I own that I am flip-flopping.
It’s right there in the first sentence. No cop-outs here. I am changing my mind from where I was in August and September.
The popular narrative heading into the 2022 season for the Chicago Bears was wins and losses don’t matter. Don’t sweat the record. It’s all about the development of Justin Fields.
The Bears have been waiting the better part of 70 years for “the guy” at quarterback. The QB that would lift them out of the purgatory of mediocrity and short-lived glory that has plagued them for that time period.
And it appears that Justin Fields is that guy.
After a rough start to the season, Fields has come alive with changes to the offense and time in the system. He’s become comfortable and confident and is becoming the player we all envisioned him to be when he was picked in the draft last year.
The last four games have been a revolution. The yards, touchdowns and points have been racking up.
The wins have not.
Chicago is in the midst of a three-game skid, and it isn’t all on the offense. I get that. Over the last four games, the lowest amount of points they’ve put up is 29.
According to Stathead, since the NFL’s inception, teams that scored 29 or more points win at an over 80 percent clip. The lowest win percentage for teams scoring over 29 points belongs to the Tampa Bay Bucs, who’ve played 115 such games, is .826.
The Bears, this season, are at .250. All-time they’re at .912.
Now, that’s all to say that, obviously, over time, they should theoretically start winning these games because, well, the law of averages is on their side.
That said, and at the risk of sounding like Veruca Salt, “But I want to win now!”
Look, we’ve seen it. Justin Fields is becoming the guy. Maybe he’s not all the way there, yet. And we can argue and nit-pick about if he’s too dependent on the rushing attack, but the fact is, he is taking over these games. He’s becoming a scoring machine.
This is the player the Chicago Bears envisioned when they traded up to get him at No. 11 overall.
He is the offense. He is the cog that makes any of it work. Whether he’s running or throwing, he is making dynamic plays and insane, unbelievable plays on a weekly basis.
But it isn’t transitioning to wins.
Looking forward to draft position is all well and good, sure, but the next step in his development is WINNING.
He’s grasped making plays inside the offense, he’s grasped reading defenses and making progressions. There’s still more growth for Fields as a passer, but it’s time for some of those moments to become the difference between winning and losing.
I get that the defense is bereft of talent and isn’t giving the offense any help, but driving down for a score or running the clock out in a one-score game are common things in the NFL that teams do every week. It’s a big part of the NFL game.
The Bears took the lead Sunday on Fields’s electric 67-yard run with 9:11 left in the game. After the Lions went three and out, the Bears got the ball back with 7:38 left.
They moved the ball five yards and punted. The Lions drove down and took the lead. The Bears again took over, this time with 2:21 left in the game.
They managed one first down (on a defensive holding penalty), and then Fields was sacked twice, the second on fourth down, and that was it.
Against Miami, they got the ball twice down three points and with under 8 minutes left in the fourth. Neither time they moved it into Miami territory.
Development and wins aren’t mutually exclusive. We’ve seen the Bears win with terrible QB stat lines before. Now they’re losing in spite of their QB.
The next step in his development is winning close games. Winning when they aren’t supposed to. Winning because you had a chance to steal it.
His supporting cast isn’t great, but Cole Kmet has been a weapon, and the running backs have been weapons. Fields can’t do it all, but there are other guys, too.
It’s a football cliche to say that young teams have to learn to win. But that’s where Chicago is at. It’s time for the QB to develop into a winner.