The Chicago Bears are quickly turning into the saddest story in the NFL. Chicago hoped to make a big leap up the standings this season after finishing with the worst record in the NFL a year ago, but instead the team has been nothing short of a disaster through its 0-2 start.
The problems facing the Bears are so deep it’s hard to even know where to start. Quarterback Justin Fields has failed to take the next step in his development in his third season, and it feels like he’s actively regressing. The coaching staff led by Matt Eberflus has consistently put the team in losing situations. Offensive coordinator Luke Getsy is running a bird-brained scheme predicated on screens and swing passes while cutting out Fields’ dynamic running ability. Defensive coordinator Alan Williams has been away from the team since after its Week 1 loss for personal reasons, and Eberflus won’t say if he’s still employed. The Bears’ defense still hasn’t caused a takeaway this season, and they only have one sack.
The Bears have now lost 12 straight games dating back to last season, and they’ve allowed 25 points or more in all of them. This is not how things were supposed to go with a defensive-minded head coach and one of the most talented QB prospects in team history.
Fields met the media on Wednesday and gave a jarring, honest assessment of why the team is struggling. Fields put a lot of blame on himself by saying he’s playing too robotic. When asked why that is, he said “coaching.”
When asked what was causing him to think too much during the loss vs. the Bucs, Fields said, “coaching.”
Needs to trust his weekly prep and play free on Sundays
— Josh Schrock (@Schrock_And_Awe) September 20, 2023
Here’s the full quote from Fields before pointing to the coaching during a follow-up question:
“I liked the times I felt like I was in a rhythm. Things I didn’t like. I felt like I was playing robotic. My goal this week is to say F it and just play football. That’s when I play my best when I am out there playing free. I am going to go out there and be me.”
Fields said he needs to stop overthinking and just start playing. Fields stated the coaches wanted to keep him in the pocket more this season after he rushed for 1,143 yards a year ago, the second most ever for a QB and the seventh most in the NFL last season. In their Week 2 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Fields carried the ball four times for only three yards.
The QB said he has to get back to playing like himself.
Fields:”I just think when you’re fed a lot of info at a point of time … it doesn’t let you play like yourself.”
— Courtney Cronin (@CourtneyRCronin) September 20, 2023
“They wanted me to work on staying in the pocket during the offseason.” –Justin Fields
— Sean Hammond (@sean_hammond) September 20, 2023
“I think everybody in here knows I need to play better.” Justin Fields took a lot of accountability and detailed a number of plays that he could’ve done differently. Talked at length about getting back to his game.” #Bears
— Kaitlin Sharkey (@KRoseSharkey) September 20, 2023
For his part, Eberflus didn’t have a problem with Fields’ comments.
Bears head coach Matt Eberflus on Justin Fields: “Having him be in the flow, having him be free is what we want. … I want him to speak free to us. I want him to be honest.”
— Kevin Fishbain (@kfishbain) September 20, 2023
This was always going to be an incredibly important year for Fields. With a big season, he could have been looking at a $200 million contract extension. Instead, he’s been one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL thus far, and might be playing his way out of a job. Fields believes the coaching staff isn’t putting him in the best position to succeed. Many Bears fans believe he’s correct in that assessment.
The coaching staff saw the biggest hole in Fields’ game last year: he had trouble getting rid of the ball quickly while progressing through his reads. Getsy has designed the offense with an emphasis on Fields making quick throws to the sidelines and flats, but in the process he’s lost what always made his QB special.
Fields is one of the best rushing QBs in league history — a 230-pound tank with 4.4 speed. He’s shown that he throws a nice deep ball. The Bears could have built the offense around Fields’ designed runs, scrambles, and bombs. It might not have been perfect, but it would be a lot better than what we’ve seen so far. By trying to force him into an old school West Coast-style offense, the Bears have limited Fields’ playmaking ability and trapped him in his own mind.
The team added a game-breaking WR in D.J. Moore and traded a previous pick for Chase Claypool to improve Fields’ targets. They traded down from the No. 1 pick to No. 9, where they drafted RT Darnell Wright. They signed guard Nate Davis to start in free agency. This offense was supposed to be improved, but the line is again a major question mark because of several injuries, while the receivers just haven’t been involved enough.
Ideally these conversions would happen behind closed doors, but it’s hard to blame Fields for taking some of his grievances over the offense to the media. If he doesn’t show major improvement quickly, this might be the last chance he gets as an NFL starter.
Next up for Chicago: a date at Arrowhead with the Kansas City Chiefs. Fields will be without his starting left tackle Braxton Jones after he was placed on IR with a neck injury this week. The Bears simply have no answer for Patrick Mahomes, Chris Jones, and Travis Kelce. It’s hard to see how things are going to improve this week.
It’s only Week 3, but the season is already slipping away for Chicago.