For Sanity’s Sake, Here’s Hoping this is My Last Justin Fields Column

| February 23rd, 2024

When the Bears drafted Cade McNown in 1999, I didn’t care.

But do you remember the first game of the 2000 season? Against a very good Vikings team, McNown opened 27-41-290-2 and 10 carries, 81 yards and a TD on the ground. From my lounger at the now defunct ESPN Zone in Times Square, I got excited.

When the Bears drafted Rex Grossman in 2003, I didn’t care.

Reverend Dave and I watched that selection, thoroughly intoxicated with some British Browns fans, at a sports pub in Piccadilly Circus. It was a surreal and hysterical experience, but nobody celebrated anything. Yet by early in the 2006 season, there were few doubting Rex could be a top player at the professional level. 

When the Bears drafted Mitch Trubisky in 2017, I didn’t care.

Well, I cared a little, as this was the first real scoop I had been given and was able to break on Twitter. I also won quite a bit of cash off the skeptical patrons of Mother Hubbard’s. (That ripped us off that night and I never returned.) I picked the Bears to go to the Super Bowl in 2019 specifically because of Mitch’s final drive against the Eagles in the Cody Parkey game; a drive I watched in the building. 

When the Bears drafted Justin Fields in 2021, I didn’t care.

While the Robert Mays’s of the world got giddy on their podcasts (why is he always so damn giggly), I hadn’t been impressed by the two college games I’d seen Fields play and saw no reason for ecstasy. But there were clearly moments in his tenure I found genuinely thrilling, most of which were documented on this site. Fields is not a bad quarterback. He’s a limited one. 

When the Bears take their next starting quarterback in April, I won’t care.

Something happens to the Bears fan when it comes to the quarterback position. To suggest they lose the plot would be to assume they understood the basic storyline to begin with, and David Mamet these fans are not. I’ve watched the busboy at the Billy Goat harass Reverend Dave for demurely admitting he “didn’t hate” Jay Cutler. We all watched fans at a Bulls game boo Trubisky just days after the most exciting day in the young man’s life. And now we watch as a horde (they get offended when you say “cult”) of social media maniacs rabidly defend the performance of Fields – a quarterback capable of explosive moments but who is, objectively speaking, barely top twenty at his position.

But that’s the irony. They DON’T defend his performance. These individuals know full well the Bears have lacked the proper production from the quarterback position so instead they employ the Law Offices of Pretext and Justification. It’s not Fields, it’s the offensive line; group with lots of young talent, that wildly improved in 2023, and most advanced stats show as not the problem. It’s not Fields, it’s the weapons; even though the Bears got one of their best WR seasons in history, and top tight end play, and the same sturdy run game they’ve had for years. It’s not Fields, it’s the offensive coordinator; even though the play caller did not only immediately find himself in another OC job but was also a finalist for three different openings.

Nobody in their right mind would argue that Fields was the only problem on offense for the Bears in 2023. But let’s make a checklist of some of those problems.

  • Offensive Coordinator Luke Getsy: GONE
  • Positions Coaches at QB, RB, WR: GONE
  • IOL Cody Whitehair: GONE
  • IOL Lucas Patrick: LIKELY GONE
  • #2 Wide Receiver Darnell Mooney: CERTAINLY GONE
  • Justin Fields:

See? Everyone responsible for the struggles on offense in 2023 is being shown the door. But the Fields devotees would like him allotted an exemption from this failure. It begs the question: why? Why is this quarterback being granted a certain fan leniency that no quarterback before him was granted? Folks wanted Grossman cut when he admitted to having fun on New Year’s Eve instead of preparing for a meaningless regular season finale versus the Packers. Folks wanted Cutler drowned in Lake Michigan because his body language was lacking. But Fields always gets a pass for his struggles, even as the same struggles repeat themselves season-after-season. Why?

The reasons are many. First, Fields was a college superstar at a high-profile program. And fans, whether I like it or not, think success at the collegiate level has something to do with success at the professional one. It doesn’t, but that’s a fight I’m bored fighting. Second, every single human with a camera (which is all of them) can set up a YouTube channel and call themselves an expert by cutting some All-22 together. Nobody fact checks any of this. Actual league employees are never consulted. But when fans engage these amateur analysts, they think they’re seeing something real. They’re not.

But third, and perhaps most importantly, Bears fans on social media embarrassed themselves the whole of this off-season. Can you imagine antagonizing the Packers fan base about quarterbacks when that organization has had Hall of Fame play at the position for three decades? Can you imagine saying things like “Justin Fields is going to own the North” when he’s been nothing more than a mid-80s quarterback rating guy in his career? Or things like him “Justin Fields is H1M” as if they would know “H1M” even if “H1M” slapped their fannies? Nobody will be able to convince me that much of the hullabaloo we’re reading on Twitter is nothing more than this particular collection of fans attempting to save face.

I’ve watched a few snaps of Caleb Williams. He seems fine. He has as good a chance as any talented college player of becoming a top professional. But let’s not pretend he’d be replacing a legend in Chicago. I like Justin Fields. He’s incredibly easy to root for. But every time I hear someone say, “Fields is the most talented quarterback the Bears have ever had,” I laugh, because Justin Fields doesn’t even approach Jay Cutler’s talent as an NFL quarterback. He’s also won less than Mitch and produced slightly more than an oft-injured Rex. Winning, and production, matter more than the incalculability of potential. Might Fields still improve? It’s possible. But right now, Fields is a mediocrity in a long line of mediocrities. And the Bears have the first pick in the draft.

Who will they choose? It is likely to be Williams. Will I care? No sir, I will not. But I look forward to getting excited by his relevant performances on NFL Sundays. The players selected in April are coin flips, but you must keep flipping that coin until it ends up on the right side. Especially at quarterback.

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