Justin Fields is entering a pivotal season in 2023. Some have already crowned him as the answer to the Chicago Bears’ longstanding quarterback issues.
Others maintain that his deficiencies in the passing game and the number of hits he’s absorbed are too much to overcome and that his rushing production from last season is too hard to replicate on a year-over-year basis to rely on.
The anxiety that looms over the Chicago Bears fanbase is palpable, desperately hoping Fields is the answer they’ve been praying for while struggling to forget the hope they once held for Jay Cutler and Mitch Trubisky.
However, what’s been lost this offseason is that Justin Fields is already here. The Bears’ struggles are over.
Yes, he has room to grow as a passer but what has been forgotten in the discourse surrounding him is that his rushing ability is elite enough to not just be a starting NFL quarterback, but an elite one that can put his team on his back.
This is not to say that Justin Fields is a finished product and has nothing to work on. In fact, far from it. If he wants to have a 15-year NFL career as a starter and play in big games consistently, his passing has to improve – he may only last half as long without it.
But, the version of him now is surely good enough to have a substantial NFL career carried by his athleticism and become the best quarterback in Chicago Bears history in the process, even if it doesn’t last 15 years.
The truth is, what last year showed us and what Ryan Poles bet on when deciding to trade the first overall pick is that Justin Fields’ floor is high enough to invest in.
His 9 games to end last season during which his output on a per-17 game basis amounted to 4200 total yards and 38 touchdowns is good enough to win with and build around.
Justin Fields has already proved he’s the Chicago Bears’ franchise quarterback.
In fact, the type of trajectory Justin Fields is currently on, assuming he doesn’t improve and continues relying solely on athleticism, is one the league has seen very recently in Cam Newton.
Cam spent 8 true seasons as an NFL starter, leading the Panthers to 3 division wins, 1 wildcard appearance, and a Super Bowl run. He compiled 33,000 total yards and 240 touchdowns (4100 yards, 33 TDs on a per-17 game basis).
This is the kind of output Justin Fields has already started living up to on the football field. From now on, anything he improves on in the passing game improves him from this baseline. Like it or not, he’s already a franchise quarterback.
I know the desire for any quarterback drafted is to be a 15-20 year starter that wins his division and his conference a lot, but the truth is those aren’t franchise quarterbacks – those are generational ones.
What Justin Fields has yet to show is whether he can make the jump from franchise quarterback to something even more special. But for now, he is surely a player that any team could truly build around.
All in all, the key takeaway is this: If all Bears fans get from Justin Fields is 8 seasons of having the best raw athlete on the field every Sunday and a few magical playoff runs, that will be by far the best quarterback this franchise has ever seen.
And that’s something truly worth getting excited about.