Bears won’t pass on plan to get Justin Fields more throws
Fields threw just 11 passes against the Packers because the Bears’ running game was working so well. But in a developmental stage, a potential franchise quarterback needs more work than that. “You need balance,” coach Matt Eberflus said. “We’d like to be 50/50 in a game.”
Bears offensive coordinator Luke Getsy’s developmental plan for quarterback Justin Fields is all about incremental, steady growth, not a flip-the-switch, breakthrough moment. He just wants Fields to get better from game to game.
It’s a textbook plan to develop the talented Fields into an elite quarterback, but it’s unlikely to happen 11 passes at a time.
That’s the challenge facing Getsy after two weeks of his first season as an offensive coordinator. Fields threw only 11 passes in the Bears’ 27-10 loss Sunday to the Packers, a game in which they trailed for 48:50 of 60 minutes.
Fields completed 7 of 11 passes for 70 yards with no touchdowns and one interception for a 43.8 passer rating. Getsy instead leaned on the running game. David Montgomery had 15 carries for 122 yards and Khalil Herbert four carries for 38 yards as the Bears rushed for 180 yards on 27 carries (6.7 yards per carry).
‘‘We were going with what was working,’’ coach Matt Eberflus said. ‘‘We were hitting some big runs. It was working for us, and it [could have] put us into a one-score game [with] eight minutes [left].’’
Eberflus said it’s not because the Bears don’t have faith in Fields — ‘‘We trust him, for sure,’’ he said — but 11 passes in a game the Bears were trailing by two touchdown for the entire second half says otherwise.
Let’s face it: The Bears aren’t ready to lean on Fields right now. He’s not good enough. He’s running an offense that still has training wheels on. He can’t lift a team on his shoulders against a formidable defense with this supporting cast. Not yet. He doesn’t have Jaylen Waddle and Tyreek Hill. He doesn’t have Justin Jefferson. His offensive line has played two games together.
The Bears are paying the price for putting everything on Getsy to devise and install a scheme that will make the most of Darnell Mooney, Cole Kmet, Equanimeous St. Brown and Byron Pringle. General manager Ryan Poles watched the game from the Lambeau Field press box with his eyes wide-open.
This was by Poles’ design. He sees a bright future. Everyone else sees Mooney and Kmet with a combined two catches for four yards after two games and shudders. And you can’t blame them. At this point, we have no more confirmation that Fields eventually will become a franchise quarterback than we ever had about Mitch Trubisky.
But it’s Week 3.
Through two weeks of the regular season, Getsy’s approach to developing Fields is almost the polar opposite of former coach Matt Nagy’s approach with Trubisky. In two games, Fields is averaging 14 passes. In his first season under Nagy in 2018, Trubisky averaged 31.8 passes.
There has to be a happy medium, and Getsy surely will be looking for that. Eberflus is.
‘‘I think you need balance,’’ Eberflus said. ‘‘We’d like to be 50/50 [run-pass] in a game . . . because that keeps the defense honest.’’
The Bears didn’t get that balance against the Packers: They officially had a 66/34 balance, with 27 running plays and 14 passing plays (including three sacks). The next move is Getsy’s, starting Sunday against the Texans at Soldier Field. When Nagy was lambasted for running the ball only seven times against the Saints in 2019, he overcompensated by running the ball 38 times against the Chargers the next week — and lost 17-16.
That Saints-Chargers episode was one of the first significant red flags about Nagy’s ability to develop a sustainable offense. It’s a little too early to start defining Getsy, but the game Sunday will go a long way toward quelling some early skepticism about yet another Bears offense.