Lincicome: It's about the quarterback, stupid. Now, can the Bears coaches make Fields better

  • Bears quarterback Justin Fields passes under pressure from Seattle Seahawks cornerback Tariq Woolen Thursday during the first half in Seattle.

    Bears quarterback Justin Fields passes under pressure from Seattle Seahawks cornerback Tariq Woolen Thursday during the first half in Seattle. Associated Press

 
Updated 8/21/2022 10:21 PM

It is generally allowed that Mike Ditka is the greatest NFL player to ever become a great NFL coach when it is true that he was only one of those. Not to start an argument here but to make the point that playing ability has nothing to do with genius, a point made, I believe, by Ditka himself.

So what, you may well ask, what does any of this have to do with Justin Fields?

 

The answer is and will continue to be, everything has to do with Justin Fields. Or to paraphrase an old political phrase, "It's about the quarterback, stupid."

Current evidence is barely available, for sure -- to use one of Field's favorite shrugs -- that Fields is any better now than he was then or that he will be when. Preseason reassurance relies on a couple of completed passes and a field goal, easily erased by reality.

"It's a small sample size," admitted Bears head coach Matt Eberflus after the Seattle rehearsal. "He (Fields) had a nice drive and scored a field goal. It's progress.

"I see more progress in practice some times. His foot work is getting better. His delivery when he's feeling pressure, how he slides in the pocket and delivers the ball, that's getting better. He's improving every day."

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Is it true, Mr. Prufrock, that life, or becoming a competent NFL quarterback, is measured out in coffee spoons?

While it may be incidental that Fields finds himself being jabbed and prodded by marginal coaches who were never good enough themselves to invite inspection, that is how things work out in the NFL some time, most of the time, really. And, after all, Fields does need all the jabbing and prodding he can get.

Yet, suggesting that novice offensive coordinator Luke Getsy had anything to do with Aaron Rodgers becoming a legendary quarterback and tireless flake is to imagine, as the Bears once did, that Matt Nagy had anything to do with Patrick Mahomes becoming the NFL's sudden whiz-bang wonder.

Or to think that quarterback coach Andrew Janocko is the Fields whisperer needed for the job, when to give Janocko his due, he did spend a year in Minnesota with quarterback Kirk Cousins without solving the inexplicable puzzle of how Cousins has made three Pro Bowls.

If Tom Brady had Bill Belichick and Joe Montana had Bill Walsh and Dan Marino had Don Shula, Bears quarterbacks have had a succession of shopkeepers realigning the tomato cans, not to pick on offensive fillers like Aaron Kromer or Dowell Loggains, to pick on a couple.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Maybe a good quarterback can overcome poor coaching -- consider Peyton Manning and Tony Dungy or Drew Brees and Sean Payton -- but it is more likely that poor coaching will stunt a good quarterback, a local example being the beloved Lovie Smith, who made a sow's ear out of every quarterback he ever coached.

There is about the Bears a complete lack of proof that anyone knows what he is doing, from family to front office to coaches to players, and winning two summer scrimmages while discounting a third one coming up is not going to change that.

Believing that Eberflus/Getsky/Janocko will make Fields better than he can be is like believing that Ditka had anything to do with Jim McMahon becoming, maybe, the second best quarterback the Bears have ever had.

The best thing Ditka ever did for McMahon was nothing and the best thing that McMahon ever did was hand to the ball to Walter Payton and best thing Payton ever did was to take the ball after Dan Hampton, Mike Singletary and Richard Dent got it back.

Here we now have young Fields, a critical patient in the hands of interns, with none of that around him: the menacing defense, the Hall of Fame running back, the solid, serious offensive line, even the bully Ditka poking and goading to make him what everyone insists he can be.

Fields should wear the adjective "promising" like a label on the back of his helmet.

So, to get back to where we started, can Fields, surrounded by the eager and the artless, be coached into becoming better than he is? Shrug.

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