by Evan Bruner
No matter what your expectations were for the Chicago Bears in 2023, it’s hard to imagine the season getting off to a worse start. The team has been a disaster on all fronts. The offense is predictable and stagnant, and the defense looks sloppy and ineffective.
The subpar play has resulted in a 0-2 start and a -28 point differential. To say the Bears have looked like the worst team in football would be an understatement. The truth is they hardly look like an NFL team. Despite being big spenders in the first week of free agency and adding multiple high draft picks, the team somehow looks worse from a year ago.
Although it’s a long NFL season, fans are quickly losing hope. It’s a disaster on all fronts in Chicago; the team lacks talent, discipline, and even effort, and there’s only so much that can be corrected between games. Simply put, the Bears are a dumpster fire, and at the center of the blaze is third-year quarterback Justin Fields. What has always been viewed as a make-or-break season has gotten off to a brutal start for the 24-year-old.
Fields has shown little improvement, and the rabid Chicago fanbase is quickly losing patience. Through two games, he has a total of three touchdowns, three interceptions, and a completion percentage just north of 60. Fans had been so forgiving of Fields’ shortcomings in the past because of his ability to make great plays with both his arm and legs. While these do show up on tape, Fields’ film is also littered with mistakes, and lots of them.
What it boils down to with Fields is that he currently isn’t good enough at his strengths to make up for how bad he is at his weaknesses. If Fields is going to continue not seeing open receivers, taking avoidable sacks, and leading the league in fumbles, he needs top-notch passing numbers to offset that. Unfortunately, that’s well beyond his capabilities.
Fields isn’t the problem, though. In fact, many would argue his lack of development is emblematic of the organization as a whole. The Bears have run a masterclass on how not to build around a young quarterback. He was thrown into the fire during his rookie season with a poor supporting cast and a head coach who knew he was on the verge of losing his job. Fields’ second season was a step in the right direction, but the offense still lacked the necessary infrastructure to help him. This is why 2023 has turned into a single-season referendum for Fields.
The addition of D.J. Moore doesn’t change the fact Lucas Patrick is one of the worst centers in football, or that Nate Davis hasn’t practiced consistently. The Bears’ roster is still a mess, and in no position to support a young quarterback. Unfortunately, excuses can only take a player so far. As Fields enters the second half of his rookie contract, merely not being the main problem isn’t sufficient. It’s a sink-or-swim league, and Fields is either good enough to stay afloat amid the turbulence or he isn’t.
There are plenty of valid explanations for why Fields’ career has gone the way it has, but at some point, it doesn’t matter why a player is performing a certain way; it just matters that he’s playing that way. The fact of the matter is Fields is 5-22 as a starter, an inefficient passer, and, for the most part, struggles with the same aspects of playing the position that plagued him as a rookie. No amount of context can change that.
What can change, however, is the organization’s approach to developing quarterback talent. Chicago is quickly becoming a quarterback graveyard, and people across the league have taken notice. If Fields isn’t the guy, the next quarterback will have to deal with many of the same issues. The Bears haven’t had a good head coach since Lovie Smith, they haven’t had a good general manager since Jerry Angelo, and ownership has been far from optimal.
This dysfunction directly translates to the poor product seen on Sundays. George McCaskey continues to hire the wrong people who subsequently make poor choices related to team-building, which leads to players not developing and teams disappointing. For a quarterback to succeed in Chicago, he not only needs to be good, but so good that he can overcome the organization’s incompetence. Even for talented prospects, this is a tall task.
These obstacles aren’t impossible to overcome, but they’ve made it difficult for the Bears to sustain any type of success. They haven’t made consecutive playoff appearances in nearly 20 years and haven’t won a playoff game since 2011.
As much of a mess as the 2023 Bears appear to be, it’s important to note this isn’t some random occurrence. It’s the product of years of incompetence. Justin Fields isn’t the first quarterback to be hurt by the organization, and he’s unlikely to be the last.