Too soon to say the Bears killed it by drafting Justin Fields? Of course — but do it anyway
There’s always the chance Fields won’t work out, but we can cross that bridge when it collapses. For now? Go ahead and be excited. After all, you should be.
A day after the Bears traded up to select Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields with the 11th pick in the NFL Draft, investigators were still searching for someone — anyone — with a negative word to say about this momentous development.
In Chicago and throughout Beardom, meanwhile, the sun shone with unwonted splendor. Birds sang songs of hope. Darkened football hearts soared, strangers embraced (wait, are we allowed to do that yet?) and the Promised Land gleamed on the horizon.
Where are the next 10 or 15 Super Bowls being played, anyway?
Everyone — and by that we mean literally everyone — loves what the Bears did Thursday night, moving up from No. 20 by dealing that pick, their 2022 first-round pick, a 2022 fourth-rounder and a 2021 fifth-rounder to the Giants for the chance to draft Fields and rewrite the franchise’s sick, twisted history at the most important position in sports.
Beaten-down fans are suddenly coming to terms with a new feeling that resembles happiness. Embattled general manager Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy have new leases on life. Undistinguished veteran quarterback Andy Dalton can forget about being the starter for long. OK, so maybe he’s not as excited as the rest of us.
As for Fields, 22, he walks into a situation where he really doesn’t face any pressure at all. All he has to be is the best QB the Bears have had since, well, how does ever sound?
“The Bears pulled off one of the biggest steals in the modern draft era,” read one national headline.
“Justin Fields is everything that has eluded the Bears for a century,” read another.
Pretty much every outlet that graded the first round — Yahoo, CBS Sports, Pro Football Focus and many others — gave the Bears its very highest mark. Teams always blow smoke about their own picks, but it’s beyond unusual for the fourth quarterback taken in a draft to generate essentially unanimous raves from the outside looking in.
There’s always the chance, of course, that Fields won’t work out and that the same kind of toxic negativity that oozed despite Mitch Trubisky’s earnest efforts will ooze despite Fields’. We can cross that bridge when it collapses.
For now? Go ahead and be excited. And consider this column one more vote of confidence in what the Bears have done and in the transformational player Fields can be.
Pro-Fields sentiment might run deepest among those who focus more on the college game. Folks in SEC country will tell you Georgia’s coaches made a terrible misjudgment when they named Jake Fromm — who’d led the Bulldogs to the national title game in 2017 — the starter over freshman Fields in 2018. Fromm was a future NFL player Kirby Smart and his staff knew they could trust. But missed in that decision was the growing reality that — at the apex of the college game — not having it in you to score damn near every time you touch the ball is a fatal flaw.
Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence-led offense was unstoppable by the time the Tigers crushed Alabama in the 2018 title game. Joe Burrow-led LSU took offense to a shocking level in 2019. In 2020, Alabama was perhaps the best offensive team ever, having surrounded Mac Jones with such outrageous talent, really nothing could’ve gone wrong.
Fields’ enormous ability enabled Ohio State to become a near approximation of that. And none of those other QBs ever had a better performance than Fields’ in a 49-28 blowout of Lawrence and Clemson in a 2020 playoff semifinal. The Buckeyes piled up an unthinkable 639 yards on the Tigers. Fields — playing in severe pain — received multiple shots in an injury tent during the game and still threw six touchdown passes.
We’re only guessing that Zach Wilson or Trey Lance — the Nos. 2 and 3 picks, respectively, behind Lawrence — are capable of rising to that level. We’ve seen Fields do it.
“This guy’s toughness on a scale of 1 to 10 is an 11,” Pace said, “and you just love that.”
We’re allowed to love it, too, you know, even if it does mean agreeing with Pace again.
There’s no way to quantify this, but there has to be more of a joyful buzz around the selection of Fields than there has been around any Chicago draftee since the Bulls took Derrick Rose No. 1 overall in 2008. Take a moment to let that sink in.
There was a can’t-miss excitement about Kris Bryant after the Cubs picked him at No. 2 in 2013. Blackhawks fans can point to the No. 1 overall pick of Patrick Kane in 2007. But they weren’t going to play the most important position in sports for the one team that — deservedly or not — owns the town.
There was Trubisky in 2017 — momentous, indeed — but he came prepackaged with doubts and boos. There are no complaints about Fields, not yet.
“I think I fit perfectly,” Fields said.
Of course he does. As for the rest of us?
Go on, have some fun with it.