Has Joe Burrow raised expectations for Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields?

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - SEPTEMBER 19: Quarterback Joe Burrow #9 of the Cincinnati Bengals throws an interception during the fourth quarter against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on September 19, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - SEPTEMBER 19: Quarterback Joe Burrow #9 of the Cincinnati Bengals throws an interception during the fourth quarter against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on September 19, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images) /

Joe Burrow might be on top of the football world but in Week 2 he was shaking off three interceptions in a loss to the Chicago Bears. It was Justin Fields who made a key run late in the game to seal the 20-17 victory.

How things have changed since September 19th, 2021 at Soldier Field.

The Chicago Bears completed a disappointing 2021 season. They finished 6-11, then fired head coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace.

Fields finished his rookie campaign with 1870 passing yards, seven touchdown passes, and 10 interceptions.

The Cincinnati Bengals won the AFC North. Burrow has the Bengals in the franchise’s third Super Bowl appearance.

Talk about a turn-around for a downtrodden franchise.

Cincinnati finished 4-10-1 in 2020. Burrow’s rookie year ended with a horrific knee injury. He came back in his second season to throw for 4611 yards, 34 touchdowns, and 14 picks.

Burrow’s leap from year one to year two may have raised the stakes for all quarterbacks entering their second year like Chicago Bears young buck Justin Fields.

Kansas Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson’s great sophomore campaigns already raised expectations on second-year quarterbacks. Now there is Burrow taking his team to a Super Bowl to add even more pressure.

In many ways, that is unfair to Fields. He will be playing for a new coaching staff. Also, Nagy’s coaching this season did not do much in terms of grooming Fields as a great quarterback.

You will still get those fans and pundits that will expect any of these 2021 first-round pick quarterbacks to produce like Burrow next season. Especially Fields, who has some parallels with Burrow.

Both played in the College Football Playoff Championship game–Burrow won his game, while Fields lost. Both were questionable as to whether their college success would translate well to the NFL game. Both played their rookie seasons behind bad offensive lines—Burrow is still playing behind a poor offensive line.

Yet, Burrow is one victory away from winning a Lombardi trophy.

It would be great if Fields could elevate his game next season and lead the Chicago Bears to the Super Bowl. He probably won’t have the same second-year situation Burrow had this season.

Fields is going to be entering next season with probably a whole new wide receiver and tight end corps. Darnell Mooney and Cole Kmet are the only players under contract expected to return who caught a pass from Fields. Dazz Newsome is the only other receiver currently under contract with a chance to make the roster.

Unless the Chicago Bears do an about-face and re-sign Allen Robinson, Fields will have to build chemistry with at least four new receiving targets.

Burrow already had thrown passes to Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd last season. Then the Bengals added his former LSU teammate Ja’Marr Chase in the draft.

While Burrow was out with his knee injury, he was still able to study more and more of the offense he currently operates. Fields will have to learn a whole new offense and one that will be opposite from Nagy’s offense.

The good thing is Fields’ new offensive coordinator is Luke Getsy, who is from the Kyle Shahanen, Sean McVay, and Matt LaFleur coaching tree. Burrow’s head coach and offensive guru, Zac Taylor, comes from that same coaching chain.

Fields gets a chance to play in a quarterback-friendly offense but it usually takes a season or two for that offense to get rolling.

Plus, Fields has a few more weaknesses he has to clean up before he is ready to guide a team to a Super Bowl. He has to get rid of the ball quicker. He has to cut down on his fumbles. He still has to get better at reading defenses, understanding his line protections, and be comfortable with the difference between NFL open and college open when it comes to throwing to his receivers.

Thankfully, the Chicago Bears appear to have put together a better coaching staff than he had last season to help clean up those weaknesses.

Instead of expecting a Burrow-like second-year leap, a better hope is he plays somewhere between like Jalen Hurts’ or Josh Allen’s second season.

Hurts was not perfect this season but he played well enough to help get the Philadelphia Eagles into the playoffs. Allen took a better leap than Hurts in his second season, but still not enough to get the Buffalo Bills to the Super Bowl.

The hope is Fields grows into the quarterback we saw in the second half against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but it may take time. It probably means not going to the Super Bowl in year two like what Burrow accomplished.

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