Great­ness is a long shot for Tru­bisky, but his com­po­sure is the first step

Chicago Sun-Times - - SPORTS - RICK TELANDER rte­ | @rick­te­lander

Ial­ways won­der what it is we ex­pect — ver­bally — from a pro ath­lete whose worth is con­stantly ques­tioned, who’s asked why he failed. I’m think­ing of Mitch Tru­bisky here. A press mem­ber says some­thing like, “You know, Mitch, your ca­reer passer rat­ing is 85.8. Which stinks. Ex­plain.”

Do we re­ally want him to say, tears form­ing, “It’s just that I’m no good. Ryan Pace never should have drafted me No. 2 over­all. I’m av­er­age at best. No, let’s be hon­est. I’m ter­ri­ble.” Open weep­ing would come next. I sup­pose the cyn­i­cal me­dia horde would turn away, at first shocked, then dust­ing hands, smug with suc­cess.

No, it is a mea­sure of an ath­lete’s makeup that he/she never agrees with the naysay­ers. Even when the naysay­ers are right.

To be great at any­thing — to even at­tempt to be great at any­thing — a com­peti­tor must re­sist all mes­sages of doom and gloom.

How would David have fared if he moped around be­fore his Go­liath thing, mum­bling to the Is­raelites (sounds best in an Eey­ore voice), “I’m lit­tle. I’m weak. I’m gonna get my a-- handed to me by a freak­ing gi­ant! Woe is me.”

Not good. Not a cham­pion.

So I am, in a sense, proud of Tru­bisky for not giv­ing in. I’m proud that even when goaded con­stantly, he keeps his chin high — his “dauber up,” as they say (or said back when I was a youth).

The guy won the Bears’ quar­ter­back com­pe­ti­tion with Nick Foles, fair and square.

Foles him­self is a good man, quite suc­cess­ful at times, a tough com­peti­tor, but gov­erned by sports­man­ship. His re­sponse to head coach Matt Nagy when told of the quar­ter­back derby out­come was to ask if he could phone Tru­bisky and con­grat­u­late him.

That’s de­cency.

That’s sports­man­ship.

Yeah, you say — so what? This isn't about role-mod­el­ing and brownie points.

Quite true.

And the odds of Tru­bisky hav­ing changed in his fourth year as a starter from a bust to a beauty are very slim.

I tried to find stats show­ing great NFL quar­ter­backs who were av­er­age to bad for three sea­sons, then bloomed like orchids. There’s all kinds of stuff in the stat ar­chives, and quar­ter­backs’ ca­reers of­ten go all over the place like pin­balls. But here’s a sam­pling:

Pey­ton Man­ning had a break­out sec­ond year for the Colts, then a good third year, then a bad fourth year. So there’s that.

Jour­ney­man Wade Wil­son was fi­nally pretty good in his sev­enth year. Vinny Tes­taverde at last had a sea­son that jus­ti­fied his be­ing picked No. 1 in the 1987 NFL Draft in his — hold on — 12th year.

But, here we go — Packers quar­ter­back and Hall of Famer Brett Favre fi­nally lit it up in his fourth year as the starter, pass­ing for 4,413 yards, 38 touch­downs and just 13 in­ter­cep­tions. Over his first three sea­sons, he went for 70 touch­downs and 51 in­ter­cep­tions.

It can hap­pen.

NFL teams are al­most al­ways search­ing for the next great quar­ter­back. It comes with the game. The quar­ter­back is all-im­por­tant, so much more vi­tal than any other po­si­tion that you get two young QBs, the Chiefs’ Pa­trick Ma­homes and the Texans’ De­shaun Wat­son — both en­ter­ing their fourth year — sign­ing com­bined deals worth some­where around $700 mil­lion.

You know, as does ev­ery­one, that the Bears could have drafted ei­ther one of those stel­lar play­ers in­stead of Tru­bisky. So be it.

It all just makes Tru­bisky open to end­less crit­i­cism. Gen­eral man­ager Pace, too.

“I just ac­cepted it as a chal­lenge,” Tru­bisky said Mon­day. “It re­ally pushed me ev­ery day men­tally to just want to get bet­ter and want to prove ev­ery­one wrong and make sure that this was still my team.”

Gotta like that. I mean, he could have wept and hid in a cor­ner of the weight room, shel­ter­ing be­hind tack­ling dum­mies and JUGS ma­chines.

Not ev­ery team can be as lucky as, say, the 49ers were when they had Hall of Famers Joe Mon­tana and Steve Young for a com­bined 21 years. Or the Packers with Favre and now Aaron Rodgers for — amaz­ing! — 29 years.

Why would Tru­bisky sud­denly get bet­ter now, get . . . good?

I have no idea. Ex­cept maybe hard work, men­tal and phys­i­cal devel­op­ment. And con­fi­dence.

And what is con­fi­dence? It’s know­ing you’re good, be­cause you’ve been good, and you are good.

Mitch, just do it.


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