Why the Bears Trading Justin Fields is So Upsetting

Chicago Bears v Green Bay Packers
Chicago Bears v Green Bay Packers / Patrick McDermott/GettyImages

A lot of Chicago Bears fans are upset that the team has traded popular quarterback Justin Fields to clear the way for them to draft a rookie quarterback. This despite his inconsistent on-field play. For many of these fans, it's about their emotional attachment to Fields, who seems to be a good guy off the field -- and who was likely failed by the organization, in terms of his development as a player. For me, though, it's not about emotion -- it's about the on-field play.

Simply put, I believe that Fields entering year four is, even with all his flaws, a better bet for a team with playoff aspirations than ANY rookie. I am also not yet convinced that Caleb Williams, Drake Maye, Jayden Daniels, or others are better than Fields. Even if the Bears pick one of those players and he is a better player than Fields, I am not sure it will be soon enough to push a rebuilding team into the playoffs.

I could, of course, be wrong. I am not a pro talent evaluator. I do know that Fields has flaws: he holds the ball too long and takes too many sacks. He also has fumbled too much. Some of the sacks aren't on him -- he's often played behind a shaky offensive line -- but the number is too high.

On the other hand, I think his flaws are fixable with proper coaching and the construction of a better roster around him. I'd also point out that Caleb Williams, the likely number-one pick, has some of the same flaws.

I do take issue with one constant anti-Fields argument. A lot of pundits have pointed out that Fields' fourth-quarter numbers are not great while omitting vital context. That context is this: Fields spent his first two seasons playing on terrible teams.

Furthermore, the fourth-quarter leads that the Bears blew against Denver, Cleveland, and Detroit in 2023 are mostly not on Fields. He does bear blame for a bad strip-sack and killer interception against Denver, but against Cleveland he threw a perfectly placed Hail Mary that was dropped.

The defense deserves a lot of the blame for those losses, as does the coaching. Furthermore, the Bears won a game in which Fields played poorly -- the night game against Minnesota -- in part because Fields made key plays in the fourth.

I'd also remind fans that for all his flaws, Fields has a strong arm, is an excellent runner, escaped sacks like crazy, and has tons of talent. He's not a bust. That said, ANY one of the QBs the Bears could draft could easily bust. There are no sure things -- I've seen plenty of "can't miss" QBs miss.

As I've argued before, if you take the contract situation involving a fifth-year option out of it, the only questions the Bears had to answer are these: Is Justin Fields in year four likely to be better than Caleb Williams or Drake Maye or Daniels or whoever? And is Justin Fields going to be a QB that helps the Bears compete for, and possibly win, a Super Bowl in the next 4-5 years?
The Bears, obviously, said no to both. I disagree.

Reasonable folks can disagree on that point. Personally, I think the Bears could clean up Fields' flaws, construct a solid roster around him, help him take the next step, and compete for a championship with him. I am not yet sold on ANY of the incoming rookie QBs, and I also worry that even if Williams/Maye/Daniels/whoever will be better than Fields, there are rookie growing pains that could set back a team in "win now" mode. C.J. Stroud's rookie-year success is an outlier.

Again, I could be wrong. There's a chance any QB the Bears pick could bust, but there's also a chance Fields was never going to get better than he has been. Similarly, Fields could still be good, and the Bears could pick a truly great QB who is better. There are unknowns and risks here. Risks if the Bears hadn't traded Fields, and risks now that they have.

I will wrap on this note -- a lot of pundits believe that the relatively low return for Fields means that Fields isn't good. They say "the league has spoken" and suggest that because the return wasn't huge, he must have been bad. I'd pushback and suggest that "the League" could be wrong -- the NFL often suffers from groupthink that's incorrect. Also, Fields had a hand in guiding where he went and Bears GM Ryan Poles may have overplayed his hand.

As much as I have tried to base my support for keeping Fields on on-the-field factors, I can't deny there is a bit of emotion involved. I am angry the Bears failed to develop him better, thus leaving the team in a situation where they need to -- again -- take a risk on a rookie QB.

It's also hard to let go of the hope I felt in 2022 when it looked like Fields was going to be the franchise QB for the next decade. It's not the same as it would be if Fields was an obvious bust -- in that case, I could easily say goodbye for a better player.

I hope I am wrong about this. It would be better for the Bears, and Bears fans, if the choice to trade Justin Fields and draft a rookie is the right one. I understand the logic of replacing good players with better ones in sports and while it's hard emotionally, I get it.
I am just not sure that I'd have traded the uncertainty of continuing to develop Fields for the uncertainty of a rookie QB.

For the sake of all Bears fans, let's hope this take ages worse than milk left in the sun.

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