As Justin Fields was repeatedly beaten in the Bears’ 12-7 loss to the Washington Commanders on Thursday night, two feelings overwhelmed me.
I was impressed with Fields’ tenacity. Here’s a 23-year-old quarterback in his 16th NFL career start getting pulverized behind an offensive line that couldn’t stop a baby from hijacking a candy bar from your local gem. Here’s a quarterback with all the natural talent to be great having to step off the turf time and time again because the organization he plays for decided he didn’t need to improve the protection in front of him this season.
Fields aggravated a left shoulder injury during the second quarter when he was hurt by a Commanders defensive lineman near halftime. He took another massive hit when he delivered a 40-yard touchdown strike to Dante Pettis in the third quarter. Fields stayed on the ground for a while after the shot, but eventually got up, did a few push-ups to energize his team, and headed for the sideline.
That brings me to my second sentiment as Fields took a beating on national television Thursday.
Here’s a sophomore quarterback, trying to survive and thrive in a huge season for his NFL future, draining his team’s reservoir.
It’s a shame that general manager Ryan Poles and the Bears decided not to do the same for him last offseason.
I am fully aware that the Poles have been battered by the Bears cap situation. He had no war chest to go out and sign people like Terron Armstead or Laken Tomlinson.
But what Poles put around Fields is criminal. It’s a shame.
Especially when it comes to the offensive line.
Six weeks into the season, Fields is unarguably behind the NFL’s worst protective unit. Rookie left tackle Braxton Jones has given up 20 pressures this season at a clip of 11.1%, according to Pro Football Focus. This ranks second among all tackles. Left guard Lucas Patrick gave up 16 pressures at an 11% clip. It’s also good for the second among guards. Center Sam Mustipher gave up the most pressure at his position.
On Thursday, Fields was pressed 18 times, hit 12, sacked five and was forced to rush another 12 plays. He has been pressured on 46% of his retirements this season, according to ESPN. It’s more than six weeks since ESPN began tracking the pressures in 2009.
Everything rests on the shoulders of the Poles.
The Poles took a job to turn the Bears into a consistent winner. The hardest part of building a team with sustained winning ability in the NFL is finding the right quarterback. Yet he inherited a roster with Fields, hailed as a generational quarterback talent since high school, already here. The Poles’ long-term vision would be much easier to achieve if Fields’ development hits no potholes and he comes out this season healthy and on track to be the top quarterback. of the NFL as his talent suggests.
It requires a line that can stop Fields from spending more time on his back than watching the defense.
James Daniels, Duane Brown, Roger Saffold, La’el Collins and Austin Corbett could all have been in the Bears’ price range. If the Poles had $10 million to give Riley Reiff (with incentives) in July, he had the money to put a league-average offensive line around Fields before time ran out days before camp. ‘coaching.
Instead, the Bears asked a fifth-round rookie in Jones to lead left tackle during a critical season in Fields’ development. They bet on Patrick, a career inside lineman, to play above what his story suggests. They have their fingers crossed that Cody Whitehair stays healthy. Their best healthy offensive lineman was Teven Jenkins, who moved to guard two months ago.
We’re six weeks into a season that’s crucial to Fields’ future and already head coach Matt Eberflus admits they’ll have to factor in poor offensive line work when evaluating quarterback play- back.
After the loss to the Commanders, Fields’ frustration boiled over. Well Named.
“I mean, nobody’s happy with this loss,” Fields said. “Just we’re always told we’re almost there, we’re almost there. Like me personally, I’m tired of being almost there. Tired of being so close. I feel like I’ve heard it for so long now.”
Eberflus and Fields spoke on Friday. The Bears head coach said his quarterback was sore but in good space.
It’s only because he won’t spend the next 10 days behind a line that could very well hurt him this season. He has time to rest before the likely beating that will take place next Monday night in New England. Then again against Michah Parsons and the Dallas Cowboys.
To inherit a quarterback of Fields’ ability and potential and decide to do nothing of note to keep him comfortable and clean in the pocket is tantamount to gross negligence. The quickest way to ruin even the most talented young quarterbacks is to have him hit over and over again.
I’m not saying Fields was perfect or beyond criticism. He missed a touchdown to tight end Ryan Griffin and didn’t see a wide-open Dante Pettis. But when Fields’ criticism gets to the point where Ryan Fitzpatrick says he’s ‘not a pocket passer’, or Twitter QB coaches rip him apart for leaving one of the few clean pockets he has early is too far.
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Fields was crushed, cracked, bent and blasted for 60 minutes Thursday. He kept getting up. Kept coming. Stayed up behind an offensive line with maybe two mid-league linemen at Jenkins and right tackle Larry Borom.
There was the 40-yard strike against Pettis. The game-ending 39-yard run to get the Bears into the red zone with a chance to win. On the final play of the game, Fields made the right read and put the ball on the silver for what should have been a game-winning touchdown.
Fields’ tank was well empty when the timer hit zero against the commanders.
Long after his body was hammered game after game by Montez Sweat, Jonathan Allen and the commanders front, Fields sat in his locker staring at his phone. Maybe he was watching Darnell Mooney’s late-game bobble or thinking about the 11 games left on the roster behind the turnstiles in front of him.
Justin Fields was put in an impossible situation with a front office that ignored his development by placing him behind a shitty offensive line and with few weapons aside from Mooney. The “just wait until next offseason” only works if Fields isn’t killed or his development was destroyed in a season that was scrapped.
The Bears have been looking for a franchise flagger for nearly three decades. Fields has all the tools to be Chicago’s guy for the next decade. But young quarterbacks don’t grow up in the NFL without support.
Fields is giving the Bears everything to try and prove he’s the quarterback the franchise is desperate to find. It’s shameful that the Poles and the front office actually hung him, Eberflus and offensive coordinator Luke Getsy dry this season.
Champs deserves better.