Fans from other NFL teams think they understand the struggle of Chicago Bears fans regarding the Justin Fields situation. They have no idea, and they never will. They don’t know what it’s like to go multiple decades having to live through quarterback play that rarely reached average and was more often than not among the worst in the league. Fields represents the latest in a long line of attempts to break that curse.
So it makes total sense fans would hang on every pass he makes in training camp, gaining hope with each long bomb and feeling despair with each incompletion or interception. They know what awaits them if Fields struggles again in 2022. The likelihood becomes strong the Bears will once again have to make changes at the position, furthering a never-ending cycle. Except those same feelings are not shared inside Halas Hall.
There is a much greater sense of possibility.
Dan Graziano of ESPN visited Bears training camp this week to get a sense of the team. He was asked on the Waddly & Silvy show what his impressions were. Without even being prompted, the first words out of his mouth were how positive the vibes were surrounding Fields. It wasn’t just spring optimism that comes with each new season. Ryan Poles, Matt Eberflus, and the rest of the new regime not only like their QB. They believe in him.
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“One thing I took away was the excitement over the quarterback was genuine. I mean, they really, really feel like they have the right guy in Justin Fields. That says a lot because this is not the front office and coaching staff that drafted him. So the impression he’s made on them is very, very strong in terms of not just his ability, which I don’t think was ever in question, but the way he works. Which, again, I also don’t think was ever in question. So they’ve been thrilled with him. I think there’s a belief that if they can build the right kind of group around him, he has a chance to be special.”
That last line is easily the most important. The sense is Fields isn’t the problem with the Bears offense. It is the talent around him. Everything from the offensive line to the wide receivers and tight ends aren’t good enough. They must be upgraded before it’s reasonable to expect the young quarterback to ascend. Yet even knowing this, it hasn’t been difficult to notice his progress through early training camp.
Justin Fields is already ahead of where he was.
Ask anybody that has attended Bears practices over the past week. They’ll all say the same thing. Fields is near the bottom of the list of the biggest issues facing the offense. Most of the conversations start with one of two things. Either the receivers are dropping too many passes, or the offensive line is struggling in pass protection. Fields can’t do anything about either of those issues. It goes back to the supporting cast not doing a good enough job.
Poles and Eberflus knew this wouldn’t be something they could solve in one off-season. They did the best they could. Three veterans and four draft picks were added to the line. Byron Pringle was signed as a free agent, Velus Jones was their 3rd round pick, and N’Keal Harry was acquired via trade. It isn’t like the Bears did nothing to help Justin Fields. There was only so much they could do with the resources available.
What they really need is time.
The hope is that the quarterback can show some progress in 2022, improve his efficiency and stay healthy. Next off-season, they’ll be back in the 1st round of the draft and have upwards of $90-100 million in salary cap space. That is when the building around Fields can and should get serious.