With Garrett gone and whoever else was on their short list likely not being a QB (thus, not nearly as valuable), Pace had only a few options. Sit at three and risk someone else swooping in to take the top QB in the draft or outbid teams to move up and ensure you get him. Were the Bears fleeced? Maybe. But if they were bluffed, it wasn't to go all-in on the turn. They simply were chasing a full-house on the river.
You sure wouldn't think the Bears were fleeced if you listened to the coverage of the trade and pick live - because the analysts had no idea what was happening. When the Bears moved up to two, the NFL Network panel all speculated that it was a move to get Solomon Thomas. If the talking heads at the NFL Network were certain the Bears were going after Thomas, how in the hell can they turn around and say Trubisky would been there at three? They had no clue! What's more, they were talking about Thomas as if a trade up to get him would have been a great deal.
In the NFL Draft, there are no guarantees until your turn comes around on the clock. The only people who have any idea how it is going to roll out are sitting in publicly subsidized board rooms (had to get that in there) who are paid to make those decisions. Everyone else is playing GM and very few are even qualified to do that.
In the NFL, the moves you make that get you fired are the same moves that earn you job security when they go right. It's the moves you don't make that earn you nothing and get you fired. Missing on a QB at number two gets you fired, not even drafting a QB at number two doesn't make your team markedly better and gets you fired. Hitting on a QB at number two? That earns you years of job security.
The only criticism that matters right here and now is based on the player. Is Trubisky worthy of being taken second overall? The consensus seems to be yes (I have serious doubts). If that's the case, the Bears made the right move. This wasn’t what the Saints did going after Ricky Williams, a trade based on an outdated idea of football value. The Bears went after a QB. If they miss, everyone gets fired. If they hit, this whole saga sinks into Lake Michigan.
The fact is that in the NFL, until you break through, every move you make is a step closer to getting you fired. Winning solves absolutely everything. Pace made a bold move for a player many teams thought highly of at a position all teams covet. How the rest of the story is written is up to them. All else is spin.
Rhys Dowbiggin @Rdowb
Rhys has worked six years in the public relations industry rubbing shoulders with movie stars (who ignored him) to athletes (who tolerated him). He likes tiki-taka football, jelly beans, and arguing with Bruce about everything.