clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

I know the Bears are bad, but I’m still trying to determine whether Justin Fields is, too

Why is the Bears’ offense so impotent? Is it the scheme? The coaching? The receivers? The O-line? The inexperience? Or the lack of young quarterback talent?

The jury is still out on Bears rookie quarterback Justin Fields.
The jury is still out on Bears rookie quarterback Justin Fields.
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Here’s one takeaway from the Bears’ 25-24 road victory Sunday against the Seahawks: Maybe the quarterback situation truly is messed up.

And another: Maybe the Bears have been starting the wrong quarterback this season.

And finally: It’s possible young Justin Fields, the Bears’ 2021 first-round draft pick/savior for years to come, is a dud.

Let’s examine.

The Bears right now have three quarterbacks — two of whom are injured (Fields and Andy Dalton) — which gave third-stringer Nick Foles a chance to play.

As the game progressed on that icy, snowy field in Seattle, you kept waiting for Foles to prove he’s as antique and rusty as a barn nail. You knew the moment of failure was coming. And then it didn’t.

Foles’ passer rating was a decent 98.5. But his rating when it mattered — on the six-play, 80-yard touchdown drive that, coupled with the two-point conversion, won the game — was 158.3. Passer ratings don’t go any higher than that. Call it perfect.

Yes, it was only one game in a lost season for a 5-10 team with a coaching staff likely to be unloaded in a couple of weeks.

But it mattered because Bears coach Matt Nagy clearly felt pressured into starting the raw and uncertain Fields in 10 games this season — perhaps because he was as eager to see the 22-year-old play as fans were.

And the display by the former Ohio State star hasn’t been pretty.

That’s what we have come to expect from rookie quarterbacks in the NFL. There’s a long history of rookies flailing about.

One huge reason is that those high-draft-choice quarterbacks invariably go to lousy teams, where failure almost can be counted on.

Lucky are the rookies who go to places where they can play — or sit for a spell — on teams that have solid offenses and coaching.

Think of Dan Marino being drafted by the Super Bowl runner-up Dolphins in 1983 or Patrick Mahomes going to the Chiefs, who had averaged 11 victories a season the previous three years, in 2017.

Then there’s Steve Young, who came from the U.S. Football League and got to sit behind Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana with the 49ers, and Aaron Rodgers, who was drafted to sit and learn behind Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre with the Packers.

The Bears have no such luxury. They were a bad team when they drafted Fields, and they’re a bad team now.

And Fields — who came out of talent-laden Ohio State, a school that never has produced a great NFL quarterback — has been erratic this season.

As Nagy said Monday: ‘‘We’re aware that when you draft a quarterback, there’s going to be some experiences and time that he needs to be able to get better and let the game slow down for him.’’

The game looked slow for Foles on Sunday. And he’s a quarterback with half the athletic ability of Fields. Even Dalton, when healthy, seemed more in control than Fields.

All the rookie quarterbacks have struggled (at least at times) this season: the Jaguars’ Trevor Lawrence, the Jets’ Zach Wilson, Fields and the Patriots’ Mac Jones. The 49ers’ Trey Lance barely has played. Maybe he’s the lucky one.

What if the Bears had started Foles or Dalton all season — no controversy or yammering for Fields to play — and had something like an 8-7 record and possible playoff hopes? Would fans like that better? Isn’t winning games what we want?

Playing quarterback in the NFL — doing it well — is the most difficult thing in team sports. Nothing else compares. It’s like trying to make 15-foot putts while feral hogs charge at your legs.

Second-year quarterbacks can shine if they survive that first season. The Chargers’ Justin Herbert and the Bengals’ Joe Burrow are good examples. Herbert has thrown for 4,394 yards and 33 touchdowns so far this season, and Burrow just cranked out a 525-yard, four-touchdown victory Sunday against the Ravens. Both had their issues last season.

So we wonder: Why is the Bears’ offense so impotent? Is it the scheme? The coaching? The receivers? The O-line? The inexperience?

And the dreaded final question: Is it the lack of young quarterback talent?

People say Fields will learn, improve, stop fumbling, stay healthy, shine. It’s possible.

But is it certain? No way.

When Fields plays next season, Bears fans won’t be nearly as forgiving.

I wish the young man luck and a hard shell. He’s going to need both.