Justin Fields

Bears overreactions: Ryan Poles' massive errors now harming Justin Fields?

Justin Fields is struggling, the offense is a mess, and the Bears have lost 12 games in a row. Did Ryan Poles error when making his initial hire? Is it Tyson Bagent time? Insider Josh Schrock opens his mailbag after the 0-2 start

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The 2023 season couldn't have gotten off to a worse start for the Bears.

After getting embarrassed by the Green Bay Packers in the season opener, the Bears rolled into Tampa in Week 2 and had all sorts of issues with the Buccaneers in a 27-17 loss.

Quarterback Justin Fields struggled mightily, the offensive scheme was once again confounding, there were mental lapses across the board, and the defense couldn't get off the field on third down.

Other than that, everything went swimmingly.

The Bears have now lost 12 games in a row dating back to last season. Fields' struggles are particularly concerning and have caused a once hopeful fanbase to question the young quarterback and the decisions made around him.

An 0-2 start filled with offensive discombobulation, limited adjustments, and more defensive issues have the weekly overreactions mailbag overflowing. Let's get to it:

Overreaction? No.

Tuesday's column highlighted the blame pie for Justin Fields' struggles and why everyone owns a part of it.

But I think the important part of this is general manager Ryan Poles' decision to hire a first-time, defensive-minded head coach in Matt Eberflus and a first-time offensive play-caller in Luke Getsy to pair with a young, developing quarterback in Fields.

That's not a recipe that commonly succeeds.

Poles didn't draft Fields, so he was under no obligation at the time to hire a staff with the young quarterback in mind. It was a free roll for him as a general manager -- a risk-free swing at a first-round quarterback he didn't draft.

But having a dynamic quarterback is the only way to win in the NFL, and Poles landed in a situation with one potentially already in place. But he needed to hire the right type of coaches to give Fields the best chance to develop and his reboot the quickest path to success.

I'm not here to criticize the Eberflus hire. I thought Eberflus did a good job last year, keeping the locker room bought in and making in-game adjustments.

But if you're hiring a defensive-minded head coach, I think you have to make sure the OC hire is an experienced play-caller with a history of developing quarterbacks.

Getsy was in the room with Aaron Rodgers and Matt LaFleur in Green Bay. He believes in his system. But there's a lot more to being a successful OC in the NFL, and having a first-time play-caller learn on the job with a quarterback who needs a scheme built around his strengths probably was an error.

Overreaction? No.

Let's focus this on Poles' offseason plan and his evaluation of what players to bring into the building.

It's true the Bears weren't going to fix everything in one offseason. But Poles looking at things through the best-player-available lens instead of focusing on shoring up the offensive and defensive lines was the wrong way to go.

Poles focused heavily on scheme fit and value. He was disciplined in his spending, refusing to go over his number. That's great up to a point.

But there were players -- Orlando Brown Jr. and Javon Hargrave come to mind -- that would have been worth the overpay or perceived scheme issues.

The Bears needed an effective three-technique and a rock-solid left tackle in pass protection. Braxton Jones has been OK to start Year 2, but the Bears needed to fully secure Fields' blindside to give him the best chance of succeeding. Paying Hargrave could have allowed them to alter their approach on Day 2 of the draft and potentially take center John Michael Schmitz to solidify the interior of the line.

Instead, Poles viewed Brown as not a scheme fit and didn't want to overpay for Hargrave. To be fair, Hargrave probably would have still taken the 49ers deal, given his age and desire to win now.

But I think it's fair to look at the state of the Bears' lines and criticize the approach. The offensive line is injured, so perhaps once it's whole, things will look different. The defensive line still struggles against the run, and the lack of a reliable, penetrating three-technique remains a problem.

This is just a good question. We'll get back to the overreactions in a second.

I think the first thing the Bears have to do is go to Fields and ask him what he's comfortable running, and what throws and concepts he likes. Build around that and the QB-designed run game. Trying to make Fields into an Aaron Rodgers-esque straight dropback quarterback with this new footwork isn't working.

It's not a talent issue, but he's clearly not trusting what he sees.

The Bears have to get Fields out on the edge and stretch the field vertically. It's not a coincidence that the only two drives the Bears' offense looked functional in Tampa was when they were pushing the ball down the field with DJ Moore and Chase Claypool. The first touchdown? An excellent QB boot run to utilize Fields' athleticism.

I don't know what happened in the offseason that led the Bears to junk the only good part of their offense last season. But the comprehensive QB run game has to come back, and the Bears should build the passing game to work in concert with it.

Getsy needs to structure the offense around what Fields does best and what Moore, Claypool, Darnell Mooney, Tyler Scott, and Cole Kmet do best.

If the Bears don't do that, things won't get better.

Overreaction? Yes

As I said above, I'm not out on Matt Eberflus, the head coach. Now, hiring manager Matt Eberflus? He, I might have questions about.

But if the Bears wind up with a top-two pick and decide to move on from Fields, I think it's OK to give Eberflus a rookie quarterback if the offensive coordinator is a proven developer and seasoned play-caller.

They also would need to bring in a respected veteran quarterback who can still operate an NFL offense to help out.

If things go poorly this season and it ends with the Bears either moving on from Fields or not having a proper evaluation of him, it's unlikely Getsy will survive, and Poles certainly will have more of a say in the second OC choice.

But Eberflus will almost certainly still be here in 2024, with Fields or whomever he chooses as his quarterback.

Overreaction? Yes. Yes. A thousand times, yes.

I know things are dark right now. I've seen the stats—all of them. Every time I see a new one, it gets worse.

I like the Tyson Bagent story. There's development potential there.

But there's no scenario where the Bears should bench a healthy Fields for Bagent.

Bagent made quick decisions in the preseason against backups. The ball comes out quickly, and he has got some moxie. I like his stuff.

But Fields is more talented and has a ceiling in a different stratosphere.

The Brock Purdy comp is nice, but those don't grow on trees. Purdy also has Kyle Shanahan and a whole nuclear arsenal of weapons, along with the best left tackle in football.

Not going to happen.

Overreaction? Yes

Now for our weekly Colorado mail.

Shedeur Sanders is much better than I thought he was when the college football season began three weeks ago.

He is tough as hell, has good ball placement, and has shown good poise in the pocket.

But he is still at a very early stage in his quarterback development. He holds the ball too long and doesn't always throw with anticipation. The decision-making is spotty at times. That's understandable. He's a young quarterback who is still learning.

But at the moment, I think the only quarterbacks the Bears should be interested in drafting -- should they wind up in the top five -- are Caleb Williams or Drake Maye. Those are currently the only "sure things." (Those don't really exist in the draft.)

Otherwise, load up with blue-chip talent at other key positions, and give Fields a fourth year with a new offensive coordinator and live to play the quarterback game another day.

However, this stance could change by the end of the season.

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