Justin Fields has failed miserably so far through 15 NFL starts. Only Sam Darnold, Baker Mayfield, and Zach Wilson have been less accurate relative to expectations since the start of 2021. Through five games in 2022, only Mac Jones had a higher interception rate, and only Mayfield had a lower completion percentage.
Fields’ failures aren’t simply unsurprising; they were expected. The Chicago Bears roster was in shambles when he was a rookie, and so the team, with new GM Ryan Poles and new HC Matt Eberflus running the show… did nothing to help the young QB heading into Year 2.
Justin Fields Is Feeling the Sins of a Franchise
Maybe we should direct our ire toward Matt Rhule and the Carolina Panthers for allowing Chicago to draft Fields in the first place. Or perhaps that situation was as untenable. Maybe this was always just a numbers game, and two of the five quarters drafted in the first round in 2021 were bound to fail.
Either way, the situation for Fields is dire. He’s in the trenches getting shelled consistently. He’s doing his best to fire back, but he can’t seem to cross No Man’s Land, and there are no reinforcements on the horizon.
The Bears have never wavered from their reputation. The ’85 Bears had arguably the best defense ever, and the franchise’s entire being has revolved around being a defensive juggernaut in an offensive league.
Ridding the quarterback of former head coach Matt Nagy was a no-brainer. After Nagy’s fluke 2018 season, it became clear he wouldn’t be a head coach for very long. The franchise also decided it was time for general manager Ryan Pace to move on. The roster was in shambles. In a hilarious twist of fate, the Bears hired another Matt to be the head coach and another Ryan to play the role of general manager. Obviously, the jokes wrote themselves.
But as teams often do, they went the opposite from their previous head coaching hire. Instead of hiring a young, offensive-minded coach that could maximize Fields’ incredible potential, they went with a defensive-minded one.
Free agency then rolled around, and the Bears allowed 24-year-old James Daniels to head to Pittsburgh in one of the most team-friendly signings of the offseason. As a Steeler, Daniels has allowed a grand total of zero sacks and just four pressures through five games. Meanwhile, Fields has been pressured on 46% of his dropbacks. It doesn’t take a genius to know that’s not good.
Chicago took no steps to improve an underwhelming offensive line, and second-year offensive tackle Teven Jenkins looked like a bust before moving to right guard. Then, the 2022 NFL Draft rolled around.
Chicago had needs just about everywhere on the roster. Still, they invested a ton of assets into acquiring Fields the year prior, and nothing in the NFL matters if you don’t have the quarterback play necessary to succeed.
So with dire needs on the offensive line and at receiver, the Bears drafted defense with their first two picks in the draft. While Kyler Gordon and Jaquan Brisker are fine players, they do nothing for Fields’ progression.
George Pickens, Alec Pierce, and Skyy Moore were all available when Chicago was on the clock for both of their second-round picks. A host of linemen were also available at the time, including breakout offensive tackle Abraham Lucas.
Instead, Chicago went to the defensive well twice and then drafted Velus Jones Jr. with their next pick in Round 3. The receiver gained just 1,434 yards over his six-year college career.
Speed is essential in the NFL, now even more than ever. But this selection was questionable at best, despite Jones being an outstanding return man at the college level. Romeo Doubs and Khalil Shakir have both flashed as rookies and were available when the Bears drafted Jones.
Drafting a 24-year-old developmental receiver in Round 3 entering the NFL older than A.J. Brown entering his fourth NFL season is laughable. The team continued to fail their young QB in the offseason, even with new names in charge of the operation.
The Bears are an abject disaster. They are, as one television broadcaster once eloquently stated, “a hot mess, inside of a dumpster fire, inside of a train wreck.” And they willfully did it to themselves.
The Bears Offense Does Justin Fields No Favors
The biggest worry I had about Fields heading to Chicago was that their offensive line was terrible, and Fields’ best college trait was his intermediate passing ability. Yes, I know he’s one of, if not the most, inaccurate quarterbacks in the NFL right now. It would take legal blindness to miss that.
But it wasn’t always that way. And Fields still finds a way to keep reeling me back in because he still makes unbelievable intermediate throws.
Fields gets his eyes off his initial read, and all it takes is a little flash of color, and he delivers a dart from the far hash in stride. Making the complex look easy is what had many draft evaluators so excited about Fields. He did uncoachable things at an unbelievable level as a passer, with the best-ever athleticism and size to boot.
The problem is bringing out that part of his game is nearly impossible in Chicago. The offensive line may actually be outperforming their talent, but they have to hold on for so excruciatingly long that pressure naturally happens. I’d argue that the Bears are dialing up concepts that Fields is comfortable with.
That’s the rub when we discuss offenses. We can be critical of offensive concepts not setting teams up for success, but without being in the room, it’s impossible to know why those decisions are being made.
Implementing more quick game looks would do wonders for the Bears’ passing attack, but they’re practically non-existent. It wasn’t something we saw at Ohio State either. That could have been because Fields wasn’t comfortable with those passing concepts.
The QB is struggling all on his own. He’s clearly uncomfortable, and it’s negatively affecting his natural accuracy. Fields’ miss on second down in the red zone was inexcusable, in his own admission. Too often, receivers are open enough to make a throw, but Fields passes it up to try and avoid having to fit a pass into a tight window.
Too many passes fall off target, and most often, they’re simply leveraged too far away from trouble. That makes his egregious interception rate even more worrisome, considering he appears to try to be too careful at times. Fields is learning his reputation as an inaccurate passer, but that doesn’t mean draft analysts were blind during the draft process. And it doesn’t mean he’ll remain this way.
Fields Is Proving His Toughness Weekly
It pains me to watch offensive linemen peeling a young quarterback off the grass on a weekly basis. Against Washington, it was clear that Fields was in pain. You could see it on his face every time he was helped off the ground.
And yet, he still carried the ball 12 times and was hit another 12 times. Fields has a warrior spirit about him, but even with his dense frame, it feels unlikely that he survives the season to play all 17 games. Injury is a worry for any QB taking a hit on 38% of their dropbacks in a game.
He’s also consistently taken responsibility for his poor performances, which is the mentality you want in your franchise QB. Fields’ movie is far from finished, but unless Chicago takes significant strides during the offseason, it may continue as a horror film instead of a drama with a happy ending.