Lincicome: For starters, Fields does just enough to save the day

  • Bears quarterback Justin Fields escapes the Cincinnati pass rush Sunday at Soldier Field.

    Bears quarterback Justin Fields escapes the Cincinnati pass rush Sunday at Soldier Field. Mark Busch/

Updated 9/20/2021 12:27 PM

Ladies and gentlemen, keep your tweets. The moment you have been waiting for has arrived. Mark it down. At 13:48 of the second quarter of the second game of the Bears' season the impediment to your hopes and dreams limps out of bounds. Andy Dalton is injured.

Now here he is, Justin Fields, the savior, finally behind center, with a game to win, or not to lose at least, destiny's promise, tomorrow's answer to yesterday's question. Will the Bears ever find a quarterback?


Not this week.

What's that saying? If wishes were horses beggars would ... no, not that one. Be careful what you wish for ... uh, no, something else. It is what it is. Yeah, that's the one. Time to face the truth.

Justin Fields is not an NFL quarterback. Not now. Not yet. Maybe someday. Maybe next week. Probably not. Worse players than Fields have had careers at quarterback, many of them for Chicago. No need to go through that list again.

Yet, I do not remember in decades of watching the Bears a quarterback being penalized twice in one game for being in motion.

Watching Fields in his first extended exposure of incidental competence brought to mind all those ghosts of Bears' quarterbacks past where the first thought with every snap was "don't mess up."

And Fields did, more often than not, nearly giving the game back to Cincinnati after the Bengals' quarterback, Joe Burrow, had given it to the Bears. One play, his third down scramble for a first down, saved the day. Otherwise ...

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Just as well. The demand for Fields to get on with it, for coach Matt Nagy to let him get on with it, for fantasy to take a seat and just let the young man get on with it, all of that can pause for a dose of truth. It is not happening.

Optimism implies permission to fail. Pessimism demands to be proven wrong.

Better to know this now so that expectation does not overwhelm probability, that imagination does not replace reality, as it so clearly has done since the Bears first handed Fields jersey No. 1, the number being a wish as much as a uniform.

The clamor for Fields to be all that Bears fans want him to be has been a nice little diversion, and goodness knows the Bears can't have too many of those, but only a diversion, and of no help at all to Fields himself. Being an ordinary rookie was never enough. Failure was not an option.

Nagy's prize "chess piece" may have value only as that, like "Refrigerator" Perry used to be, something for the other team to take seriously enough to waste time practicing for.


As an every down, game managing, weapon of use, Fields is as limited as any rookie would be at the most demanding position in sports. Nagy has known it all along. Fields, too. And now anyone who cares to know knows.

This is going to take a while. And the possibility of a happy ending is less certain now that we have seen such an unhappy beginning.

"There's more to me," said Fields, appropriately modest in assessing his performance.

Considering the hard facts, the Bears have a hodgepodge of an offensive line, a defense without a valid cornerback, receivers who drop more than they catch, a defense past its sell by date -- its rejuvenation against the Bengals notwithstanding -- and most importantly the new reality at quarterback, a vulnerable veteran and overpraised rookie.

Still, at the center of it all is Fields, catch the rocket or indulge the mistake. Wait 'til next year, wait 'til next month. But it is now clear, waiting is all that can be relied on.

The Bears are a team of shared shortages, no game breaker, no game stopper, no game definer. This should be a team without egos because no one deserves to have one, including the coach, especially the coach.

"Justin is further along than we thought," Nagy said, having possibly seen a different game than the rest of us.

"I played well enough to win, of course," Fields said.

No, he played just well enough not to lose. More was expected.

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