Bears need to help Justin Fields like Dolphins bolstered Tua Tagovailoa
The Bears helped Fields at the trade deadline. The Dolphins, however, have been building around Tagovailoa since they drafted him.
The Bears finally helped quarterback Justin Fields at the trade deadline.
The Dolphins, however, have been building around quarterback Tua Tagovailoa since they drafted him — even when they weren’t sure he was the answer.
The difference between the approaches will be on display when Tagovailoa leads the NFL’s best passing offense Sunday at Soldier Field. The third-year quarterback has the highest passer rating in the league and two of the NFL’s top four receivers.
Tagovailoa is 5-0 in games he finishes — he missed two starts after a scary concussion — and has been sacked on only 4.1% of his dropbacks, the fifth-best mark in the league. Pro Football Focus grades him as its third-best quarterback, one spot ahead of Chiefs star Patrick Mahomes.
None of it is by accident.
The Bears only have begun to invest in Fields. Trading for Steelers receiver Chase Claypool on Tuesday was the largest offensive commitment general manager Ryan Poles has made since being hired in January. The Bears will have the most salary-cap space in the NFL this offseason and, for only the second time in the last five years, will have their own first-round pick.
Poles only can hope to build the structure around Fields that the Dolphins have established around Tagovailoa in the last 2½ years.
The Dolphins gave Tagovailoa two tackles, two receivers and a play-caller — and paid a steep price to do it. Consider:
• Less than two hours after drafting Tagovailoa fifth overall in 2020, the Dolphins drafted right tackle Austin Jackson 18th. The Bears haven’t drafted a tackle that high since they took Chris Williams 14th in 2008.
• In 2021, they chose Alabama receiver Jaylen Waddle sixth overall. The Bears never have drafted a receiver that high.
• In February, they hired 49ers offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel as their head coach and play-caller. A month earlier, bucking league trends, the Bears made Matt Eberflus the only defensive coordinator in the hiring cycle to get a head-coaching job without already working for the franchise.
• In March, they signed Saints left tackle Terron Armstead to a five-year deal worth $43.4 million guaranteed and up to $87.5 million overall. The Bears never have written a check that large for a tackle.
• One day later, they dealt five draft picks for Chiefs receiver Tyreek Hill, then gave him a four-year, $120 million extension with $72.2 million guaranteed. It was the largest contract for a receiver in NFL history.
What’s remarkable about that level of investment is this: The Dolphins might not even be convinced that their quarterback is a star.
The NFL punished the Dolphins in August for having impermissible contact with quarterback Tom Brady in 2019 and 2021. The league found the Dolphins talked with Brady last season — while he was a member of the Buccaneers — about becoming a limited partner and also perhaps playing for them.
The league stripped the Dolphins of their first-round pick next year as part of their punishment. When the Dolphins traded their other 2023 first-round pick Tuesday for Broncos edge rusher Bradley Chubb, McDaniel confirmed it was an indication the team had seen enough to believe in Tagovailoa. Without a first-round pick in 2023, they couldn’t replace him if they tried.
‘‘From the get-go,’’ McDaniel told reporters, ‘‘I’ve fully seen Tua as our quarterback.’’
If the Bears come to the same conclusion about Fields at the end of the season, it will come with the opposite reasoning: He succeeded despite his supporting cast, not because of it.