Last year, around this time, I texted a certain buddy of mine who happens to be the best beat writer covering the Chicago Bears. I asked him what was going on with Trubisky and Foles. He didn’t say anything specific about either player. He didn’t say, “Trubisky and Foles both stink.” But it was very apparent from his tone – and the tone he used on his popular podcast with another similarly-named fella – that both stinking was exactly the case.
This year, around yesterday, I texted a certain buddy of mine well-connected at the highest reaches of the Halls of Halas. I asked what he was hearing about Fields, thinking he might diffuse some of the hype. He responded in about four seconds, “Kids got it.” (Yes, there is a grammatical error there but just the facts on DBB.)
I don’t know if Justin Fields has it.
And it might be a year or two before ANYONE knows.
But unless he displays a complete inability to process information this summer, and that has overwhelmingly not been the case to this point, I can’t imagine a rationale for sitting him a single week of the 2021 season.
Because while we talk about “development”, that doesn’t actually happen during an NFL season at the quarterback position. Once the third preseason game is played, the backup QB essentially enters QB College. It’s all book learning. They become a student of the job but don’t get a single meaningful rep as long as they stay in that role. There just aren’t enough practice hours during the week anymore.
If Fields gets through the next few weeks with a mastery of the playbook and firm handle on the fundamentals of playing the position at the pro level (he seems to have mastered play-calling in the huddle in about two days), why waste a single second of his supremely-valuable rookie contract trying to win a few transitional games with Andy Dalton? Why risk Dalton playing well, keeping the job all season, and then having to start anew with Fields in 2022, knowing no more than we know right now? What is the rationale for not developing the kid in real games, against real opponents?
[Side note: I don’t buy this notion that Dalton definitively gives the Bears the best chance to win games, even as early as September. Dalton has been mediocre for years. Why would that change here?]
Also, shouldn’t it be incumbent upon this coaching staff to be able to do that? The head coach is a former college quarterback. The offensive coordinator is a former college quarterback. The quarterbacks coach is a former college quarterback. Shouldn’t these guys be able manage and bring along a talent like Fields at game speed? If not, why? If not, isn’t it fair to question the point of having such a quarterback-centric staff, and more specifically question what value these individuals bring to the organization generally?
This summer is progressing perfectly for the Chicago Bears. The quarterback they drafted, the man whose future success will mean the organization’s future success, is displaying every single quality they hoped he would display at this stage: mental, physical, emotional. The arrow is pointed up, and everybody around Lake Forest recognizes that. If he continues to progress, and display those qualities, why turn the arrow on its side?
Because the only way to truly develop in the NFL is to play NFL football. And that should be the focus of this coaching staff when it comes to Justin Fields.