Mitchell Trubisky knew that his time in Chicago was coming to an end a year before it actually did.
In the spring of 2020, the Bears opted against exercising the fifth-year option on the original contract they awarded Trubisky after making him the second overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, a rather uncommon occurrence when it involves a quarterback.
When that happened, the Bears might as well have just rented a plane to fly over the quarterback’s Chicagoland home with a banner that read “It’s been nice knowing you” as they plunged Trubisky into a state of limbo.
The decision meant that barring a breakthrough performance in 2020 that could not be ignored, the team had already made up its mind that it was going to move on from Trubisky and allow him to test the free agent market heading into 2021.
“I kind of saw it coming, just the way I was progressing,” Trubisky said Tuesday following practice with his new Buffalo Bills teammates. “Year two was really good and then year three and four, not as good; I was dealing with some injuries and some other things going on there. It was disappointing but it wasn’t a surprise. You can kind of see that they were just continuously believing in me less and less and that’s just kind of how that process went.”
Trubisky’s agents pursued opportunities where he could compete for a starting job, but nothing came to fruition.
“Not as many options as you think,” Trubisky said of his market. “It was a very interesting free agency process for me, first time going through it, so I tried to be patient … tried to reach out to a lot of people that I trust. At first I wanted to go to a spot where I would be able to compete for a starting position, but the right situation didn’t come up.”
So Trubisky made the decision to take what he could get, even if it was a clear cut backup job, so that he could continue to work on his game and hopefully take another swing at the market in 2022.
The Bills were thrilled to hear that and they pounced quickly, offering a one-year, $2.5 million deal for him to caddie for Josh Allen.
“I looked at the next best thing where I could continue to develop and continue to progress and become a better player and a person,” he said. “I fell into this organization and I’ve loved it ever since coming to Buffalo. Just working with this coaching staff, being with the caliber type of players that we’ve got here, the people, and using all the resources, it’s just really nice to be a part of a great team.”
Allen has ascended to superstar status following his 2020 performance and as of last week, he’s now being paid like one, too. He is as entrenched as any starter in the league, but at least now, if something were to happen to him, the Bills have a backup who would, in all likelihood, be able to step in and keep the offense from falling apart.
“Mitch has been a really good addition since he’s been here,” said offensive coordinator Brian Daboll. “A guy that’s played 50-some games, has seen a lot of football. Standing back at that position, it’s different than watching it from the press box or watching it from the sideline or anything like that. There’s things that have happened to him throughout his young career so far that I think can help Josh and assist Josh, and vice-versa. I’m glad we have Mitch.”
Said Allen: “Yeah, Mitch has been awesome. He’s quickly developed into one of my good friends. He comes in with a great attitude every day and he’s working his tail off and he’s not afraid to ask questions about the offense. He’s here to help this team win in whatever way that may be. We’re lucky to have him, I’ll tell you that.”
Trubisky was a lightning rod for criticism throughout his rocky four-year tenure in Chicago. The Bears traded up to the No. 2 spot in the 2017 draft to get him, and that move raised eyebrows the moment commissioner Roger Goodell announced the pick.
The native of Mentor, Ohio had been a starter in college just one season at North Carolina and the draft community was split regarding his NFL pedigree. It also didn’t help him or the Bears that later in that first round, the Chiefs picked Patrick Mahomes 10th overall and the Texans took Deshaun Watson at No. 12.
Clearly, Trubisky never breathed in the same stratosphere as those two during their first four years in the league together, but while his 64 TDs and 37 interceptions and a 87.2 passer rating were mediocre, he wasn’t as bad as many in Chicago painted him to be.
“You’re playing in one of the biggest markets in the country and it’s a tough football town,” he said of Chicago. “I went out there and won games. People are always gonna have something to say about your journey and what everything goes to, but not everybody could have done what I did.”
What he did was produce a regular season record of 29-21 as a starter and helped get the Bears to the playoffs twice. Pre-Allen, Bills fans would have gladly taken the record Trubisky put together in Chicago, but in the Windy City, it wasn’t enough.
In 2018 he led the Bears to the NFC Central crown when he won 11 of the 14 games he started, but that season ended bitterly with a 16-15 home field loss to the Eagles, a game in which Trubisky threw for 303 yards and a touchdown.
Last year he split the starts with Nick Foles and while the Bears were 2-5 under Foles, they were 6-3 under Trubisky. Again, though, the Bears lost in the postseason, this time 21-9 at New Orleans and Trubisky passed for just 199 yards in his final Chicago appearance.
“I really don’t like to dwell on the past and I don’t want to go too far into it, but the point of this game is to win,” he said. “Stats are stats, numbers are numbers. What I was trying to do is go out there and win games so I feel like now, if given the opportunity, I could go out there and help my team win. I know my role here and I’m just trying to get better. But the past is past, I’m not really trying to dwell on it. People are always gonna have something to say, but I’m just happy to be where I am right now.”
Sal Maiorana can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @salmaiorana.