More than a few people called me “old’’ for writing that Chicago never learns when it comes to falling head over heels for the Bears’ next can’t-miss quarterback. And “old” again for writing that the most recent model, Justin Fields, might be better served by watching and learning from veteran Andy Dalton in 2021.
I have, of course, retained counsel and will be suing everyone for ageism. Do I pay by check or S&H Green Stamps?
The Bears traded up to take Fields with the 11th overall pick in the April draft. The giddy public reaction to the selection was reminiscent of the day World War II ended, with crowds partying on downtown streets and complete strangers kissing nurses, who have also hired lawyers. The savior had finally arrived for Bears fans. They were sure he would be unlike all those other saviors over all those other years.
I hope Fields turns out to be The One, but I suggested in a recent column that pumping the brakes just a tad on the Bears’ quarterback clown car might soften the emotional impact if he turns out to be like all the franchise’s other disappointments at the position. He’s extremely athletic, and he was very successful at Ohio State. But he did have some rough games, including a poor effort against Northwestern last season, when he completed 12 of 27 passes for 114 yards, and threw two interceptions and no touchdown passes. For pointing this out, I was told that if joy ever died, I would be the natural choice for presider at its funeral.
It’s not easy being alone. But, as it turns out, I’m not. NBC Sports analyst Chris Simms, who spent seven seasons playing quarterback in the NFL, annually ranks the top 40 QBs in the league. He has started releasing this year’s list in spurts, and he has Fields ranked — cover your eyes, children — 39th. It’s not all bad news. Fields did beat out Browns backup Case Keenum, who is ranked 40th.
Simms is 40. Is that old? Is he having age-related cognitive issues? Maybe. Probably. I don’t know. Where did I put my dentures?
What Simms is saying, in the face of a massive, ongoing Chicago pep rally for Fields, is that he just doesn’t know about the kid yet. Is that so wrong?
“Special running ability,” Simms tweeted. “Arm is top notch. Could be a top 20 QB halfway through the season. But his bad mechanics scare me a lot ... led to bad incompletions on routine NFL throws. I am rooting for him, hope he makes me eat my words this season.”
Simms went into more detail on his podcast, “Chris Simms Unbuttoned.’’
“The throwing mechanics are really my biggest issues — the inconsistencies there,’’ he said. “Too many slam-dunk NFL completions that were left as incomplete in the college game. That bothered me. He is a little bit of a boom-or-bust prospect. … There’s got to be things he has to clean up, and I have to see (that) first before I can put him in front of some other guys.”
Simms raised another point that should concern Bears fans: Does coach Matt Nagy and his staff have the expertise to correct Fields’ flaws? They couldn’t get it done when it came to former Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky, though that might have had more to do with the student than the teachers. Fields would seem to have a much higher ceiling than Trubisky. Right? RIGHT?
Simms said he has heard from angry Bears fans about his evaluation of Fields. The reaction is much like the grief that former Browns general manager Mike Lombardi received from Bears fans in 2018 for his criticism of Trubisky.
“You couldn’t get me to buy Mitchell Trubisky if you had him on a discount rack at Filene’s Basement,” he said on a SiriusXM radio show. “There’s no chance. He can’t throw the ball inbounds half the time.
“It’s a joke. I was in Chicago this week and all I saw were Trubisky jerseys. And I’m thinking, ‘You people are crazy. You’re going to be selling them in three years.’ There’s no way.”
How dare he rip our young, freshly scrubbed, eager-to-please Mitch!
Except … he was right.
Last year, Simms had Tua Tagovailoa ranked 40th, and the jury is still very much out on him after his rookie season with the Dolphins. In brighter news for Bears fans, Simms had the Chargers’ Justin Herbert ranked 37th. Herbert went on to win the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year award.
And then there’s this: Simms seemed to imply Wednesday on “The Dan Patrick Show’’ that Dalton, No. 1 on the team’s depth chart at quarterback, didn’t even make his top 40 for 2021.
Hey, don’t shoot me, folks. I’m just the toothless, wrinkled, hairy-eared messenger.