With the all-important third preseason game between the Chicago Bears and Kansas City Chiefs on Saturday afternoon, both fan bases will be locked in on the performances of second-year quarterbacks Mitchell Trubisky and Pat Mahomes.
The glorified dress-rehearsal always draws massive overreactions and over-analysis. This year’s matchup is sure to do the same, especially when it comes to Trubisky and Mahomes. You can expect plenty of comparisons during and after Saturday’s exhibition.
But even well after the game wraps up, those comparisons will likely carry on. It easily could be a week-to-week, season-to-season exercise you can’t escape. From social media to the talking heads, everyone will weigh in whenever either quarterback excels or struggles. And the other one’s name will surely come up.
Comparing Trubisky and Mahomes is pretty easy. Both quarterbacks were top-10 picks in the 2017 NFL Draft, and each was acquired at a hefty price tag. The Bears famously moved up from third to second overall, swapping picks with the San Francisco 49ers and trading a package of two third-round picks and a fourth-round pick.
The Chiefs also gave up a decent haul for Mahomes, trading their No. 27 overall pick, a third-round pick and a future first-round pick to move up to No. 10 overall. The Chiefs reportedly were high on Trubisky entering the draft and considered moving up to take him. Bears head coach Matt Nagy, who was the Chiefs’ offensive coordinator at the time, said Trubisky impressed them during pre-draft meetings.
Both quarterbacks also were selected ahead of DeShaun Watson. Watson, who was selected No. 12 overall by the Houston Texans, was on pace for a record-setting rookie season before tearing his ACL in November.
While Watson threw for 1,699 yards, 19 touchdowns and eight interceptions with a 103 QB rating in just seven games, Trubisky and Mahomes still came out of their first years as question marks. Trubisky was baptized under fire in 12 starts as a rookie. Surrounded by below-average playmakers and play calling, he threw for just 2,193 yards, seven touchdowns and seven interceptions with a 77.5 QB rating.
Mahomes, on the other hand, sat for all but one game last year. His only action of the season came in week 17 with the division title and playoff seeding wrapped up. Mahomes started in a 27-24 win over the Denver Broncos, throwing for 284 yards and an interception.
Their draft stock isn’t the only factor that makes them easily comparable. Both face eerily similar expectations heading into 2018.
Mahomes is being asked to take an already highly productive offense and kick it up a notch. While his predecessor Alex Smith performed at a Pro-Bowl pace in 2017, head coach Andy Reid viewed Mahomes’ elite arm strength and athleticism as assets that could expand the playbook even further.
With the cupboard stocked full of weapons like Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce and Kareem Hunt, he is under immense pressure to not only keep the Chiefs in the playoff picture but also help them contend for a Super Bowl.
Whereas Mahomes is being plugged into a ready-made offense, the Bears did the opposite by plugging in pieces around Trubisky. GM Ryan Pace hired Nagy, who’s a Reid disciple instrumental in Mahomes’ development last year.
Pace also spent the offseason adding playmakers like Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Trey Burton and rookie Anthony Miller. Sprinkle in the returning running back combo of Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen, and it’s all systems go… at least in the mind of Bears fans and so-called experts.
Trubisky might be under an even brighter spotlight than Mahomes. He’s not only being asked to significantly improve the unit from 30th overall, but he’s also tasked with taking an offensively anemic franchise into the 21st Century. That’s a tall order for a quarterback who only made 13 collegiate starts and was handcuffed his entire rookie year.
Seeing both quarterbacks unleashed and on full display will be exciting. What makes the comparisons between the two valid is that the intrigue is almost identical.
They’re raw, athletic quarterbacks who look the part. Each has the arm and skills to play at a high level, and they’re surrounded by explosive weapons and strong tutors who should help them succeed. A lot of young QBs would kill to be in a similar situation
But can Trubisky and Mahomes process the game fast enough to be Pro-Bowl caliber signal callers? That ability is what separates greats quarterbacks from the mediocre ones. Given the draft equity used to acquire them, both franchises certainly hope their guy can.
Because if only one of them takes the next step, the other team won’t hear the end of it.