While Fields performed relatively well in monsoon-like conditions in the team’s first game of the year, a 19-10 win over the San Francisco 49ers at Soldier Field (8-17 for 121 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, 85.7 rating), his next two performances were nowhere near as encouraging.
Week 2 against the rival Green Bay Packers, Fields threw for just 70 yards passing (48 net yards after adjusting for sacks taken) and the Bears put just 10 points on the board in a 27-10 loss. Fields finished with no passing TDs, a pick and a lackluster rating of 43.8.
Against the Houston Texans Week 3, Fields had arguably his worst game yet, completing eight of 17 passes for 106 yards, two interceptions and a paltry 27.2 rating. The Bears eked out a 23-20 victory, but they won thanks to the defense and a late interception by linebacker Roquan Smith. It’s early, but so far, some around the league are expressing concern about first-year head coach Matt Eberflus and his fit with Fields.
NFL Coordinator: Bears Having Defensive-Minded HC ‘Isn’t Helping’
The Bears are currently averaging 265.0 yards of offense per game, which is ranked last in the league. Perhaps even more startling is the discrepancy that currently exists between the team’s running and the passing games.
Chicago has the second-best rushing attack in the NFL (186.7 yards per game), but the worst passing game by a long margin. The Bears are averaging 78.3 yards a game through the air, and the team ranked 31st, the Carolina Panthers, are netting nearly 100 yards more than that (161.3 yards per contest). It hasn’t been pretty — and one current NFL offensive coordinator isn’t sure the Bears hired the right guy after parting ways with ex-coach Matt Nagy.
“That offense is a total mess,” a current NFL offensive coordinator told Heavy’s NFL insider Matt Lombardo under the condition of anonymity. “Justin Fields has regressed, dramatically. You never saw him make the mistakes he’s making now, or play as poorly as he is, for the former staff.”
While the defensive-minded Sean McDermott and quarterback Josh Allen have worked well together in Buffalo and formed a solid unit, they may be the exception. Other young QBs, including Miami’s Tua Tagovailoa and Jacksonville’s Trevor Lawrence, have benefitted from having offensive gurus like Mike McDaniel and Doug Peterson around. After Week 3, both Tagovailoa and Lawrence are among PFF’s top five rated QBs.
“Having a defensive-minded head coach isn’t helping,” the coordinator told Lombardo. “It’s just a bad deal all around for them, especially for Justin.”
There’s Still Time for Fields to Turn it Around
Eberflus and the team’s new regime are in the initial throes of a rebuilding year, so bumps are expected. Still, it would be negligent for analysts to ignore Fields’ bad start, or to brush aside the opinions of other coordinators in the league. The second-year signal-caller’s 23 completions through three games are the fewest amount of passes completed by an NFL offense since the 1982 season, per Football Perspective.
While playing for Ohio State in 2019 and 2020, Fields establish himself as one of the best quarterbacks in college football. He completed 68.4% of his passes for 5,373 yards, 63 touchdowns and nine interceptions with the Buckeyes. Also a threat in the running game, Fields added 867 yards and 15 TDs on 218 on the ground while compiling a 20-2 record as a starter at OSU.
His time in the pros has been quite different. So far, over his 13 starts in the NFL, Fields has a 4-9 record and he has completed 57.8% of his passes for 2,167 yards, nine passing TDs and 14 interceptions. He also has 515 yards and three rushing scores.
That said, Fields is a naturally gifted athlete, and there’s still plenty of time for him to turn it around and become a QB who wins with his arm. Pocket presence takes time for some quarterbacks. If Bears OC Luke Getsy can get Fields to start showing some signs of growth yet this season, it’ll be a step in the right direction. Should things continue as they have been, though, it’s going to be a long year for Bears Nation.