This offseason is going to be chock full of the hottest takes with many pundits set to suggest that the Chicago Bears use the first overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft (April 27) on a quarterback and move on from Justin Fields. In fact, former New York Jets general manager Mike Tanenbaum has already said he would do just that for Bryce Young of Alabama.
Sitting in the pole position of the annual selection process does come with its fair share of perks. Not the least of which is the ability to take the best passer in the class if need be.
And yet, there was Bears general manager Ryan Poles to all but shut the door on that.
“We’re going to do the same as we’ve always done we’re going to evaluate the draft class,” Poles asserted before hedging. “I would say this, I’d have to be absolutely blown away to make that type of decision.”
Ryan Poles Sends Strong Message On Justin Fields’ Future With Chicago Bears
Justin Fields ‘Did a Good Job…Has to Improve’
Some may hear that Poles is still on the fence about Feilds. But he could also be playing it close to the vest. The more teams that think he may take a quarterback, the higher the asking price for the pick.
Of course, that is not to say that the No. 1 pick will not be used to take Young or another quarterback in Will Levis of Kentucky or Fields’ fellow Ohio State alum C.J. Stroud. It just did not sound like the Bears are too keen on being the team that does it judging from Poles’ comments on the quarterback he inherited.
“I thought Justin did a good job,” Poles offered. “I thought we changed a lot we adapted, we tried to put him in a position to be successful. He showed the ability to be a playmaker, be impactful. He can change games quickly. Does he have room to grow? He does. He has to get better as a passer and I’m excited to see him take those steps as we move forward.”
67-YARD TD! #DaBears
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— NFL (@NFL) November 13, 2022
Fields and the Bears set good and bad records this season both breaking the franchise single-season rushing record and producing its fewest passing yards since 2005.
The second-year passer and former 11th overall pick threw for 2242 yards with 17 passing touchdowns to 11 interceptions. As was evident on the field, his season can be split in half at the Bears’ Week 6 12-7 loss to the Washington Commanders.
Fields spoke of being “tired” of the offense getting close and not finishing.
He went from averaging 144 passing yards per game on 54.8% completion over the first six weeks with four touchdowns and five interceptions to 162 yards per game on 67% completion with 12 touchdowns and five interceptions over his next eight starts before the wheels fell off the offense in Week 17 against the Detroit Lions.
Signs of Justin Fields’ Growth
Even more encouraging for Poles and fans is that more than one-third of Fields interceptions came in two games. Two came in a Week 3 win over the Houston Texans and two more in the Week 13 loss to the Green Bay Packers.
Fields did not have any other multi-interception games, though fumbles remained an issue.
He led the league with 16 fumbles but he only lost two and had just five in the final eight weeks of the season despite sustained heavy use in the run game.
“I’m excited for the direction he’s going,” Poles said. He knows where he has to improve – I think he mentioned that the other day. So we’re excited about his development and where he goes next. He showed ability to be impactful with his legs, there’s flashes with his arm. Now, if we can put that together, I think we have something really good.”
.@chicagobears GM, Ryan Poles, discusses @justnfields amazing work ethic on and off the field with @PSchrags.
Click to listen to the full podcast: https://t.co/prVsnLWH7D pic.twitter.com/mDUnzAiUQG
— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) November 18, 2022
How can Fields improve?
“Just for things to slow down mentally. And then, be able to react and anticipate quicker. Obviously, with that, we have to continue to build around him so that he can do that consistently as well.”
Ryan Poles Must Do His Part
The Bears spent less than any other team this season while carrying the fourth-largest dead cap hit. All of that has set them up to be major players in free agency if they so choose. They did send out a second-round pick for Chase Claypool whom Poles remains high on and Fields is giving them a reason to do whatever it takes to put even more weapons around him. That includes a front five that had just two members start more than 12 games.
Poles: “Everyone should be excited about the direction we’re about to go" pic.twitter.com/I7qQZ2B6Y3
— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) January 10, 2023
Fields’ bad throw percentage dropped precipitously after Week 7 as his passing attempts rose, going from 4.0 bad throws in 19.9 pass attempts per game (20.1%) over the first eight weeks to 3.2 bad throws in 22.7 attempts(14.3%) across his final eight appearances.
That may be the best sign that his future is bright and that the game is indeed slowing down for him. But, as Poles stated, it is imperative that they put the proper pieces around him creating the proper environment for that to occur. And it doesn’t mean they will focus only on the offense in the draft or free agency.
The defense also allowed the most points in franchise history. This offseason was already critical to the organization’s success, potentially for the next decade if they do it properly.