Bears want running to be part of QB Justin Fields’ game, but not the majority of it

As offensive coordinator Luke Getsy looks toward Year 2 of working with Fields, he’s looking for a better split between his rushing and passing.

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Bears quarterback Justin Fields runs from Lorenzo Carter of the Atlanta Falcons.

Justin Fields became the third quarterback in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season.

Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

MOBILE, Ala. — Justin Fields can run better than any quarterback in the NFL, even 2019 MVP Lamar Jackson, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. The Bears would be crazy to try to scrub that from his game.

And they don’t intend to. Instead, they’re looking to turn it into a more reasonable and sustainable part of his repertoire, but he’ll need to improve a lot as a passer to make that possible.

“It’s got to be a part of who you are, [but] it’s hard for it to be who you are — you just don’t last,” offensive coordinator Luke Getsy said. “He’s really, really good at it. He’s really good at a lot of things, so we’ve got to make sure we just tap into each one of those things, but that, for sure, has to be a part of who we are going forward.”

Fields became the third quarterback in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards but averaged a league-low 149.5 passing yards per game. He got 33.8% of his total yardage on the ground, and, while his speed is a great asset, that’s too high.

Even in Jackson’s record-breaking rushing season in 2019, running accounted for only 27.8% of his total production. He has been gradually reducing it, too, and probably will keep trending that way. Despite having a championship-caliber defense, the Ravens’ season fell apart when Jackson exited in Week 13 with a knee injury.

Besides Fields and Jackson, three other quarterbacks rushed for 700 or more yards this season: MVP finalists Josh Allen (Bills) and Jalen Hurts (Eagles), as well as Daniel Jones (Giants). Allen got only 15.1% of his total yardage as a runner, Hurts was at 17.1% and Jones at 18.1%.

But it’s not squarely on Fields to fix his skewed split between rushing and passing. The Bears set him up to spend last season scrambling for his life. There was a canyon between the talent around the aforementioned quarterbacks and Fields’ supporting cast. Fields got sacked a league-high 55 times and didn’t have a single teammate put up 600 receiving yards.

General manager Ryan Poles can change that this offseason thanks to a league-high $90.9 million in salary-cap space and a full slate of draft picks starting at No. 1 overall.

It’s hard for Getsy to even begin scheming the offense for next season when there are so many blanks to fill.

”That’s the biggest question: Who do we have?” Getsy said. “Once we get that in place there in the next couple of months, then we’ve got to take it from there and see exactly who we want to become.’’

Getsy has rejected this characterization at every turn, but he seemed to struggle at first in 2022 to nail down what the offense should be.

The Bears averaged 16 points and Fields had a 58.7 passer rating in the first four games. Those numbers spiked to 25.3 points and a 97.6 rating in the next seven. Obviously something clicked.

“Anytime you enter a new season, you try to figure out who you are,” Getsy said. “You usually don’t get to figure that out until you start playing some games against real opponents.

“We navigated through that, but I wouldn’t say it’s unique. It’s pretty normal to start a new staff and get introduced to a new set of guys and try to figure it out. The important thing is we got better each week, and we have to make sure that we continue that as we go forward.”

The next step is huge for everyone involved. The Bears’ teardown is over, so the criteria get much stricter. Coach Matt Eberflus will be judged on wins and losses in a way he wasn’t in ’22, and the evaluation of Getsy will come down to points and Fields’ performance.

The upside is that even with all the uncertainty surrounding the Bears’ roster, Getsy knows what he’s working with when it comes to Fields. He’s the biggest piece of the puzzle, and they’re well ahead of where they were going into the 2022 season. There shouldn’t be any delay once they get back on the field.

NOTE: The Bears made a handful of staff changes, including bringing back Jon Hoke as cornerbacks coach and defensive passing-game coordinator.

Hoke, 66, went into coaching shortly after his brief career as a defensive back that included 11 games for the Bears in 1980. He was their defensive backs coach from 2009 through ’14 under Lovie Smith and Marc Trestman. Hoke spent the last two seasons as the Falcons’ secondary coach.

He replaces former Bears cornerbacks coach James Rowe, who left last month to coach at South Florida.

The Bears also added offensive quality-control coach Zach Cable, Isaiah Harris as part of their player engagement and strength and conditioning staffs and assistant strength and conditioning coach Pierre Ngo.

They announced several promotions, as well. Omar Young, a quality-control coach this past season, moved to assistant quarterbacks and wide receivers coach. Carla Suber was promoted to director of wellness, and Mike Wiley got a new title of director of mental skills/performance.

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