The Press Conference.
It was what Justin Fields said. And what Justin Fields didn’t say.
What he said:
“I think last year was kinda weird, just me not starting the season being the starting quarterback. It was kind of a weird leadership role. I think me and Andy would kind of switch off. But now that I am starting off the season as a starting quarterback, I think I’ll be more comfortable playing that leader role. There’s no more, ‘Oh, he’s a rookie, this and that’. It’s tie now, so I’m excited like I said before and I can’t wait to get to work.”
What he didn’t say:
“I should have been the quarterback from day one last season. And I wasn’t the quarterback from day one last season because the last coach didn’t have the slightest clue what he was doing. But he’s gone now. And so, we rejoice.”
In 2015, when John Fox was announced as the new head coach of the Chicago Bears, Jay Cutler was not in the room. He did not speak to the media. In 2018, when Matt Nagy was introduced, Mitch Trubisky was nowhere to be found. But Monday, after Ryan Poles and Matt Eberflus addressed the media, Justin Fields sat on the dais and spoke, at length. The owner had spoken. The GM had spoken. The head coach had spoken. And now it was the quarterback’s time. That is the hierarchy of every NFL team and Monday, for the first time, Fields ascended into that structure.
And he knew it.
The start of something special. pic.twitter.com/hVO3Su6g8I
— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) February 1, 2022
Fields’ comments mirrored everything reported about the kid since his time at Ohio State; an immense talent complemented by a tireless work ethic and an understanding of where he struggles on the field. Larry Mayer of ChicagoBears.com wrote an excellent column, detailing Fields’ excitement for the future with this new leadership in place.
From that piece:
“It’s important for coaches to run plays that their players are good at running,” Fields said. “They already have a base idea what my strengths are, but me being able to communicate with them and tell them what my strengths are, we can get on the same page.
“There’s going to be some new stuff that we didn’t run last year that works and I’ve never run before that they’re going to want me to learn. So, I’ll talk to them and see what they need me to do and see what they need me to learn, and then work on that in the offseason. And by the time training camp comes around, I’ll know it.”
After showing promise as a rookie, Fields is excited to begin his second NFL season working with Poles and Eberflus.
“It’s a clean start and a fresh start,” Fields said. “Just talking to Ryan and coach, I think they have a great plan in place and I’m ready to follow it.”
These quotes have so much in them. But let’s pull the phrases that should land for every fan of this young quarterback.
- “Run plays their players are good at running” – something fans called for with Fields throughout his rookie campaign.
- “See what they need me to do and see what they need me to learn” – the signature flaw of the previous coaching regime on the offensive side.
- “Great plan in place and I’m ready to FOLLOW it” – did this ever take place in 2021?
The plan is everything. And not only do Poles and Flus have a plan for Fields, but they have already communicated that plan to him. (For those who thought this group wasn’t committed to Fields, well, there’s no help for you outside of a padded room.) They know what he does well. They know where he needs to improve. He’s committed to making those improvements before this team hits the field in April. Not only is the structure around this quarterback already upgraded, but the communication is also significantly improved.
There is something to be said for being “the man”.
And when it comes to the NFL, the quarterback has to be “the man”.
Joe Burrow doesn’t wear those sunglasses if he’s the left guard. Sean McVay ain’t courting off-ball linebackers in Cancun (or wherever they were vacationing). Mike Silver doesn’t write postgame profiles about the losing long snapper. (Silver is apparently working for a casino. Who knew?)
Fields instinctively IS “the man” but Pace and Nagy neutered those instincts last summer by ridiculously committing to the Andy Dalton Experiment. The former guys forced a showroom headliner into the lounge. But worse, they never communicated a plan to Fields (or ownership, or anyone else) for getting him onto the field and into his natural leadership role. Fields was left to guess as to when an overmatched coach would deem him “ready” for game action because he was never made aware of what his game lacked.
Monday, by publicly meeting with their potential star, Poles and Flus changed all that. Monday, by making him available to the media, the organization elevated his status. Fields is “the man” now. This is his football team.
What he does with it will determine the immediate future of the organization.