The recent injury news on Justin Fields is…confusing. One look at the official diagnosis (separated shoulder with partially torn ligaments) is enough to make anybody’s shoulder ache. So common sense would point to Fields getting some time off to rest up.
Yet, there remains a chance the Bears trot Fields out against the Jets for their Sunday matchup. This begs the question; if Fields is as banged up as the injury reports state, should he be playing even if cleared?
Of course, if Fields is 100% healthy, he should play; just like if he is definitely injured, he should not play. But if he stays in this weird injury limbo, the debate to play him or not becomes a real one, with valid arguments appearing on both sides of the debate.
The Case To Play Fields
Continue to Grow Chemistry with the Offense
Other than the most obvious reason for wanting to see your starting QB out on the field, playing Fields will allow him to grow chemistry with his weapons. Guys like Darnell Mooney, Chase Claypool, and Cole Kmet are not going anywhere anytime soon, so keeping Fields out on the field will let him continue to grow his connection with them, which will benefit everyone on the offense. Claypool was especially brought in to be an ideal target for Fields, and we have not seen that connection hit yet. Keep Fields playing and keep growing these relationships.
Keep Improving the Scheme
As good as the offense has looked over the past five games, there is always room for improvement. Having Fields available means the staff can iron things out, fine tune some details, and establish a rhythm while making sure the past five weeks were not just a flash in the pan. This would secure some long-term confidence around the offense.
Work Fields’s Arm into the Offense More
Much of Fields’s recent success has been due to his legs. While it is getting the job done in terms of putting points on the board, in today’s pass heavy NFL, you are likely gonna need more than 154.6 passing yards-per-game to win games, especially in late game situations when you need to pick up some yardage quick (a problem the Bears have run into recently). Relying on Fields to bust out a 60+ yard TD run is not a sound plan to pick up a big gain. Fields getting more playing time means it will give him and the coaching staff more time to work on the passing game and getting those numbers up.
Make the Team Look More Attractive
With more cap space than they know what to do with, the Bears are primed to be big spenders this upcoming free agency. And what better way to draw some big name free agents than showing off your fancy young quarterback you are building around? So while the Bears might not be hunting for a playoff spot, playing competitive football and featuring Justin Fields lighting things up will get more FAs to look at Chicago as a desirable place to play.
The Case to Rest Fields
Keep Him Safe
The most obvious reason to give Fields time off is to protect him from further hurting himself. The list of promising NFL players whose careers ended because of injuries is tragically too long, and Chicagoans are far too familiar with a young, explosive athlete whose prime was cut far too short (Derrick Rose ring a bell?). Take into account the next point coming up in this article, and there really is no reason to risk hurting Fields’ long term health for short term success.
It is Already a Lost Season
Let’s face it: the 3-8 Bears are not going to the Super Bowl this season. Maybe Fields playing picks them up a few extra wins here and there (a win versus the Packers on Dec. 4 would feel real good), but unless they win out and some other teams drop the ball, all that is gonna do is hurt the Bears’ draft stock. So in a season where the playoffs are essentially out of reach already, why give Fields more opportunities to get hurt again in near meaningless games?
Put the Offensive Staff to the Test
Of course, it is kinda unfair to expect an offensive staff to produce when the key to their offense is standing next to them on the sideline, but it would be interesting to see how Luke Getsy and co. do without having Fields to rely on. Do they have the offensive IQ to keep this team scoring with Trevor Siemian under center? Does this current scheme work at all without Fields? Keep in mind, when the Bears are a competitive playoff team again, there is a good chance Fields will miss some time (every quarterback does), so consider Fields missing time now (when the results do not matter) a little preview as to what the offensive coaches do in games they need to win without him.
Gives Some Other Players a Chance to Shine
While some guys have been thriving off Fields’s success (*cough cough* Cole Kmet *cough cough*), having Fields off the field would give some other playmakers a chance to step up and show what they are made of. How will David Montgomery or Trestan Ebner look when Fields is not taking rushes away from them (or drawing attention from the rush defense)? Will Siemian start targeting a WR Fields usually does not and give them some much-needed targets? Obviously, it would be ideal if the other 10 guys on the field play the best they can whether it is Fields under center or not, but his absence might motivate some other names to step up.