In 2005, J.P. Losman showed up for work in Buffalo a day BEFORE his head coach, Mike Mularkey. The Buffalo News reported, “…the new Buffalo Bills quarterback has been pretty much in one of three places: in a film room studying the offense, joined at the hip of quarterbacks coach Sam Wyche, or on the practice field.”
Losman threw 33 touchdowns in his entire NFL career and is currently now an admin assistant at the University of Oklahoma.
On August 12, 2009, Mark Sanchez displayed his “work ethic” and the Jets fan went wild.
I’m really, really starting to like this guy. There’s more to being the quarterback than making throws. Part of the position is displaying leadership. In the middle of an otherwise productive practice, Sanchez misses some throws he should hit, and immediately he’s breaking down film to figure out what he’s done wrong. That sets an example for the rest of the team and shows the kind of commitment a lot of rookies with big contracts don’t have.
Sanchez “played” for six teams in an underwhelming NFL career and now works in television.
In June of 2020, Browns OC Alex Van Pelt praised Baker Mayfield: “His work ethic is great. He jumps into other meetings that aren’t required, and he’ll sit in the receiver meetings when they have them and will sit in running back meetings from time to time, as well.”
Does anybody know what team Baker is going to be on next week? He sure doesn’t.
Rest assured, Bears fans. I come not to bury Justin Fields; a player I believe has the potential to be a transcendent figure in the history of this organization. I come to bury a lazy, tired narrative. Being the first guy in and the last guy out is useless if you can’t recognize coverages on Sundays in the fall. Being a leader on the practice field is terrific but the bench is packed with good leaders who can’t hit an open receiver in the seam.
Fields may very well take a leap in 2022, but the reports of his exemplary work ethic coming from camp practices will have little to do with it. These kinds of reports are chum in the sea for a hungry fan base, desperate to find meaning in the relatively meaningless. Fields’ problems in 2021 were not that he didn’t work hard or inspire teammates. Fields’ problems in 2021 were his mechanics, his protection of the football and his inaccuracy on the easy, underneath throws. (All of which is called being a rookie.)
The examples above should prove how little correlation there is between these work ethic reports and on-field production. What is being reported is purely cosmetic. It’s plastic. Anybody who has ever had a job knows how easy it is to give the appearance of working hard. (George Costanza perfected this at Yankee Stadium with a cunning use of a parking spot and some exasperated gestures.) Fans love reading these stories because it gives the appearance that the players care as much about winning as they do, while that is rarely the case for the mercenary mindset of the rank-and-file NFL player. Justin Fields wants the Chicago Bears to win. As long as they are the ones signing his pay checks.
So, enjoy the hard work competition between Fields and Darnell Mooney in June. But remember, it’ll mean nothing when the Niners come to town in September.