Chicago Bears: Justin Fields already dealing with unnecessary criticism

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

Look, if you didn’t watch the Chicago Bears vs Cincinnati Bengals game on Sunday and just saw the box score, I completely understand why you might think Justin Fields struggled in his pro debut. However, if you go back and watch the highlights, not even the game film, you’ll see that Fields flashed exactly why he should be promoted to full-time starter irrespective of Andy Dalton‘s health status.

What’s even more perplexing is folks in the national media such as Michael Irvin, Stephen A Smith, and others calling for the Chicago Bears to bench Fields again because of his performance versus Cincinnati. In the case of Irvin and Smith, they even suggested Nick Foles start if Andy Dalton isn’t ready this weekend when the Bears travel to Cleveland to take on the Browns.

This line of thinking makes absolutely no sense and precisely shows how little attention was paid to Justin Fields’ actual performance versus the Bengals on Sunday and how little credit he was given for overcoming the obstacles in his way.

The Chicago Bears offense looked dangerous with Justin Fields at the helm.

Now, going into week two, here were the elements working against Justin Fields:

  • He ran the scout team all week, which means he took minimal (if any) reps with the first-team offense.
  • The plays installed for this week were suited to Andy Dalton’s skill set and not Justin Fields, for who the coaching staff only prepared a small package of plays for.

Despite all this, Fields flashed every bit of his potential against the Bengals. Due to his limited practice time with the first-team receivers, he and Darnell Mooney missed out on two major connections, one of which was a surefire TD. Additionally, he had what would have been the throw of the week, dropped by Allen Robinson and another completion to Cole Kmet called back due to offensive pass interference.

Furthermore, due to likely limitations with the playcalling, Fields had to do his damage from the pocket. There were almost no designed rollouts to simplify his reads by eliminating half the field and he also lacked the same support from the run game that Dalton had supporting him in week one.

This is what makes the criticism of Justin Fields extremely alarming. He was thrown into a situation no one in the Chicago Bears’ organization anticipated and managed the game following a game plan not tailored to his strengths and without developed chemistry with any of his weapons or his own offensive line.

To top it off, when the game was on the line and a play needed to be made, he delivered by picking up a first down with his legs on third and nine while breaking a tackle that would have almost certainly resulted in a sack or potential fumble had most other QBs been carrying the ball.

Now, the most significant thing I want to mention about the game is the interception he threw. First off, this is a mistake that all young quarterbacks are going to make in their careers. No amount of running scout team is going to help someone avoid this “welcome to the NFL” moment.

The linebacker faked his rush and dropped into coverage to be in the perfect position to intercept Justin Fields’ pass that was headed to the right place. These are the kinds of mistakes Fields will make once and again but probably not often throughout his career.

This is what makes the criticism Justin Fields has endured so far this week very puzzling. Those who say he’s not ready are ignoring the fact that these games are learning experiences for him. Even if he sits his entire rookie year, he’s still going to make mistakes next year that he’ll have to grow from.

Joe Burrow, in year 2, just threw three consecutive interceptions en route to a loss. Should he be benched in order to further develop? We just saw Aaron Rodgers, in year 17, have a bad game that he’ll learn from and bounce back. Learning as an NFL QB is a career-long process, not one with a set end date.

Ultimately, I believe plays like his interception are truly the best proof of why Nagy’s plan to sit Fields as long as possible may not be the best approach to his development. QB development and in-game exposure are not mutually exclusive events.

Justin Fields needs to be able to learn through his mistakes. He said himself after the big hit he took against Buffalo in the preseason that the error he made not identifying the free rusher is one he’ll never make again. When he came in against the Bengals, he picked up a corner blitz at the line of scrimmage and avoided a sack.

As unfortunate as it is that Andy Dalton has suffered an injury and is now week to week, the experience Justin Fields will hopefully get over the next month, and potentially rest of the season, facing daunting defenses will be extremely valuable for his development.

Being able to see how contending defenses like Cleveland, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and Green Bay will scheme and plot against him is a valuable opportunity that will only help him become a better quarterback that the Chicago Bears hope will establish them as perennial NFC North and NFC conference contenders.

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