Justin Fields

ESPN: Justin Fields’ rookie season similar to previous draft busts

The Chicago Bears are four games from entering an offseason that will be highlighted by several key changes to the organization. The biggest of which will be at head coach, where Matt Nagy’s four-year tenure is expected to come to an end. General manager Ryan Pace is on the hot seat too, although the organization seems to have a soft spot in its heart for Pace and the job he’s done since being named GM in 2015. The good news for Chicago is that they finally have the quarterback situation settled with rookie Justin Fields, although a recent article on ESPN suggests otherwise.

According to ESPN’s Kevin Seifert, Fields is experiencing one of the worst nine-game stretches for a quarterback since the network’s QBR metric was developed in 2006. Fields’ 27.4 ranks near the bottom for quarterbacks with at least nine starts; only Josh Rosen, Blaine Gabbert, and Jimmy Clausen are worse. Yikes.

“An argument could be made that Fields’ worst games, in Week 3 against the Browns and Week 7 against the Buccaneers, are behind him,” Seifert wrote. “And to be sure, no quarterback should be written off after nine starts in a rookie season on a bad team. What we can do, however, is look at the history of quarterbacks who have struggled to a degree similar to Fields. QBR goes back 16 years, a full era in the quickly changing world of NFL quarterback play. In that time span, no one who has played at this level has elevated into a long-term answer for his team. That’s not to say Fields can’t. But if he does, he would be the first.”

Sure, analytics like this are an important tool in determining how well — or poorly — a player is performing. But Fields is in a different bucket, isn’t he? Much like we’ve seen with Trevor Lawrence and the Jacksonville Jaguars, sometimes it just doesn’t matter how much talent a quarterback has if the rest of the team around him is a raging dumpster fire. The Jaguars already parted ways with Urban Meyer, who was a major factor in all that’s gone wrong in Jacksonville. The Bears, meanwhile, continue to employ Nagy despite his offense’s failures and inability to answer the ‘whys’ when asked what’s gone wrong with his team.

Fields isn’t Gabbert, or Rosen, or Clausen. He’s had more flashes of greatness in his nine starts than any of those guys ever had in their careers. This doesn’t mean Fields is indestructible, though. If Chicago doesn’t hire the right coach who can rebuild the culture in Halas Hall, even players with as much ability as Fields can fail to reach their potential.

The Bears have four games left in Fields’ rookie season. They’re important games for his development, and yes, they’ll be littered with interceptions and poor decisions. But that’s how quarterbacks learn — by doing, and sometimes, by making mistakes. Still, he needs to improve on his 57.6% completion percentage and flip his touchdown-to-interception ratio which currently stands at six touchdowns to 10 interceptions.

Fields will be just fine. The Bears will be, too, as long as they move on from Nagy and the rest of the coaching staff.

Bryan Perez

Bryan is the founder of Pro Football Draft. His work has been featured on The Draft Network, NBC Sports and USA Today. Former CFL scout.

Follow him on Twitter: @BryanPerezNFL