LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- When Bears head coach Matt Eberflus stepped to the Halas Hall podium Wednesday, he hadn't heard exactly what quarterback Justin Fields had said minutes earlier.
Fields spent 12 minutes Wednesday addressing his early-season struggles. He pointed to overthinking as a big issue, with coaching and his desire to execute the staff's wishes to a tee causing him to play "robotic" and not use his instincts. The 24-year-old quarterback was critical of the coaching staff's plan and overload of information but put most of the blame on himself for his poor play.
After practice, Fields felt the need to clarify his remarks with the press, noting the buck stops with him.
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Eberflus later listened to Fields' comments and went to make sure the relationship between his quarterback and offensive coordinator Luke Getsy was all good heading into Week 3.
“I did that. Oh yeah. I step in," Eberflus said Friday at Halas Hall. "First of all, I’m in the quarterback meeting in the morning and in the afternoon, so it’s easy for me to step in there. ... So I just step in there and say, ‘Hey, is everybody good here?’ I had Justin come up to my office, we talked and visited a little bit for five minutes before the breakfast club, and everything was good. So just put everything on the table, talk about it, see where it is, and if I have to step in and help, I will do that, but in that case I didn’t.”
On Thursday, general manager Ryan Poles said he understands where Fields is at and that no one in the organization viewed the quarterback as a "finger pointer." Getsy preached patience and said he believes Fields' frustration is part of the "evolution" in his NFL quarterback journey.
Eberflus pointed to Fields' desire to clarify his comment as proof of leadership.
"Hey, that’s the way he felt," Eberflus said. "He felt that was the right thing to do. I always tell them, ‘Hey, if you think something’s right and you wanna do right, step up and do it. If you see something that’s wrong, something that you can help with, step up and say it.’ That’s how you be a leader. That’s how you be a man, and a team."
The Bears head coach said no one was offended by what Fields said Wednesday. The Bears preach about being open and honest with each other. Eberflus believes Fields' comments were heard and understood. Now, they have to move on and try to find a way to get out of an 0-2 hole.
"It’s no disrespect to anybody, it’s just telling somebody the truth," Eberflus said. "We always tell each other when you have a friendship or a partnership or a teammate that we give permission to each other to tell the truth. Because that’s real honesty. A lot of times when you tell that to somebody they feel like, ‘Oh I’m being attacked.’ No, that’s not what it is here. That’s why we’re so close. Because we’re honest, we tell each other the truth and if we want to give each other feedback, that’s OK."
On Wednesday, Fields said his goal was "to say 'F' it and just play free" Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium.
Through two games, Fields hasn't looked like the electric quarterback who took the NFL by storm for a handful of games last season.
The Bears have called only four quarterback-designed runs through two games. Fields has the lowest average air yards per target in the NFL (5.0), but also has the worst Completion Percentage Over Expectation at -11.1. Fields' QBR and Passer Rating through two games are both currently lower than the numbers he posted during his rookie season with Matt Nagy.
There's no easy fix to get the Bears out of their rut. But their best chance is to unlock Fields and let him put on the cape and carry them.
"I can say so," cornerback Jaylon Johnson said when asked if he agreed that Fields was playing "robotic" in Week 2. "We know Justin as a play-maker and if he's out there not making too many plays I don't think it's because of his lack of ability but because of something I would say is going on upstairs whether it's from a different factor I would say. But at the end of the day we see him as a big-play guy, a big play-maker. He can throw, I feel like he can make any pass. He can run, he can throw. So I feel like there's nothing he can't do."
Eberflus said the staff heard Fields' concerns. The Bears now must do what they can to implement a game plan that makes him comfortable and allows him to play free. Doing that against a Chiefs defense that has allowed just 23 points in two games won't be easy. Being down left tackle Braxton Jones, left guard Teven Jenkins, and potentially right guard Nate Davis will only make that task more difficult.
Asked if Fields felt heard and is comfortable with the changes the staff has made, Eberflus dodged the question the way he hopes Fields evades defenders Sunday.
“I think he’s excited for the game. I can just say that, for sure. He’s excited," Eberflus said.
Excited is one thing. But Fields needs to have been heard and understood. His frustrations need to cause change. If they don't, the Bears' organization will likely enter the offseason where it has been for several decades: directionless and in search of a franchise quarterback.