Fun is a Chicago Bear necessity for the 2021 Chicago Bears. The Chicago Bear’s Justin Fields hopes to bring back that excitement. On top of finding a quarterback, improving the offensive line, and getting younger on defense, this off-season was about instilling some joy into the fan base. The Bears have slogged through two mediocre seasons in 2019 and 2020 and the fan base was ready to revolt. Enter Justin Fields.
The Bears made a controversial decision to keep both Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy after another lackluster season and early exit in the playoffs. 2020 was an odd year. In any other year, the Bears at 8-8 would not have made the playoffs. I wonder how much the NFL saved Pace and Nagy? The Bears ownership was able to tout 2 playoff appearances in three years. Even though the fan base knew that was fool’s gold.
The 2018 Bears team was actually good. With better QB play that team could have won a Super Bowl that year. I honestly believe that. What became abundantly clear, however, was Mitch Trubisky was not the guy. After an offseason of Nagy offense hype, Mitch laid an egg in the home opener in 2019. That was the beginning of the end of the Mitch Trubisky era. He lost confidence, never found it again, and now will hold a clipboard for the next 10 years. Ryan Pace should have been fired for the Mitch pick. Most GMs are fired for less. However, it is McCaskey’s team and they are allowed to do whatever they want. Consequences be damned.
Press Conference From Hell
Then the 2021 press conference came. Whew boy. Bears fans were rightfully up in arms. After another terrible offensive performance against the Saints, where Mitch was terrible and was named the NVP (Nickelodeon Valuable Player), the Bears were a joke in a game that featured slime. The Bears are traditionally some of the worst PR folks in the game. They really can’t get out of their own way. After being holed up for a week after the playoff loss, the Bears scheduled a press conference that featured Ted Phillips, George McCaskey, Ryan Pace, and Matt Nagy. The words out of the Bears President will now live in infamy and the fan base was rightfully livid.
In this must-see football news brief, the Bears President actually said, “Have we won enough games? No. Have we got the quarterback position right? No. But everything else is there.” What a doozy. I couldn’t believe the man charged with setting the tone from the top actually thought it was a good idea to say these words. If you are not winning games and if you do not have the QB position right, what else is there? The best QBs rule the NFL, that’s the way it’s been for the last 50 years and will never change. The Bears have had the worse QB situation in the NFL for the last 35 years. They will go down in football history as never having a 4,000-yard passer in the 16 game era. It’s a wonder they have fans at all.
Great Players Are Fun
The one thing the Bears have become is irrelevant. This is because of the QB position. If you land the star QB you will win games. Even if things go terribly wrong, having a star QB will make you relevant. Having a great, even a good QB makes your team interesting. We are living in the age of fantasy football. Sports gambling is going to take over the landscape in the next decade. Betting on games while being in the stadium will be the new normal. People love football, they love the sport. But what separates football from the rest of the sports is gambling. Fantasy football is just another form of gambling. People want to feel they have control and can profit from their entertainment. They already love the sport, now let’s win some money from it.
What an NFL franchise cannot become is boring. The Bears have not only been a mediocre franchise since the late 1980s, but they have also been boring. This is coupled with the fact their division opponents have been anything but boring. Sure the lowly Lions are the best worst team in sports. They are worse than the Cubs in legendary losing.
NFC North Excitement
However, even the lowly Detroit Lions have had hall of fame stars the last 30 years. Barry Sanders and Calvin Johnson are two of the greatest football players to ever play. Even though that hasn’t translated into winning, they were still interesting because those two players were so exciting.
The Vikings have been a solid franchise since their inception in 1961. They have been to four Super Bowls, lost them all, but they have also been to four NFC Championship Games since 1999 (lost them all). They have had exciting players as well though. Chris Carter, Randy Moss, and Adrian Peterson are again three of the best to ever do it.
The Packers, well, we all know the story there. They quite simply have had the greatest QB room for the past 30 years. Between Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers, the Packers have had two all-time great QBs that were not only great but exciting. Brett and Aaron have very different styles. They were not Peyton Manning or Dan Marion pure drop-back passers. The blend of excitement and talent has to lead the Pack to three Super Bowls since 1997, winning two of them. Aaron has been to five NFC Championship Games. They are the gold standard of the NFC North.
Then there are the Bears. The 2000’s Bears were a very exciting team. What Jerry Angelo and Lovie Smith built should not be forgotten. They featured outstanding talent on the defensive side of the ball and they deserved much better than the QB play they had during that era. Devin Hester is an all-time great, but his greatness alone could not transcend winning as a franchise QB can. His greatness was a two-year run the NFL will never see again but still, there is only so much a punt and kick returner can do.
Playoffs? Are you kidding me? Playoffs!
So here we are. Since Lovie Smith was fired in 2012 the Bears have made the playoffs just once, losing in their only game. The same old mistakes that have plagued the franchise since Sid Luckman has continued to be a noose around the neck of the NFL’s oldest franchise.
This all changed with the Justin Fields pick. There is nothing that infuses excitement into a fan base like a rookie QB and the Bears have never had a QB like Justin Fields. This is a dude that would have been a number 1 pick if he wasn’t in the same class as all-world Trevor Lawrence. Interestingly enough Fields and Lawrence have history. They both grew up in Georgia and were seen as all-world talents in high school. Trevor since the beginning, Justin blossomed later. One interesting nugget was the Justin Fields was elected the MVP of a QB camp both Fields and Lawrence attended in high school. Fields knows Trevor and he has a chip on his shoulder.
Through the NFL draft madness, players like Fields have always fallen and they have always made the NFL pay for that mistake. Look no further than Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers. The last two MVP winners were both selected as the second QB off the board. They have used that chip on their shoulder to fuel their greatness. Justin Fields is 6’3, 225, and runs a 4.44 forty. He can throw the ball 60 yards in the air while on the move. He had insane production at Ohio State, including a 300 yard, six touchdown masterpiece against Trevor Lawrence in the college playoffs just last year. There really was no reason he wasn’t taken by the Jets with the second pick and he will make Jets fans feel like Bears fans do with Mahomes. The one that got away.
Justin Fields is not the only reason Bears fans should be excited. The Bears were also able to land star offensive tackle Tevon Jenkins. Jenkins was a player that was mocked to the Bears at number 20 and many Bears fans would have been happy to land him in the first round. To move up twice and land Justin Fields, only giving away a 2021 3rd round pick, and 2022 1st and 4th round picks, was not a lot to give up for two players the Bears are hoping will transcend the franchise for the next decade. Of course, things may not work out as planned. Justin Fields could be a bust, so could Jenkins. That isn’t really the point right now. The point is the Bears base is back. Bears fans believe they will own the NFC North and make Super Bowl runs for the next 10 years and there is nothing that will change that excitement. For now…
I am a true believer in Fields. After the Northwestern game in the Big Ten Championship, there was so much noise around fading Justin Fields I couldn’t believe it lasted two months later. Yes, Zach Wilson looked great and Trey Lance had one of the best college football seasons of all time but they are largely unproven. They both had one great year and a mixed bag after that. The draft process is not a perfect science. Every team makes mistakes but once again the overanalyzing of a player like Fields reminded me of Deshaun Watson.
Deshaun Watson Comparison
Watson is now toxic as we stand today but his talent was on full display for two years leading up to the 2017 draft and still, teams chose to poke holes in his game. So many teams failed by not drafting Watson, including the Bears. Watson of course has been all-world ever since. He was the NFL’s leading passer on a terrible Texans team last year. His talent was there to be seen and the franchise as they often do overthink the production.
The same can be said with Justin Fields. From watching the tape of Fields and Jenkins they are two of the most can’t miss players I’ve seen end up on the Bears roster. Jenkins is a big, nasty, athletic lineman who could be a top 5 tackle in the NFL in 2-3 years. This draft could be talked about in Bears lore for the next generation and the Bears brass needed that excitement infusion as much as any franchise in the NFL.
Hope Springs Internal
A Bears Necessity this off-season, was to find a QB and build a team that wins more games. The Bears found their QB and with Justin Fields on a very friendly rookie contract the Bears Super window has been opened. Anticipation often overshadows reality and the hype couldn’t be any bigger but for a franchise that has often been overlooked, which should be heresy in the NFL’s third-biggest market, the Bears needed this NFL draft.
Everything leading up to the start of the field now hinges on that excitement. It was reported the Bears had near-perfect attendance for their off-season work. They are ready. After losing Kyle Fuller to a COVID-related salary cap decrease, things looked bleak this offseason. Now, things couldn’t be brighter and as the Bears march toward opening day, they once again have what every NFL franchise seeks: hope.