Bears’ 31-10 loss to Jets without QB Justin Fields a reminder of how much there is to fix

It was easy to overlook how pockmarked with flaws this roster is when Fields was racing around setting records, but this was a reminder how long general manager Ryan Poles’ offseason to-do list will be.

SHARE Bears’ 31-10 loss to Jets without QB Justin Fields a reminder of how much there is to fix
A photo of Bears general manager Ryan Poles watching warmups.

Poles is staring at an enormous to-do list this offseason as he continues the Bears’ rebuild.

Nam Y. Huh/AP

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — There was a time recently when the Bears thought — perhaps correctly — they had everything but the quarterback. They think they’ve found one in Justin Fields, but now they don’t have much else.

With Fields out Sunday with a separated left (non-throwing) shoulder, the Jets laid bare the mountain of work the Bears face in addition to developing Fields. It was an unwanted trip back in time to the Matt Nagy era as the Bears lost 31-10 to a middling opponent.

‘‘We just got our [butt] kicked up front, honestly,’’ tight end Cole Kmet said. ‘‘That’s just what it was. They just played way better than we did.’’

It’s easy to overlook how pockmarked with flaws this roster is when Fields races around setting records and making games watchable even as defeats pile up, but this was a reminder of how lengthy general manager Ryan Poles’ offseason to-do list is.

Nothing has crippled the Bears through the years more than their boondoggles at quarterback, and nothing will influence their future more than Fields flourishing. But quarterback was hardly the only thing that got former GM Ryan Pace fired. There isn’t much here other than Fields, and the games are drab and inconsequential without him.

That leaves coach Matt Eberflus trying to hold a pedestrian roster to elite standards. It’s not going to work. Unless Fields can save the day, there are many more butt kickings to come until Poles makes major upgrades to the roster.

‘‘No excuses, no explanations, just wasn’t good enough,’’ Eberflus said.

That’s an admirable attitude, but there absolutely are valid excuses and explanations. This roster isn’t good, and the one player who can compensate for it wasn’t available.

Offensively, the Bears can count on receivers Darnell Mooney and Chase Claypool as part of their future, but there are no other certainties. Things are quite uncertain for Mooney, by the way, after he left the game with an ankle injury.

Backup quarterbacks such as Trevor Siemian can be viable for a game or two if everything around them is solid. When it’s not, however, it’s unreasonable to expect better than the 179 passing yards he put up Sunday.

That’s right around what Fields has been averaging lately, but something was missing. Oh, right: Siemian’s rushing total was a whopping eight yards on four carries. Fields’ world-class speed offsets a lot of the deficiencies around him. The rose-colored glasses come off when he’s not playing.

The Bears’ defense, meanwhile, is stocked with players who would have trouble finding starting jobs elsewhere. Jets backup quarterback Mike White lit them up for 315 yards, three touchdowns and an almost-perfect 149.3 passer rating.

That side of the ball should look better when safety Jaquan Brisker and cornerback Kyler Gordon get back on the field — both rookies are out with concussions — but there’s no other help on the way. Cornerback Jaylon Johnson is definitely a fixture, and safety Eddie Jackson was playing like a pillar before leaving with a non-contact injury to his left foot.

Everyone else is probably a placeholder.

The good news for the Bears is that as they sink — soar? — to a top-three pick in the 2023 draft, quarterback doesn’t seem to be a need. That means they can parlay the pick into multiple selections to solve multiple problems.

The list of needs starts with a fearsome pass rusher and continues with offensive linemen, explosive playmakers on offense and another cornerback.

The haul the Dolphins got for the No. 3 pick when the 49ers coveted quarterback Trey Lance is the model for what the Bears could land. By moving back to No. 12 in 2021, the Dolphins got a first- and third-rounder in 2022 and another first-rounder in 2023.

That’s the arsenal of picks it would take to turn this around quickly. And playing a game without Fields for the first time illuminated how much is missing.

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