That was ugly on many levels.
The Chicago Bears just got handed their worst loss of the Matt Nagy era, getting thoroughly outplayed by Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Week 7, losing 38-3 at Raymond James Stadium. Rookie quarterback Justin Fields was harassed by Bucs defensive coordinator Todd Bowles all day, committing five turnovers in the lopsided loss.
Fields completed 22 of 32 passes for 184 yards and three interceptions, and he also lost two fumbles, finding it understandably difficult to get anything done behind an offensive line whose best player has been 39-year-old veteran Jason Peters — a guy Chicago signed off the street shortly before the start of the regular season.
After the loss, a dejected-yet-determined Fields spoke to the media, and when he was asked about the first of his three picks, his answer told us everything we need to know about Chicago’s current coaching staff.
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Fields: I Was Told There Were 12 Men on the Field
With just under 7:30 remaining in the first quarter against the Buccaneers, Fields threw a ball into Chicago’s territory that was intended for wideout Allen Robinson. It looked like Robinson had slipped a bit on the play, and Fields was intercepted by Bucs cornerback Dee Delaney. When he was asked about that play specifically after the game, Fields said he was told in his headset that the defense had 12 men on the field — which would signal a free play.
“That was third down,” Fields said. “In the headset they were telling me we had 12 men on the field, so I was trying to snap the ball quick. And then me snapping the ball quick, I think it caught our receivers off guard, because we were trying to get a flag, so me thinking that we had 12 men on the field, that’s a free play. So I’m thinking, ‘All right, scramble around and stuff like that.’ And then, of course, I see A-Rob downfield and I think he slips and of course the pick. I mean, that’s just trying to get 12 people on the field, and then it just went bad from there.”
Oof. The voice in Fields’ headset was likely that of Bears’ offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, but he didn’t confirm who told him there were 12 defenders on the field when the ball was snapped. There weren’t 12 men on the field, though, and it’s not a good look at all for Chicago’s coaching staff, who appear to be utterly baffled when it comes to developing and protecting young QBs (see: Trubisky, Mitchell).
Even more baffling to the point of being maddening? Head coach Matt Nagy’s response to it all.
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Nagy: ‘These Young Quarterbacks Go Through This Development’
When he was asked about Fields’ comments about being told there were 12 men on the field, Nagy served up a heaping helping of his usual word salad: “Here’s what happens,” Nagy began in a rambling response:
These young quarterbacks go through this development, there’s situations like this that can happen and we have techniques within our system to be able to try to take advantage, and when that happens if they do have 12 guys on and you catch them, obviously it’s a free play. If they don’t and you hear that, that’s where you gotta understand that and learn from that and that’s our job to make sure we’re teaching that the right way and he’s understanding that and not just him but everybody. So, again, Justin is as hard on himself as anybody. So, you know he wears his emotions on his sleeve and he wants to be great and that’s what we love about him. There were a lot of ways we can help him out and early on it’s just important with a young rookie quarterback, it’s great to get off to a fast start and get some confidence and momentum going and we didn’t do that today.
It’s difficult not to be critical of a coaching staff that is literally telling the future of the franchise to go for free plays that aren’t there — particularly when those plays result in confidence-crushing interceptions — and particularly when it involves something as basic as counting to 12.
It’s far too early to give a definitive answer about who or what Fields is going to be as a signal-caller. But after five starts, it seems more obvious by the week he needs to be surrounded by more capable coaches if he wants to develop properly.
You can watch Fields’ full interview below: