Dannehy: Handling of Fields Leaves Big Picture Questions

| December 28th, 2022

The Chicago Bears can’t possibly know if Justin Fields is capable of winning games for them if they don’t give him the opportunity to at least try to do so.

While many storylines have been about Fields’ inability to take the team down the field for wins late, those arguments have mostly ignored the positions in which the Bears have put the quarterback. The 2022 season has, essentially, been the organization asking Fields to make it look good without much support.

We saw it again last week.

The Bears had a chance to make the game interesting when on the last play of the third quarter, Fields uncorked a strike 44 yards down the field for Velus Jones Jr. Trailing 21-10, the team had life.

Then, it didn’t.

The Bears proceeded to run the ball three straight times before calling a pass play that relied on Fields threading the needle short of the first down marker. The Bears didn’t let Fields open the offense up again until the outcome of the game was already decided.

The next drive began with a swing pass that lost two yards (do they ever gain yardage on those plays?). On second-and-12, they ran the ball for no gain and relied on Fields to save them on third-and-12.

They got the ball back again, trailing 21-13. They proceeded to run the first two plays then asked Fields to make magic happen on third-and-13.

It isn’t as if the running game was working. After the first drive, David Montgomery and Khalil Herbert combined or 30 rushing yards on 18 carries. Montgomery has averaged more than 4.5 yards per carry in just two games this season. Herbert wasn’t quite up to speed after missing a handful of games on IR.

Fields is the straw that stirs the drink. Yet, with the game on the line, the Bears decided to go with what wasn’t working and ignore what could have. What about calling play action passes? RPOs? Rollouts? Anything that might have a chance to work because the traditional running game was not.

If they want Fields to be a franchise quarterback, they have to allow him to do the job.

The Pick of the Litter

If everything plays out as it probably should, the Bears will likely have the first pick in the NFL draft.

It’s hard to see the Bears winning another game, partly because what I wrote about above. It isn’t hard to see a scenario in which the Houston Texans beat the Indianapolis Colts in Week 18, however.

There are two problems with having the number one pick this year. The first is that the quarterback class is extremely questionable. The consensus top quarterback — Alabama’s Bryce Young — makes Kyler Murray look huge.

The second issue is that the Bears would likely have to move too far back to get either of the draft’s elite defensive linemen — Alabama’s Will Anderson or Georgia’s Jalen Carter.

The first most logical team that could trade up is Indianapolis with the fifth pick. Though, all indications are they are sticking with Chris Ballard at GM and he has been notoriously frugal when it comes to investing in quarterbacks.

The NFC South trio of Atlanta (6), Carolina (8) or New Orleans (10) all could try to move up. That would set the Bears up with considerable draft capital in 2024.

The threat of another team trading up could tempt the Texans into making a move for the first pick, but they could also be fine with a different quarterback later in the draft. I’m not entirely sold that Anderson wouldn’t be the Texans pick if they end up picking first.

Defensive Line Could Turnover Quickly

This seems like it shouldn’t need to be said, but it became apparent on Monday that it does: good defensive linemen stop the run and rush the passer.

Realistically, if the Bears can add two high-level defensive linemen (Anderson and Daron Payne, for example), their entire defense will shift. Both players get after the quarterback and absolutely wreck opposing running games. The Bears could be fine with Trevis Gipson and Justin Jones as the other two defensive linemen.

But that’s just one example of how a quick turnaround could happen and that you probably shouldn’t bother listening to anyone who doesn’t realize players can do more than one thing.

Angry Lions

With Dan Campbell leading the way, it’s hard to know exactly what to expect from the Lions this week.

The team has been mostly incompetent with Campbell as the head coach but had a strange streak in which they won six of seven games and the only loss was a three-point defeat to Buffalo.

Then they got boat raced by Carolina.

My hunch is that the Lions aren’t actually all that good and that, if Fields is somewhat healthy, the Bears could put up a lot of points. But they aren’t likely to stop the Lions from scoring – Detroit has a top-five offense.

This could be a crucial game for Campbell’s tenure with Detroit. Either he pushes the right buttons, and his team comes back strong or the Bears, essentially, knock them out of the playoffs.

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