Buffalo Bills fans have been very excited about their franchise quarterback signing a long-term extension. Coming off an MVP runner-up season in 2020, when Bills fans thought about the quarterback position during the offseason, they thought about Josh Allen. The Bills’ front office, however, thought a little further than that, signing Mitchell Trubisky in free agency to give the team arguably the best backup quarterback in the NFL.
During last year’s Week 4 matchup with the Las Vegas Raiders, Allen shoveled the ball about 14 yards to Stefon Diggs in a desperate attempt to convert a third down. Allen landed on his shoulder and had to be taken into the locker room just before halftime. The Bills held their breath, hoping that Allen would be okay. Thankfully, he returned and led Buffalo to a win. But what if he hadn’t? It’s not a scenario that any fan, coach, or player wants to think about, but with a player like Allen, whose relentless, never-give-up attitude results in a lot of hits, it’s a question that has to be asked.
The Bills clearly pondered that question themselves and made a point to ensure that they’d be ready for anything. Matt Barkley served as the backup in Buffalo since he was signed in the middle of the 2018 season. He performed admirably in mop-up duty, as the only real playing time Barkley saw was in blowouts, when the game was out of reach, or when there was no other option – such as the Week 10 game against the New York Jets in 2018. Despite playing decently, it was clear that the team needed a better alternative should Allen go down again, especially in a “Super Bowl or Bust” season.
Enter free agent acquisition, and first-round “bust”, Mitchell Trubisky. Trubisky was likely seen by the Bills as having – broadly speaking – a similar skillset to Allen. While only players like Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes have an arm that is comparable to Josh Allen, Trubisky has a capable arm and similar mobility and athleticism to Buffalo’s new $258 million man. Unlike Barkley – who had a very different skillset from Allen – Trubisky’s similarities will allow the Bills to run a similar set of plays, and not have to completely rescheme the offense if the worst-case scenario arises and Trubisky needs to play.
Though Trubisky’s path to Buffalo isn’t one that he expected – going from the No. 2 overall pick in 2017 to an unceremonious exit in free agency from the Chicago Bears, he’s embracing his opportunity to rebuild his career with the Bills. Trubisky’s poor play certainly isn’t excused, but the environment around him changed quickly when he wasn’t developing the way the team anticipated. This understandably shook his confidence in himself and led him to question his future not only with the Bears, but with the NFL as a whole.
Trubisky addressed the media for the first time Tuesday and spoke about his tumultuous stretch in Chicago, explaining that he could feel the team believing in him less and less as time went on, and he wasn’t surprised when the team declined to exercise his fifth-year option.
“I kind of saw it coming, just the way I was progressing,” Trubisky told reporters. “Year 2 was really good and then Year 3 and 4, not as good. I was dealing with some injuries and some other things going on there, but like I said, it was disappointing but it wasn’t a surprise. Throughout the process, 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.”
The 26-year old acknowledged that while he hoped to sign with a team where he’d have the chance to start, his chance to learn from the Bills’ coaching staff while sitting behind Allen will prove extremely valuable.
“At first, I wanted to go to a spot where I would get to compete for a starting position, but the right situation didn’t come up and the opportunity wasn’t there,” he said. “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 and fell into this organization, and I loved it ever since coming to Buffalo.
If all goes well, Trubisky will never play a meaningful snap for the Bills in 2021 – something the fifth-year veteran readily accepts. With a chance to take a step back from the spotlight and really redefine who he is as a player and person, Trubisky can simply sit back and learn from some of the brightest young minds in the NFL – Josh Allen, offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, and Passing Game Coordinator/QB Coach Ken Dorsey.
In 2022, he’ll enter free agency armed with newfound knowledge and another year of experience under his belt to bring value to a new team. But right now, Trubisky is enjoying his new role and reclaiming his love for the game.
“It’s just really nice to be a part of a great team and be somewhere where people want you here, and they care about how you’re progressing as a person, as a player. It was an interesting process, but I feel like I’m right where I’m supposed to be right now, and I’m enjoying being here.”