Justin Fields might be the quarterback Bears fans have craved for decades.
He might be the single athlete who makes Chicagoans smile, say hi to strangers, feel the world is a warm and lovely place and not a sinkhole.
He might be the guy.
And, for the moment, let’s assume he is. Let’s assume Fields, all of 22 and never having played a down in a regular-season NFL game, is so talented that he makes the Chiefs’ wondrous Patrick Mahomes jealous.
Let’s assume he can throw darts like Aaron Rodgers, scramble like Michael Vick, read defenses like Tom Brady and lead like Johnny Unitas.
We’re talking Hall of Famer-to-be.
It all might be there in this 6-3, 228-pound package. Fields has been a star his entire football career, starting at Harrison High School in Kennesaw, Georgia, where he was Mr. Georgia Football in January 2018, with a guy named Trevor Lawrence just 20 miles away. Fields ran a 4.44-second 40-yard dash at Ohio State’s pro day, and that’s fast enough to circle a guy such as Brady or Rodgers a couple of times before they get started.
Then you look at passing skills, winning ability and leadership, and Fields seems to have it all.
He never lost a Big Ten game as a starter, and everybody around him praises his ‘‘quiet leadership’’ and team-oriented focus. He’s not a loudmouth; he’s a listener and a doer.
‘‘Just his demeanor, his poise,’’ Bears running back David Montgomery said. ‘‘He doesn’t carry himself as a rookie.’’
Veteran tight end Jimmy Graham is even more effusive, saying Fields ‘‘definitely reminds me a lot of Russell Wilson.’’
That’s quality praise, given that Wilson has led the Seahawks to the playoffs eight times and gone to seven Pro Bowls in his career. He holds the NFL record for the most regular-season victories in his first nine seasons (98) and, maybe most impressive, has started all 160 games — regular season and playoffs — since he joined the Seahawks.
Fields is a lot bigger than Wilson, but he runs like the smaller man, and the hope is always that Fields doesn’t get plastered while doing it. In short, the Bears need a savior who lasts.
Fields took an ominous shot against Clemson in the College Football Playoff semifinals last season that Bears coach Matt Nagy says he wouldn’t like him to take again. It’s a fact that an injured star quarterback is a doubly messed-up thing. Not only can’t he play, but his team often has no backup plan. (See the 1985 Super Bowl Bears and the ever-injured Jim McMahon for reference here.)
Fields has looked very good in his early apprenticeship under veteran teacher and starter-for-the-moment Andy Dalton. Yes, Fields looks like something very special. But it’s so early.
Of course, there’s a lingering concern about his college pedigree. We all know Ohio State is not exactly the Cradle of Quarterbacks. Or, rather, not the Cradle of Quarterbacks Who Tear Up the Pros.
Think of Rex Kern, Craig Krenzel, Art Schlichter, Dwayne Haskins, Cardale Jones, Braxton Miller, J.T. Barrett and Terrelle Pryor here.
Ohio State has had 85 players taken in the first round of the NFL Draft, more than any other school. And sometimes that makes it hard to assess how a Buckeyes kid will do with comparatively less talent around him and against much better foes.
NFL.com writes its prospect information after each NFL combine, and Fields was praised by the website for his ‘‘good size and stout lower body to stave off sacks/tackles,’’ his ‘‘toughness and willingness to do whatever it takes’’ and his willingness ‘‘to take a big hit to deliver a pass.’’
But his negatives included ‘‘below-average feel for edge pressure,’’ ‘‘stagnant eyes’’ and the need to ‘‘improve eye manipulation as a pro.’’
That technical stuff’s only as good as some general manager wants it to be. Remember, Bears GM Ryan Pace traded up to get alleged quarterback savior Mitch Trubisky with the second pick in the 2017 draft in part, we must assume, because reports said he was the real deal.
Think about it: Who doesn’t have stagnant eyes every now and then?
So let’s dream a bit. Let’s see the future with Fields being as bright as a sunrise over Indiana.
We’ve had lots of previous dark nights to pay for it.