Everything is on the table for the 2022 Chicago Bears, including the possibility that Justin Fields will initially struggle to learn a new offense. That is not a comment specifically about Fields, but instead based on the historical trends of this offense around the league. The Bears have spoken extensively about playing to what Fields does best and last week Cole Kmet detailed what that might entail. But that doesn’t mean it’ll be easy, and history shows it’s unlikely to be quick.
While Matt Nagy’s offense was rightly criticized, saying the new offense fits Fields’ strengths better is mostly a projection. As Fields said himself, what the Bears did last year was familiar to him.
“I think the only different thing with our offense is that at Ohio St., we did signals from the sidelines so actually getting in the huddle and calling the play out is the only different thing,” Fields said in a press conference May 21, 2021. “Everything else is pretty much the same when it comes to concepts and stuff like that.”
It’s likely that Nagy had sound offensive concepts, and coming from the world of Andy Reid, that would be expected, but he couldn’t coach the execution. The scheme Nagy wanted to run works, he just wasn’t able to successfully teach it or call it in the framework of an actual ballgame.
This new scheme should better fit what Fields can do well at the NFL level. Getting him out of the pocket on more designed rollouts and emphasizing play action should, in theory, benefit Fields, but this scheme doesn’t always click right away. Luke Getsy comes from Green Bay, and even they, with one of best quarterbacks ever, had issues in the first year.
Aaron Rodgers had two MVP seasons in this offense, but year one wasn’t smooth under Matt LaFleur. Rodgers had his typical low interception total, but his completion percentage, touchdown percentage and yards per attempt were all considerably lower than his career averages. His passer rating of 95.4 was the third worst of his career. The offense, overall, was just average.
And it wasn’t just Rodgers.
Matt Ryan won the MVP under Kyle Shanahan, but their first year together wasn’t considered a success by anyone. Ryan had 21 touchdowns, 16 interceptions and a passer rating of 89 in 2015. The next season, he was the league MVP.
In both cases, it seems there was some give and take. LaFleur and Shanahan tried to install true versions of their offense, then listened to their veteran quarterbacks. (Perhaps it isn’t coincidence that Rodgers became the MVP only after Getsy was promoted to passing game coordinator.) The Packers’ passing offense now features many of the same concepts the team ran under Mike McCarthy, who gave Getsy his first NFL job.
Ryan and Shanahan got to elite status only after an offseason meeting in which they reached a common ground. Sean McVay and Matthew Stafford had immediate success largely because they didn’t wait to adjust.
Other than the wide zone running scheme, we don’t know what Getsy’s offense is going to look like, but he’d be wise to incorporate some of the things Fields has done in the past, or else the learning curve could be too steep for a successful 2022. Historically, it has been.