As the 2022 NFL Draft draws closer and closer, the Chicago Bears can tick ‘quarterback’ off their list of needs as it has become abundantly clear to both new general manager Ryan Poles and the coach Matt Eberflus that Justin Fields is their guy before the fall. .
Fields was, of course, selected by former general manager Ryan Pace when the Bears traded to grab him in the 2021 NFL Draft. But after just one season with him, Pace was let go, with coach- leader Matt Nagy, for not showing adequate growth and winning enough games.
Fields is looking to build on an uneven rookie season that saw him throw for 1,870 yards with seven touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He also spat the ball 12 times in 2021 and was beaten in the pocket. But with a new offensive coordinator and a different philosophy, the hope is that Fields will become the dynamic franchise quarterback that fans have always dreamed of.
The Poles and Eberflus have publicly backed Fields as their guy heading into the 2022 season. But even with those assurances, some insiders aren’t convinced the new regime will stick with him long term.
One of them is Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, who shared with 670 The Score’s Dan Bernstein Show earlier in the week that he thinks the Bears might be looking to distance themselves from Fields after this season.
“It’s like the Bears are deliberately backing down,” Florio said. “And the problem is that teams usually do that when they don’t have a QB they believe in… Maybe that’s the hidden message here, that the new regime doesn’t believe in Justin Fields.”
Does the new #Bear regime believes in Justin Fields? @ProFootballTalk“It looks like the Bears are deliberately stepping back. And the problem is, teams usually do that when they don’t have a QB they believe in.”
– 670 The Score (@670TheScore) April 13, 2022
Florio’s take was universally shared on social media, with fans and other members of the media having strong opinions. After all, Fields has been front and center since the Poles and Eberflus were introduced in January. He spoke at the introductory press conference and both men were thrilled with how the Bears are “his team” as they prepare for the upcoming season. But if recent history is any indicator, Fields might not last too long with the new regime in place.
When the Bears decided to fire Pace at the end of the 2021 season, they chose to do so knowing he had just mortgaged a rookie quarterback’s future. Now that same quarterback is under a new GM who, while supporting him, didn’t pick him. Firing a general manager after a season in which they selected a quarterback in the first round of the NFL Draft isn’t exactly common, but it has happened a few times in recent years.
Since 2010, five general managers have been fired within a year of selecting a quarterback with a first-round pick, including the Bears and Pace. Of the previous four, none of the selected quarterbacks earned a second contract with their original team.
Two other general managers, Rick Smith with the Houston Texans and Buddy Nix with the Buffalo Bills, resigned due to other circumstances after selecting a quarterback in the first round, but were not included in this list.
Ten years ago, the Cleveland Browns tried to solve their quarterbacking problems once again when they selected 28-year-old prospect Brandon Weeden from Oklahoma State with the 22nd pick in the total. Due to his age, Weeden was already a prospect that carried some risk.
He threw for 3,385 yards with 14 touchdowns and 17 interceptions in what has been a lackluster rookie campaign. At the end of the season in which the Browns went 5-11, general manager Tom Heckert and head coach Pat Shurmur were fired and replaced by Mike Lombardi and Rod Chudzinski.
Lombardi quickly dumped the other first-round pick from the previous draft, trading running back Trent Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts in the 2013 season. As for Weeden, he played sparingly in his second season after suffered a thumb injury and was repeatedly benched in favor of Brian Hoyer and Jason Campbell. He played in just eight games and threw nine touchdowns with nine interceptions without a win.
After another regime change the following offseason, Weeden was released after two seasons and found himself as a reserve mate, spending time with the Dallas Cowboys, Houston Texans and Tennessee Titans.
Prior to the 2015 NFL Draft, the consensus top picks were quarterbacks Jameis Winston of Florida State and Marcus Mariota of Oregon. The Tennessee Titans, having the second pick in the draft, were guaranteed one of the best quarterbacks and ended up with Mariota.
The former Heisman winner got off to a good start, throwing four touchdowns and no picks in his NFL debut in Week 1. For the season, he played 12 games and had a strong start to his career. Although he only threw for 2,818 yards, he had 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Unfortunately, the Titans didn’t have the same success. They finished 3-13, laying off head coach Ken Whisenhunt during the season and general manager Ruston Webster after the season.
New and current general manager Jon Robinson took over in 2016 and remained with Mariota, who rose in his second season and narrowly led the Titans to a playoff berth. Mariota threw for 3,426 with 26 touchdowns for just nine interceptions and began to be talked about as one of the league’s up-and-coming quarterbacks.
Mariota was effective again in 2017 and took the Titans over the hump and into the playoffs. He led them to a wildcard win in a comeback victory over the Kansas City Chiefs before being ousted by the New England Patriots. The Titans had taken the fifth-year option on their quarterback, but he regressed in 2018 under new coach Mike Vrabel while dealing with injuries.
Despite entering the 2019 season as a starter, Mariota was on a short leash after the Titans traded for former Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill. In Week 3, Mariota was benched and saw Tannehill ignite the Titans and lead them to a wildcard spot which resulted in an appearance in the AFC Championship Game.
Mariota was not re-signed and spent the last two seasons as a backup with the Las Vegas Raiders. He now enters the 2022 season as an assumed starter with the Atlanta Falcons.
Believe it or not, the New York Jets selecting Sam Darnold might be the closest comparison to the Bears and Fields, as they are the only other team on this list to trade for a quarterback before firing their general manager. In 2018, the Jets and general manager Mike Maccagnan mailed the Indianapolis Colts for the 3rd overall pick to select Darnold out of USC in hopes of finally finding their next franchise signal caller.
Darnold had an uneven rookie season, passing for 2,865 yards, 17 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. Maccagnan and head coach Todd Bowles were let go after the season in favor of Joe Douglas and Adam Gase. Some thought Gase and Darnold would work well together, but that ultimately didn’t happen.
Although his numbers had improved since his rookie season, Darnold had yet to hit a major milestone in his development. Worse still, he faced a bout of mononucleosis that sidelined him for several weeks and was caught on TV saying he was ‘seeing ghosts’ during a football show Monday evening. Still, he had a few moments and managed to go 7-6 in games he started.
The 2020 season was worse as Darnold regressed from his slight progress the previous season, throwing just nine touchdowns with 11 interceptions. With the second overall pick in the draft, Douglas had seen enough and sent Darnold to the Carolina Panthers for a pick package that included a future second- and fourth-round selection. Darnold had limited success in Carolina before crashing out on dirt in 2021. Although he’s listed as a starter, his Panther status is very uncertain heading into the season.
Washington Commanders (formerly Redskins) and Chairman and General Manager Bruce Allen used one of their two first-round picks against Ohio State star Dwayne Haskins. He entered his rookie season as a substitute, but had his playing time extended when starter Case Keenum suffered an injury.
Haskins started seven games, throwing for 1,365 yards with seven touchdowns and seven interceptions in a season when his head coach Jay Gruden was fired in October. At the end of the season, Allen was also dropped into a major reshuffle with the team.
In 2020, with a new team name, a new coach in Ron Rivera, and a new front office with president Jason Wright, Haskins entered the season as a starter but was benched after four weeks. He saw two more games as a starter later in the season due to injuries, but was released before the end of the season after issues with his performance as well as COVID-19 protocols.
Haskins joined the Pittsburgh Steelers and spent all of last season as a backup as he worked his way back to being a starting quarterback. Unfortunately, Haskins tragically passed away earlier this month after being hit by a vehicle while training in Florida.
As we come to Fields and Pace, it’s important to remember that every situation is different. Pace wasn’t fired because of Fields’ pick, but rather because he hired questionable coaches and mismanaged the team’s salary cap. It’s entirely possible that Fields will become the team’s answer to quarterback for the next decade, working well with the Poles and Eberflus.
But at the same time, it’s a little worrying that other quarterbacks who have seen regime changes have not been successful with their original teams. In fact, Mariota was the only player to last more than three seasons and even with his limited success, he found himself looking for a new home after his rookie contract ended.
Certainly the rhetoric surrounding Fields and the new regime’s desire to keep him is spiraling out of control and this exercise is not meant to add fuel to the fire. Why would the Poles already try to get away from his young quarterback, whom he has publicly supported since he got the job, when he hasn’t even played a role in the new system?
But at the same time, it should be noted that other players who have been in Fields’ shoes have found new homes a few seasons later. Maybe Fields will be the one to reverse this trend once and for all.