We live in an era that expects immediate success from new QBs coming into the league. Nothing can be further from the truth. The most difficult position in sports is the NFL quarterback. Many QBs crumble under the pressure. Others are drafted by a team that uses a system that doesn’t fit the skillsets of their new QB. In Chicago, the offensive coordinator stubbornly installs game plans that do not mesh with Justin Fields’ talents.
There was a time when rookie quarterbacks were drafted, and they sat for two or three years before they ever saw any meaningful playing time. Recently Aaron Rodgers sat for three years. Patrick Mahomes sat for a year.
Looking at the QBs from the 21 draft, no one has had much success aside from Trevor Lawrence, and even Lawrence only won three games in his rookie season. Trey Lance is no longer on the team that drafted him. Zach Wilson and Mac Jones have been benched at times.
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One only needs to look at two QBs who were traded away after a year or two and who went on to excellent careers.
Disclaimer: I am not comparing Fields to anyone mentioned in this article.
In 1991, with the 32nd overall pick (7th selection in round 2), the Atlanta Falcons selected Brett Favre. The Falcon head coach, Jerry Glanville, did not like the selection. He was quoted as saying it would take a plane crash in order to play Favre. In 1991 he only attempted 5 passes. He was sacked on one play. His first attempt was intercepted and returned for a TD in a week 11 game against the Washington Redskins. He threw another interception, and the other two attempts went for incompletions.
Despite such an inauspicious start to his NFL career, Packers’ GM Ron Wolf was enamored with Favre. Wolf offered Atlanta the Packers first-round selection in the middle of the first. Team doctors found a degenerative hip ailment and wanted to void the trade, but Wolf overruled them.
Favre went on to a Hall of Fame career and tormented the Bears and their fan base for years.
A few years prior to Brett Favre’s being drafted, another quarterback ended his college career and was highly sought after by the Cincinnati Bengals. The BYU QB, Steve Young, was to be the heir apparent to long-time Bengals’ QB Kenny Anderson. In talks with Young’s agent, the plan was to sit Young for at least a year, then after Anderson retired, he would become the starter for Cincinnati.
The USFL, a new football league that began operations in 1983, also coveted Young. With the news about the Bengals’ plans, Steve Young decided to sign with the L. A. Express in 1985. The USFL folded one year, and the NFL held a supplemental draft in 1986. Steve Young was drafted by Tampa. In his two years with Tampa, Young was terrible. His record with the Bucs was a dismal 3-16. Tampa labeled Young a bust and selected Vinnie Testaverdi first overall in the 1987 draft. Young was traded to the San Francisco 49ers, where he would backup Joe Montana for several years.
When Young got a second chance, he delivered. Selected to 7 Pro Bowls, named to the AP All-Pro 1st team 3 consecutive years. He guided the 49ers to a Super Bowl victory in 1994.
Back to the present, we see the top two quarterbacks from this year’s draft having very different seasons. The first overall selection, Bryce Young, has struggled all season. C. J. Stroud is enjoying a very successful year in Houston.
The history of Justin Fields career is not complete. It would certainly be a shame if he ended up having a stellar career, but that career wasn’t in Chicago.