Why the Bears should wait to start Justin Fields

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields is congratulated by quarterback Andy Dalton after scoring a rushing touchdown during their game against the Miami Dolphins Saturday afternoon at Soldier Field in Chicago.

    Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields is congratulated by quarterback Andy Dalton after scoring a rushing touchdown during their game against the Miami Dolphins Saturday afternoon at Soldier Field in Chicago. Mark Busch/mbusch@shawmedia.com

  • Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields fires a pass during their game against the Miami Dolphins Saturday afternoon at Soldier Field in Chicago.

    Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields fires a pass during their game against the Miami Dolphins Saturday afternoon at Soldier Field in Chicago. Mark Busch/mbusch@shawmedia.com

 
 
Updated 8/18/2021 4:12 PM

Here are three groups of quarterbacks. Try to decide if you like one better than the others.

GROUP A: Peyton Manning, Russell Wilson, Matt Ryan, Kyler Murray, Sam Darnold, Carson Wentz, Dak Prescott, Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, Derek Carr, EJ Manuel, Geno Smith, Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannehill, Brandon Weeden.

 

GROUP B: Baker Mayfield, Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson, Mitch Trubisky, DeShaun Watson, Jared Goff, Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Dan Marino.

GROUP C: Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Joe Montana, Phillip Rivers, Brett Favre.

The numbers are a little uneven, but here's the connection: Group A is quarterbacks who started Game 1 of their rookie year. Group B became starters at some point as a rookie, but not right away. Group C all started zero games or 1 game as NFL rookies.

For those people screaming at Matt Nagy to start Justin Fields in Week 1 like it's some kind of intelligence test, history shows the smarter move might be to wait.

The list of the NFL's greatest quarterbacks trends heavily toward guys who didn't start right away and weren't top-10 draft picks. Manning is the exception as someone who excelled as a No. 1 overall pick and started right away. Troy Aikman and Terry Bradshaw also fit that description.

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NFL teams have generally done a poor job of predicting quarterback success. The reason so many of the greatest quarterbacks didn't start right away is likely tied to why the position is so difficult.

Arm strength, mobility, leadership and intelligence are all helpful traits. But when it comes down to it, what makes a successful NFL quarterback is the ability to process a thousand things going on at lightning speed, read what's happening, make a split-second decision and execute the play.

Even if things go well for six weeks, can the quarterback make a couple of bad mistakes and maintain confidence? Once hesitation sets in, he's going to struggle. Why did QBs like Colin Kaepernick and Carson Wentz look like superstars in the beginning of their careers, then seem completely lost?

History has shown every quarterback drafted in the first round has a better chance of being a complete bust than to lead his team to the Super Bowl. That's true for Fields, Trevor Lawrence, Mac Jones, everyone.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Two things that definitely can help a quarterback's development are a smart coaching staff and a solid supporting cast. Do the Bears have what it takes to help Fields? Well, the jury's still out on Nagy as a developer of QBs, and the Bears' supporting cast definitely could be better.

The plan at left tackle has gone from a rookie, to a journeyman, to a 39-year-old former All-Pro. And right tackle doesn't look solid, either. The Bears' set of skill players are probably middle-of-the-road at best, although it's nice to have a go-to receiver in Allen Robinson.

But the supporting cast isn't great. The Bears haven't drafted particularly well and are still hurting from the decision to give up three draft picks for the privilege of drafting Trubisky and then badly overpaying for OLB Robert Quinn. Then they gave up more draft picks to move up for Fields.

Nothing Fields did against the Dolphins' scrubs on Saturday will be much help if he starts the season opener against the Rams. He'll have to deal with blitzes, disguised coverages, one of the NFL's best defensive players in DT Aaron Donald and a coaching staff that will game-plan to confuse a rookie first-time starter.

Maybe Fields reminds people of Wilson. But Wilson basically joined a Super Bowl-ready supporting cast when he started as a rookie.

The Bears don't have that. Fields will eventually walk into a very challenging situation. He'll be more ready by waiting.

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