Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields’ first NFL start unluckily came against the Cleveland Browns and their vaunted pass rush featuring Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney, two former No. 1 overall picks.
Let’s just say it was an utter disaster, as Fields wasn’t put in a position to be successful. It was the start of Matt Nagy’s ending as Bears head coach and play caller. Fields was sacked eight times and at one point in the game he had more lost sack yardage than passing yards.
Justin Fields: Highest graded rookie QB off of play action last season (72.6) pic.twitter.com/41QtVfW4iO
— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) March 28, 2022
In an interview this week on “670 The Score,” Fields’ personal QB trainer Ron Val spoke about how his client felt after that game, and much of the season.
“I’m kinda glad I didn’t go. It was bad. He took a beating that day,” Val recalls. “It was kind of crazy and weird at the same time. … I know he was a little pissed about it, but I didn’t get an explanation. And I really didn’t ask because I know he was in a situation where he was really pissed off about it.”
Nagy Failed To Tailor Game Plan To Fields During Ten Starts: Fields Was Bludgeoned
Fields dominated at Ohio State in his two seasons, leading the team to back-to-back College Football Playoff appearances, which included a title game loss to Alabama where he played with cracked ribs. During his tenure in Columbus he posted a 20-2 record while passing for 5,373 yards, 67 touchdowns and just nine interceptions.
Known for his elite dual-threat ability, Fields also rushed for another 867 yards and 15 touchdowns. All of Fields’ strengths were emphasized by head coach Ryan Day, from his elite arm strength and athleticism to perimeter runs to use his legs.
With Nagy and the Bears there was none of that. Instead, the promising rookie was hung out to dry in the pocket behind a very porous offensive line.
Fields was sacked 36 times in his 10 starts, while passing for 1,800 yards, seven touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He took a beating weekly, and Nagy never adjusted the game plan to make his life easier.
Bears rookie QB Justin Fields has been sacked on 14.4% of his dropbacks this season, the only QB over 10%.
— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) October 25, 2021
The NFL has become a pass-first league over the last decade, with a slew of quarterbacks slinging for over 4,000 yards in a season. To this day the Bears franchise is still the only one to never have a 4,000-yard passer.
The Bears are notorious for dominant defenses and physical running games. Throughout their storied history they’ve been referred to as the “Monsters of the Midway.”
While the tradition is respectable, there are some who feel the team’s culture is stuck in the past.
Many believed the Bears would finally have a quarterback capable of reaching that plateau when Fields fell right in their lap with the No. 11 overall pick. Most draft experts considered him the second-best QB in the draft behind Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, but Fields was the fourth one taken.
From the jump, there seemed to be a disconnect between Fields and Nagy, who was also the play caller.
Despite a strong preseason and fans calling for Fields to start, the rookie was named the backup behind NFL journeyman Andy Dalton. When Dalton suffered an injury in Week 2, Fields was unexpectedly thrust into action — or thrown to the wolves, however you want to frame it.
Bears Fire Nagy And GM Ryan Pace: Hire Matt Eberflus And Ryan Poles
Following a disappointing 6-11 season, the Bears parted ways with the brain trust who’d drafted Fields and ruined him in Year 1. Team ownership believes they needed a fresh start with Fields leading the way. They hired former Kansas City Chiefs GM Ryan Poles, who played a big role in the drafting and development of Patrick Mahomes in K.C. And Matt Eberflus, the former Colts defensive coordinator, will now stalk the sideline as head coach.
Some pundits weren’t too happy with the hiring of a defensive mind to guide Fields. They say Chicago got it wrong again.
Eberflus hired Luke Getsy to be his offensive coordinator, and his approach is to build a foundation and scheme around Fields’ aforementioned strengths. They want Fields to get back to basics, while focusing on his drops, overall throwing motion and delivery, and, most important, timing and anticipation. At Ohio State he had superior athletes at his disposal, so timing and anticipation weren’t as vital. He’s worked with inferior weapons in the NFL.
Fields had a right to be upset with how things went in his rookie year, but he’s got to improve in several areas. Having Eberflus, a former defensive coordinator, should be very beneficial as far as helping Fields decipher coverages and pressure schemes pre-snap and post-snap.
The Bears defense is solid, but this isn’t the 80s, so having a subpar offense is not going to get them to Titletown.
Who can forget the 1985 Chicago Bears team that went 15-1 enroute to winning Super Bowl XX 46-10 over the New England Patriots? The Bears were mean, tough, and nasty, reflecting the personalities of their head coach Mike Ditka and defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan.
Those days are long gone, and the Bears have been thirsty for a title and some innovation on offense ever since. Fields has to put the strife of his rookie season behind and make a significant leap.