Prior to the end of the regular season, Justin Fields stepped up to the podium for his last press conference. When asked about Matt Nagy and all the noise surrounding his job status, the young quarterback made a comment that was impossible to ignore. At first it sounded like he aimed to defend his head coach. Then he stated Nagy had undoubtedly coached him “to the best of his abilities.” That specific phrase stuck out in a big way.
It was the first real indication that Fields was never sold on Nagy. He didn’t buy into what the coach was trying to do in order to make him a better quarterback. This is made even more interesting by a column from Adam Jahns of The Athletic. In it, he interviewed multiple NFL scouts about the state of the Bears roster and especially Fields. When determining whether it was the QB or the coaching that was the bigger issue, the scouts claimed the latter.
One even went so far as to say Fields knew it was never going to work.
“It was a total snafu to name Andy the starter when you signed him,” the first scout said.
“Has (Matt Nagy) helped Fields enough? No,” the second scout said.
That was the consensus thought about Nagy and offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. They didn’t do enough for Fields. One league source pointed to the offensive structure, whether it’s spacing of the field, the route running and the options provided to Fields in it.
“Sometimes quarterbacks see things differently, and if they don’t get the right explanation, the quarterback then recognizes that the coach doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” the source said. “And then there’s where the mental compromise starts with quarterbacks and coaches who aren’t teachers.”
This revelation combined with the QB’s comments from over a week ago paint a clear enough picture. While Fields may have liked Nagy as a person, he didn’t respect him as a coach. Given what he had to endure his rookie season that shouldn’t be surprising. He was sacked 36 times in 12 games. Receivers often ran bad routes while the general confusion and lack of organization were always present for the Bears offense.
Problems that had persisted long before Fields even got there. He was never going to throw Nagy under the bus in public. Yet it was hardly a surprise his voicing of support wasn’t exactly full-throated either. Fields is a competitor. He wants to win. He wants to be great. There is no question the QB felt he couldn’t achieve either if Nagy remained head coach. So he wasn’t going to give the organization a reason to keep him.
Justin Fields must hope the Bears get the replacement right
As of this moment, the organization has requested interviews with nine candidates. It is worth noting that four of them are on the offensive side of the ball and have proven experience developing young quarterbacks. Doug Pederson did it in Philadelphia with Carson Wentz. Byron Leftwich did it with Jameis Winston in Tampa Bay. Brian Daboll did it with Josh Allen in Buffalo and Nathaniel Hackett did in Jacksonville with Blake Bortles.
This is not to say the other options on the list can’t develop quarterbacks, but their previous track records offer little to no proof of this. So George McCaskey wasn’t lying when he said Justin Fields, while important, wasn’t the primary driving force of the hiring process. It is about finding the absolute best leader for the team. Still, there is no doubt every candidate will have to present a good plan on how he will handle the young quarterback moving forward.
Fields has already shown he has high standards.
He can sense when somebody doesn’t know what they’re doing. Ironically this makes him a lot like another former Bears quarterback in a way. Jay Cutler. He never bought into guys like Lovie Smith, Marc Trestman, or John Fox either. Perhaps because he worked with a Hall of Famer in Mike Shanahan the first three seasons of his career. This is not to say Fields will cause problems for anybody, but it is important to note all the same.