The Chicago Bears have a quarterback.
We start this week’s Bears Things newsletter in a place we’ve never been before:
The Lead: Justin Fields has arrived
I’m going to come clean. While Matt Eberflus and Luke Getsy were busy fixing the Bears’ offense during the mini-bye week, I fired up some film on C.J. Stroud and Bryce Young and started thinking about the NFL Draft.
Do you blame me? It wasn’t looking good.
A big lesson I learned from the Mitch Trubisky era is that if you have to squint to see a franchise quarterback, he’s probably not the franchise quarterback.
And let’s be honest, even the most adamant Justin Fields supporters — myself included — were squinting during the first six weeks of the season.
A month later, everything has changed. You now need to squint to see reasons why Fields won’t be the Bears’ long-term answer at quarterback. And, of course, some are actually trying to do that.
“I got my own eyes,” former NFL running back LeSean McCoy said on FS1 Monday. “I think he’s a hell of an athlete. He can’t throw the ball.”
Not surprisingly, McCoy didn’t offer up much evidence to support his take. He criticized Fields for not winning any of the last three games (wrong — the Bears beat the Patriots). He brought up how Fields only threw for 80 yards in a game (it was actually 70 and it was seven weeks ago). And McCoy repeatedly said “I just gotta see more,” without actually saying what he needs to see.
Indeed, the tape still shows room for improvement for Fields (more on that below), but it also shows massive improvement in the passing game from the beginning of the season. He’s listening to his feet more. He’s making quicker decisions. He’s been considerably more accurate, especially on the shorter, horizontal throws.
If you’re not seeing that, you’re either not watching the games or actively looking for reasons not to see it.
Admittedly, we all get a little too caught up in statistics and too narrowed into a couple plays from a game to support what we want to see. The reality is that it doesn’t need to be that complicated. As CHGO’s Mark Carman said on our postgame show after the Texans game in Week 3, we know what it’s supposed to look like, and that wasn’t it.
But now it is. This is exactly what it’s supposed to look like. And the scary thing is, Fields is just scratching the surface. He still doesn’t have a lot of help. He still has massive room for improvement. And he’s still relatively inexperienced.
There undoubtedly will be more LeSean McCoys that try to rain on your parade, Bears fans. And to be honest, defenses are going to make adjustments and it’s not always going to look as good as it has the last two weeks against the Cowboys and Dolphins.
But it might not matter. Fields might just be good. It sure looks that way right now. Unless you’re squinting.
Here’s your weekly review of Justin Fields’ performance after watching the coaches’ film:
The Good: Calm strike in rhythm to Dante Pettis for 12 yards on a rare opportunity to throw to a wide-open receiver … Good deep ball to Chase Claypool that drew a pass interference call … Quick decision to scramble when no one is open at top of drop back (listening to feet) … Strike to Cole Kmet for touchdown while moving the launch point … Absolute dime (touchdown) to Darnell Mooney on slot fade from a muddy pocket … Eyes were still downfield on the 61-yard TD scramble, which allowed him to pull off an insane pump fake to freeze the defense before finishing with his ridiculous speed … Good decision to keep ball vs “surf” technique (more explanation here) on zone read that went for 14 yards on 3rd & 1.
The Bad: Threw a foul ball on a predetermined deep shot to Equanimeous St. Brown when the easier shallow cross was open for a first down (the next play was the blocked punt) … Poor throw (and a tick late) on what should have been an easy slant to Claypool … Bailed out by questionable defensive holding penalty on interception (poor decision) … Didn’t pull the trigger on a slant to N’Keal Harry in the quick game and took a sack instead … Ran out of bounds for a sack on the last drive.
Overall: Justin Fields put the whole offense on his back on a day in which receivers rarely got open and the running backs weren’t having much success. His legs are clearly giving him an outlet to make quicker decisions and pick up positive yards instead of holding onto the ball too long. That is leading to more first downs and more confidence. With time and more experience, he’ll continue to clean up the mistakes.
Next up: Detroit Lions
Not surprisingly, the preseason “Hard Knocks” shine on the Lions faded quickly once the regular season began. Their coaching staff — led by Dan Campbell — is extremely entertaining, but there’s not a whole lot of talent on this roster. Their defense is just as bad as the Bears’ defense and Jared Goff is considerably less dangerous than Justin Fields right now.
Still, the Lions have been moving the football and scoring points this season. They rank No. 12 in offensive DVOA and should be able to run the football on the Bears. Strap in for another fun game with plenty of points scored on the lakefront.