Scott Fowler

Why Trubisky will never be more than an average NFL QB – and my Panthers-Bears prediction

Panthers Coach Rivera's key to the Chicago Bears is all about the run

Carolina Panthers Ron Rivera stresses the importance to establish the team's running game against the Chicago Bears and also to limit their ground game.
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Carolina Panthers Ron Rivera stresses the importance to establish the team's running game against the Chicago Bears and also to limit their ground game.

I was talking to a writer who covers the Chicago Bears this week for his podcast and he mentioned that I had written the most “scathing” pre-draft column about Mitchell Trubisky he had seen back in April.

This made me have to look back at the column, because I didn’t remember it to be very scathing. It really wasn’t – although it wasn’t complimentary, either. Just before the NFL draft, I wrote that Cleveland should avoid taking Trubisky No. 1 overall and also wrote this sentence: “I believe Clemson’s DeShaun Watson will ultimately be the better pro quarterback, while Trubisky will be an average NFL QB.”

I still believe all of that. Trubisky isn’t going to wash out of the league or anything. An “average” NFL starting quarterback can often get 6-10 decent years out of the league. But former Clemson star Watson – drafted No. 12 in that 2017 draft by Houston, while Trubisky went No. 2 overall to the Bears – is going to be the standout quarterback of this class. He will be considered a franchise quarterback. Ultimately, Trubisky will not be.

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Mitchell Trubisky threw 30 touchdown passes and only six interceptions in his one season as North Carolina’s full-time starter but also lost three of his final four games. Gerry Broome AP

My reasoning on Trubisky is not based on his decent athleticism or his fantastic arm. It’s based on the most important statistic – the fact he didn’t win enough in his one year as North Carolina’s starter.

Remember, Trubisky ran an absolutely loaded offense in Chapel Hill – far different from this year’s UNC team. Yet in his final four games, he lost to Duke (3-6 at the time), N.C. State (5-6 at the time) and Stanford (without Christian McCaffrey, who skipped the bowl game to avoid possible injury). UNC finished 8-5 in a season in which the Tar Heels had the talent to go at least 10-3.

Trubisky too often couldn’t convert on the final drive when he had a chance. Chicago fans saw an example of this in Trubisky’s first NFL start, when he threw a bad interception in a 17-17 game with less than three minutes to play deep in his own territory to set up Minnesota’s game-winning field goal.

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The workhorse of Chicago’s offense -- and the Carolina defense’s first priority Sunday -- will be running back Jordan Howard (getting a handoff from Mitchell Trubisky here). Howard ran for 167 yards last week in Chicago’s overtime win over Baltimore. Gail Burton AP

Yes, now that I wrote all that, Trubisky will probably throw for 400 yards and five touchdowns against the Panthers Sunday. Maybe he will end up being Tom Brady Part II and I will eat these words. But for me, and for the long term, I sure would rather have Watson.

▪  Carolina is one of three NFL teams to not allow either a 100-yard rusher or 100-yard receiver this season (along with Minnesota and Miami). That will be tested mostly on the ground Sunday, as Chicago likes to ride workhorse tailback Jordan Howard (167 yards on 36 carries last week).

▪  Prediction time. I have correctly called upsets the past two weeks – picking Carolina to upset Detroit on the road and then choosing Philadelphia to upset Carolina in Charlotte.

This time, though, I am going with the favorite. The Panthers are simply more talented than Chicago. Unless Carolina commits at least three turnovers, that should be enough.

My pick: Carolina 30, Chicago 17.

Scott Fowler: 704-358-5140, @scott_fowler

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