People always stay close to the usual things when talking about what makes a quarterback great. How strong his arm is. How accurate his throws are. His ability to handle pressure in the pocket. The intangibles are overlooked far too often. Leadership is among the biggest. Quarterbacks rarely have standout success in the NFL without being great leaders. So many things depend on them being able to motivate and direct ten other men on the field to act as one. It isn’t easy. Too often, you’ll see highly-drafted guys crash and burn because they weren’t able to get others to buy in. That isn’t a problem for Justin Fields.
There were already stories about his presence on and off the field, even going back to last year. He was always active in directing guys in the huddle. He pulled them aside whenever mistakes were made so they could get corrected. Fields also worked hard, putting in more hours than anybody on the team to make himself better. Things like that resonate with guys. However, his signature moment may have come last Sunday. That was when word spread the quarterback had stood in front of the Chicago Bears locker room after losing to the Atlanta Falcons and apologized to the defense for throwing the game away.
When asked on Wednesday why he did it, Fields explained how he felt he’d let them down. They’d done their job holding the Falcons to a field goal. He had enough time to go back down the field and score. Instead, he threw the game-ending interception. Such accountability is rare, and it’s hard not to love the guy for it.
Justin Fields holds himself to a high standard.
He’s said from the beginning that his only goal is to win. When the Bears don’t do that, he takes it personally. His first question is never who else is to blame. It’s what could he have done better? He has that Joe Montana mentality. Deflect praise on his teammates when things go well and accept all the blame when things go poorly. People always wondered how Montana got guys to play so hard for him. That was one of his biggest keys. Fields operates the same way. He’s the problem. Nobody else. That is a surefire way to get guys on your side.
Eddie Jackson’s reaction is a perfect example. His desire to stop the apology and insist it was a team loss reflects how strong the culture is in that locker room. Everybody accepts blame. Everybody understands the standard wasn’t met. Justin Fields wasn’t the primary voice when he arrived in Chicago. That has changed. The direction of this franchise goes through him, and it sounds like everybody is more than happy with that.