September 28, 2021

Justin Fields' First Start Was Historically Bad and Not Entirely His Fault

This past week was supposed to be filled with optimism for Chicago Bears' fans. It was the first career start for rookie quarterback Justin Fields, the 11th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, and the future star of the Windy City. 

Unfortunately, it hasn't been all sunshine and rainbows in Chicago so far. That was extremely evident when the former Ohio State star was introduced to Myles Garrett and the Cleveland Browns' suffocating defense Sunday. 

A "Historic" Day For The Bears

Fields didn't have the typical mistake-filled days that rookies such as Zach Wilson have experienced so far. Instead, Fields didn't even have a chance to really make mistakes.

It is not uncommon for a defense to completely overwhelm a rookie quarterback. That is exactly what happened to Fields and the Bears in Cleveland. What is uncommon is that the Bears finished with one passing yard.

One. Total. Yard. 

Now, that comes on a technicality that yards lost due to a sack counts as lost passing yards, but still, one total passing yard is all-time bad. In fact, that is the fewest passing yards in a game by a team since the Bengals had zero yards passing in 2009. That same season also saw the Titans pass for -7 passing yards in a blowout against the Patriots.

Fields By The Numbers

In total, the Bears gained 47 total yards of offense on 42 plays. Fields finished the game completing a puny 6-of-20 passes for 68 yards (-67 yards in sacks), zero touchdowns, and zero interceptions, which equaled a QBR of 6 (!). Everything that could go wrong, went wrong for Fields in his first career NFL start.

While Fields did not play well in this game, he does not get all of the blame. When he had time to throw, he looked fine. However, getting sacked nine times and having no success running or passing the ball does nothing for the progression of a rookie quarterback. The Bears lost this game 26-6, so obviously, something worked sometimes to get six points, right?

Well, the first field goal came when the Browns got sacked at midfield on fourth down, and the other came on quite possibly the worst pass interference call on John Johnson III that negated an interception and put the Bears in the red zone. That saved the Bears from being shut out. 

The Matt Nagy Experience

Bears head coach Matt Nagy's seat seems to get warmer by the minute, especially after the pitiful performance from his team Sunday. 

At one point, I thought that he was intentionally tanking this game to prove that he was right to start Andy Dalton, that is how bad it was. Nothing he did against the Browns made any sense. As Dan Orlovsky said in the clip above, the Bears did nothing to gameplan around Fields' skillset. The Bears had a five-man-protection scheme in 21 of the 29 dropback passes that Fields had in the game. That makes zero sense.

Did the Bears even watch Fields play at Ohio State? Do they even know what his biggest strengths are? If you are basing it off what they did in Cleveland, it is like they have never even met Fields before. I am not convinced that Nagy doesn't secretly hate Fields. How can you explain a dynamic quarterback like Fields dropping back to pass 29 times, and you just do not protect him? How do you not call his number more? Where were the designed plays? What the hell did you do in practice all week?

It is not like the Browns came out with this out-of-the-box scheme to confuse the Bears. All they did was have Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney practice some pass-pro for four quarters. The Bears did not even think to make adjustments, even after Fields got sacked five times in the first half. They decided what they were doing was working and they were going to stick with it.

Getting sacked is one thing, getting sacked on third down is absolutely deflating for an offense. The Bears got sacked seven times on third down and only converted once on nine third downs in the game.

What's Next For the Bears?

Nagy still having his job is a slap in the face to all Bears fans, players and staff. 

How can you watch what just happened and be OK with allowing that to happen again? 

With Fields reportedly suffering a hand injury late in the game, Nagy has already come out and said that all three quarterbacks (Fields, Dalton, and Nick Foles) will be battling for the starting job against the Lions.

Time will tell how Fields will fare under Nagy this season, but after their first full game together, it is safe to say that Nagy will not be here to develop Fields for the future. 

Photo: Getty Images