It’s interesting what can happen to an NFL quarterback who’s not yet established or well known in the league.
Take, for example, our fellow, Justin Fields. In the Bears’ preseason opener against the Chiefs, ESPN announcer Steve Levy at one point called him “Josh” Fields.
Certainly, it was a minor mistake, a mind burp. Yet it seems unlikely that, even when distracted, Levy has ever called Aaron Rodgers “Eric” or Tom Brady “Todd.”
Name authenticity comes with performance and game history, with winning being a key factor. Second-year man Fields doesn’t have a lot of any of those things.
And because he’s still something of a cipher, he gets questions from sideline reporters like this one in the opener: “Bears coaches talk about your ‘comfortability’ in the pocket. So how’d you feel?”
That was tossed at him as the game was in progress, so maybe we cut the interviewer (nameless here out of kindness) some slack for being so excited with the action that the English language suffered some discombobulation in her brain pan. I believe the word she was looking for was “comfort.”
At any rate, Fields gave an innocuous, blah answer, as was appropriate.
Then came this doozy:
“One of the things the coaching staff told us is that you are a GREAT play-caller, and you’re able to just hear the play call and regurgitate it right away. How’d you get so good at that?”
As listeners cringed with the thought of a player being terrific at the art of mouth vomit, Fields answered this one, too, with bland, forgettable stuff. It wasn’t even clear what the question was supposed to be, assuming the verb being sought was “repeat” or “restate” or “translate” or even “reenact.”
Even if she meant the more obscure definition of regurgitate — “to repeat information without analyzing or comprehending it” — it’s hard to see that as a virtue. You call double crossing routes with a tight end drag, and you don’t know if it’s a passing play or a telephone number?
It left me to wonder if Fields were actually being praised for having the ability to repeat a few words quickly, like a parrot. If that’s all the guy’s got going for him, wow.
This caused me to drift back to the time when I asked Bulls general manager Jerry Krause what skill, if any, tall, string bean forward Brad Sellers brought to the team. Sellers was widely considered a bust, but Krause informed me that the 7-foot, 210-pound Sellers was one of the best inbounds passers ever.
Back to football and the way the Fields interview ended:
“All right, we got a touchdown there! So we’re gonna let you go. But enjoy the rest of the game.”
Another head-scratcher because the ball was actually on the 27-yard line and Fields was not there as a hot-dog-eating fan.
The point here, I suppose, is that the Bears are not a compelling story right now, and they quite likely are going to be a bad team. How bad? We don’t know, but the fact one oddsmaker had them favored in just two of their 17 games is pretty telling.
The quarterback issue is the big unknown. Fields is young, but we await the magic that could lift the team for years. Year 2 is an important one, at least symbolically.
Remember, it was in his second Bears season that quarterback Mitch Trubisky made the Pro Bowl. That was the year he threw five touchdown passes to five different receivers in the first half against the Buccaneers. A tease, perhaps. But it energized the Bears’ fan base.
Unfortunately, the Bears’ current problems are many. The wide receivers are a bland group, and the offensive line is below average. The secondary is untested and already has injury issues. Who knows about disgruntled linebacker Roquan Smith?
Who knows much about new coach Matt Eberflus or new general manager Ryan Poles? For them to put all the new stuff together as a philosophical whole is a chore. Like a blender crammed with apples and acorns.
Fields himself has new offensive coordinator Luke Getsy teaching him. And while it’s uplifting to know Getsy once worked with Packers genius quarterback Rodgers, that might not be any more relevant here than if the Bears were to hire, say, one of Einstein’s math teachers for its stats department.
While watching Fields develop — or God forbid, fail — fans are assured of riding the roller coaster of hope and joy and chagrin. A lot of hills lie ahead. And even more valleys.
Strap in, folks, for possible regurgitation.