Three Quarterbacks on the hot seat

Trubisky: Boom or bust

Matthew Rago, Sports Editor

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Mitchell Trubisky

When the Chicago Bears traded the third overall pick, a third round pick (no. 67) and a fourth round pick (No. 111) to move up one position in the 2017 NFL draft, they were expecting to land a franchise quarterback. General manager Ryan Pace had his sights set on University of North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky, who had only started 13 games at UNC before making the jump to the NFL. Trubisky’s ability to both patiently navigate the pocket while using his athleticism to evade pass rushers proved too enticing for Pace to pass up.

Fast forward to 2019 and Trubisky has failed to take the proverbial next step. Disgruntled Bears fans were eager to see their team move on from Jay Cutler, believing  that Cutler was just good enough to keep the Bears competitive, but not talented enough to elevate a team to championship contention. The Bears faithful let out a collective sigh of relief when the team signaled their intention to move on from Cutler and move forward with Trubisky after a brief-yet-forgettable few games under Mike Glennon.  

Unfortunately, Trubisky, at his best, has been a lateral move from Jay Cutler while, at his worst he could easily be considered a downgrade. At this point in his career, the game seems to move too fast for Trubisky, who has developed a bad habit of locking in on his primary target and forcing errant throws into double coverage. The pocket patience that he displayed at North Carolina has all but disappeared, leading to premature scrambles and clumsy reads. Additionally, Trubisky’s inability to consistently throw downfield has handcuffed the Bears offense, forcing them to rely on quick slants and checkdowns for short gains.

In the interest of fairness, head coach Matt Nagy deserves his fair share of blame. His disproportionate pass-to-run ratio telegraphs the Bears’ game plan to opposing defenses. Nagy also has a tendency to get too cute on important downs, taking a straightforward situation and making it more complicated than necessary. Overthinking oftentimes negates the strengths of Nagy’s roster; rather than relying on the strengths of his skill position players, Nagy utilizes second and third string players as though they are shiny new toys waiting to be appreciated.  But Matt Nagy is the reigning Coach of the Year while Trubisky, despite being named to the Pro Bowl last season, is still considered an unproven commodity.

Trubisky’s lack of development-some may even say he is in the midst of a regression-is disheartening and will force the Bears’ front office into making a difficult choice should Trubisky find himself unable to take the next step forward.

Marcus Mariota

Drafted second overall out of the University of Oregon, Mariota was considered a can’t-miss prospect.  His ability to dissect defenses with both his arm and legs earned him the Heisman Trophy, the first in the history of Oregon football. Analysts even projected Mariota as a more proficient version of Colin Kaepernick back before Kaepernick was ostracized from the league.

In 2016, everything seemed to come together for Mariota. In just his second season, Mariota threw for 26 touchdowns against only nine interceptions. One year later, Mariota regressed drastically in both categories, throwing for 13 touchdowns against 15 interceptions

Injuries have taken their toll on Mariota. His straight-line speed was rare for the quarterback position, though his agility has since been stunted after suffering a pair of grade 2 MCL strains during the 2015 season. His passing ability, while not elite, is adequate. His arm strength, however, leaves a lot to be desired, particularly after an elbow injury left Mariota unable to properly grip a football. 

Furthermore, the Titans have had to downgrade their offensive scheme in order to accomodate Mariota. Early in his career, Mariota excelled under a run-heavy offensive scheme that afforded him a litany of options to confuse opposing defenses. Since his injuries, however, the Titans have been forced to shrink the field and rely on a short game that is unbefitting of a competent NFL offense. The Titans are essentially running an elementary offensive scheme to compensate for Mariota’s limitations and injuries.

Mariota’s performance in the Tennessee Titans’ week 1 victory over the Cleveland Browns had fans salivating at the prospect of a Mariota breakthrough. However, since week 1, Mariota’s quarterback rating has steadily declined, reinforcing the prevailing narrative that Mariota has made himself expendable, particularly after the Titans acquisition of Ryan Tannehill. Unfortunately, with each passing week it seems more likely that injuries and inconsistencies will define Mariota’s career, making him one of the great what-if stories of the NFL.

Jameis Winston

Like Mariota, Jameis Winston was considered a can’t-miss prospect when he was selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with the first overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.  Also like Mariota, his ability to read a developing play and move through progressions earned him a Heisman Trophy. However, Winston has always exhibited startling patterns of immaturity, even for an 18-year-old. In college, Winston was handcuffed and subsequently released for shooting a pellet gun at squirrels. Immediately after being released from custody, he was instrumental in inflicting approximately $4,200 worth of damage with the same weapons. 

Over a nine-month period, Winston was twice accused of stealing from restaurants, once cited for stealing soda and again for stealing approximately $32 worth of crab legs. 

He has twice been was accused of sexual assault, first as a freshman at Florida State University and again in 2016 when he was accused of groping an Uber driver without her consent.  

Whether it is petty theft or allegations of sexual assault, Winston’s decision making has been reprehensible and unbefitting of a franchise quarterback. 

Of secondary concern is Winston’s propensity for turning over the football. Since entering the league in 2015, Winston has accounted for a league-worst 80 turnovers. Last year, in only eleven games, Winston was responsible for 17 turnovers, more than six teams’ aggregate 2018 totals (Packers, Saints, Seahawks, Bengals, Cowboys, and Texans). Irresponsible decision making, both on and off the field, and inexcusable errors have tanked Winston’s stock and with his rookie deal expiring after this season, it may be time for the Bucs to explore other options.

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