Justin Fields seems to be running out of time to prove he can be the franchise quarterback the Chicago Bears desperately need, at least in the eyes of prominent and well-connected NBC insider Peter King.
King joined 670 The Score’s ‘Parkins & Spiegel Show’ on September 27 to discuss Fields’ performance through the Bears’ 0-3 start to the 2023 season and emphasized that Chicago is not yet committed to Fields as their long-term quarterback, referring back to his offseason conversations with general manager Ryan Poles for context.
“Never did he say to me point blank, ‘Justin Fields is our quarterback forever. He’s got this job. We are committed to Justin Fields forever,'” King said Wednesday. “These quotes are on the range of, ‘Listen, we love Justin Fields. He’s gonna have every opportunity to prove he’s the quarterback of the Bears for the next 10 or 15 years.’
“He never said, ‘This is his job forever.’ He said, ‘We are going to give him every opportunity to win this job forever.'”
King also guessed that Fields “probably has a few weeks” left to prove he can be the guy before the Bears decide to bench him and turn their quarterback attention to 2024.
“Justin Fields probably has a few weeks [before the Bears bench him],” King said. “If you’re the Bears, you basically say, ‘Hey listen, we always knew that the biggest thing about this season is we need, by the end of 2023, we need to know who our quarterback will be for 2024.”
Would Bears Bench Justin Fields for Tyson Bagent?
King might have insight into the Bears’ mindset toward Fields given his offseason talks with Poles earlier this year, but is Chicago actually in a position to bench him outright?
The Bears have just one veteran quarterback option, Nathan Peterman, on their 53-man roster, and there is zero reason to believe based on Peterman’s previous performances that bumping him up to starter would improve the product on offense. Over 13 career games, he has completed just 53.1% of his passes (85 of 160) for four touchdowns and 13 interceptions and has struggled to even hold down a No. 2 backup job. That’s a downgrade from Fields even if he continues to show little signs of improvement.
Then, there’s Tyson Bagent, the undrafted rookie out of Division II Shepherd who played his way onto the Bears’ 53-man roster in August. Bagent looked beyond his years during his 2023 preseason performances for the Bears, completing 20 of his 29 passes for 156 yards and an interception and scoring two touchdowns with his legs, but it is much harder to play to that level against starters during the NFL regular season.
Maybe the Bears will reach a point of desperation where they feel anyone new at quarterback will help snap them out of their losing funk, but there’s not a lot on paper to suggest switching away from Fields for either of the other two would help matters.
Bears Remain Well Situated to Draft New QB in 2024
King is right about Fields still having time to turn things around. As rough as his play has been through the first three games, there has been plenty of blame to go around in other non-quarterback positions for the Bears throughout their winless start, both in terms of players and coaches. They also still have 14 games left to right the ship.
If Fields continues to struggle, though, the Bears have put themselves in an excellent position to draft a new quarterback of the future in 2024.
Poles is bound to draw criticism for his decision to trade away last year’s No. 1 overall pick if Fields fizzled out for the Bears over the next few months. He could have taken his pick of Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud or Anthony Richardson and flipped Fields — who had some MVP hype leading into the regular season — for a decent draft haul. Even if one or a few of those quarterbacks pan out, though, what he did instead might turn out better.
The Bears are looking at a much stronger class of quarterback prospects in 2024 with USC’s Caleb Williams and North Carolina’s Drake Maye considered the highlights. There are also several other passers — such as Oregon’s Bo Nix, Washington’s Michael Penix Jr., Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy and Colorado’s Shedeur Sanders — who could solidify their status as a first-round pick before the end of the college football season.
The Bears currently hold two first-round picks in the 2024 NFL draft, their own and the one they received from the Carolina Panthers in their No. 1 pick deal in 2023. According to Tankathon, those picks are projected to be No. 2 (Chicago) and No. 4 (Carolina) overall with both teams losing their first three games and could become Nos. 1 and 2 overall, depending on the result of Week 4’s slate of games.