One week after facing possibly the best team in the NFL, the Bears take on potentially the worst team in the 1-10 San Francisco 49ers. But before you order your victory chicken for Monday, consider this: the real story will be the first 49ers start of Jimmy Garoppolo, the QB that many think the Bears could have had instead of the guy he will be facing on Sunday, Mitch Trubisky.
Look, I’m not ready to anoint Garoppolo as the next Tom Brady any more than I’m going to tell you that Trubisky is a bust. But the reason that this is the real story is that the Niners acquired Garoppolo for just a second round pick. Plus, when two teams who have nothing to play for go at it, you need additional story-lines.
Only time will tell who will end up being the better QB, but it’s fair to question what Bears GM Ryan Pace did on draft day. He made a trade to move up one spot to get his guy, which is fine as long as he was the only QB out there that he felt had a chance to be their franchise QB.
But the thing is, while he wasn’t available at the time, many felt that Garoppolo would eventually be moved by the Patriots, and that’s exactly what happened. Garoppalo has learned from the best QB and top coach in the NFL, had some seasoning and looked to be a franchise QB.
Instead, Pace went for a project, and got his guy rather than wait for a QB that may have never become available. That’s understandable, but scouts knew that this next draft was going to be a much stronger QB class, and the long-necked giraffe Mike Glennon was paid a lot of money and was expected to start the entire season anyway, so the Bears could have waited.
To make matters worse, it seems that Frisco fleeced Pace by creating phantom teams that wanted to move up to get Trubisky, something that turned out to be folly. Meanwhile, a potentially better QB and one that was certainly more NFL-ready was sitting there just waiting to be taken in Deshaun Watson.
Check my posts—this is not second-guessing, I wanted Watson all along. Actually, I didn’t want them to draft a QB in the first round at all.
But that’s all water under Lake Michigan now, and so on Sunday when these two teams line up, all eyes will be on the young QBs, Mitchell Trubisky and Jimmy Garoppolo. Week 13 brings teams that have nothing but pride on the line at Soldier Field and while many think the Bears are going to win, don’t bet the rent on it.
Sure, the Niners are vying for worst team, but so are the Bears. And even though Garoppolo can’t possibly know the playbook that well yet, and it’s his first start of the year, Trubisky hasn’t played well and has nobody to throw to. So it’s anybody’s game, really.
Anyway, why care about the outcome when you can sit and watch two young QBs with much upside and whom their respective teams have so much riding on. And one can’t help but think that the Niners are still snickering over the Bears decision to swap the No. 2 and No. 3 pick, so this stuff is more juicy than the actual outcome of the game.
Over the next several seasons, this will certainly be something of interest to watch for both teams, as each organization has high hopes for its respective signal-caller. Garoppolo turned 26 in November, while Trubisky is just 23. But Trubisky had only 13 starts in college, so despite the fact that he has started seven consective games, he is just as raw as Garoppolo, who has started two games in the NFL and will be making his first one for San Francisco on Sunday.
To make matters more interesting, Garoppolo is a local product out of Eastern Illinois, so he was right under the Bears’ collective noses. When Brady was injured in 2016, Garoppolo was anointed the starter until he, too, went down with injury. He won both of those starts, completing 68.3% of his passes for 502 yards, with four TDs and zero interceptions.
Meanwhile, Trubisky has struggled, although to be fair, he lacks play-makers. Additionally, offensive guru Kyle Shanahan coaches Garoppolo, which should be a big advantage. In seven starts, Mitchell has completed just 52.8% of his passes. His accuracy was something that was said to be a positive for Trubisky in college, and was one of the traits that Pace identified when he drafted him.
Trubisky has thrown four TDs and been picked off four times. His QB rating is an anemic 70.8. He is averaging 111 yards per start. Garoppolo has yet to start a game this season, throwing just two passes, completing both, one for a TD following an injury to CJ Beathard. Most scouts sing high praises for him.
Physically, they are almost twins. Trubisky is 6’2″, 222 and Garoppolo is listed as 6’2″, 226. But it was not his size or even his arm strength that emboldened Garoppolo to scouts back in 2014. They loved his mechanics. His fundamentals were considered near-perfect.
Pace liked a lot of the same things about Trubisky, too. However, even Mitch admits his footwork needs improvement. “Usually that leads to bad accuracy and then timing,” Trubisky said. “Because of bad footwork and bad timing, it caused a couple throws to be off.”
Regardless of what is the current state, we won’t know the real final plot twist until two or three years from now. It will be fun to watch, and Sunday is just the start.
I realize that hindsight is 20/20, but you can’t help wondering “what if…”?
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