Justin Fields

Questions about Justin Fields' future baffle his teammates after loss to Browns

After another heartbreaking loss, the Bears have to start looking to the future, even if they don't see the need

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CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The Bears have been fielding questions about quarterback Justin Fields' future all season. Those questions have ramped up at Halas Hall over recent weeks as the 2024 NFL Draft picture starts to crystalize.

Probing about Fields' future -- and how his teammates feel about the uncertainty surrounding it -- is necessary as the Bears look to enter the next phase of general manager Ryan Poles' rebuild. But those questions are unlikely to yield any interesting answers. Bears players love Fields, see his talent, and don't see any reason why he shouldn't be the quarterback in the future.

After Sunday's 20-17 meltdown loss to the Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium, several Bears players made their feelings about Fields clear when asked by Cleveland media about the quarterback's future in Chicago.

"Justin is the quarterback of the future," wide receiver Darnell Mooney said after the loss. "He's the franchise quarterback. He's been balling. I don't understand why it's anymore questions. Obviously, we have the [projected No. 1 pick] because of Carolina right now, but Justin is a dog. If he's not here, he'll be somewhere else balling. I'm not the guy that makes those decisions, but Justin is dog. Wherever he may be, if it's not here, he's still going to ball."

Star wide receiver DJ Moore has already made his feelings about Fields clear. When asked a few weeks ago about Fields' future, Moore seemed shocked it was even a question. He was brought to Chicago to create a dynamic pairing with Fields, and he doesn't see that being a one-year experience.

When Cleveland media broached the subject with Moore, he bristled at the question.

"I don't know," Moore said when asked why people question Fields' future in Chicago. "Ya'll asked me that last week. I'm still like, 'Bruh, where are ya'll seeing this? What makes him not the franchise quarterback for the Chicago Bears right now?'

"I get ya'll got everybody coming out. What, there's like two of them? I don't think [Caleb Williams and Drake Maye] are better than Justin."

With the Bears now at 5-9 after the debacle in Cleveland, the focus must fully shift from an unlikely playoff push to what is expected to be a transformational offseason.

The Bears might be tired of the questions about the future of Fields and head coach Matt Eberflus, but they also understand that they could erase those questions, or at least most of them, with a strong finish.

"At the end of the day, I know that whoever's future in is flux or whatever, the focus has got to be on winning," tight end Cole Kmet said after the Bears' Week 14 win over the Detroit Lions. "[Fields] has been that. That's his main focus and main drive. I think if in the win-loss column you see more wins to end the season, I think everyone is going to be pretty happy with where things are."

Fields has taken a philosophical approach to his future being up in the air. He said coming out of the bye week that he won't let football determine his happiness, and he has been working to find peace with the privileged position he finds himself in as the quarterback of the Bears.

Whether or not the Bears are tired of the questions about their future under center won't stop them from coming.

Only Fields can do that.

But performances like the one Sunday aren't what's needed to silence the noise.

Fields had a subpar day Sunday in Cleveland. He authored a special play to create the Bears' only offensive touchdown, but he also went 19-for-40 for 166 yards. A ferocious Browns defensive line constantly pressured him, and the Bears' lack of a run game and stale offensive play-calling did him no favors.

Football is the ultimate team game, and Sunday's offensive ineptitude is more of an indictment on an offensive operation with systemic issues beyond who is under center.

But Fields just wasn't good enough Sunday. There are a number of passes that can be given to the third-year quarterback. I listed some above.

But there was another quarterback on the field Sunday who faced a dynamic pass rush. That quarterback also didn't have a run game and was down four starting offensive linemen. That quarterback threw for 212 yards in the fourth quarter to put his team on the cusp of a playoff berth. That quarterback, Joe Flacco, was sitting on his couch a month ago.

When talking about Fields as the Bears' future, the bar has to be raised for what constitutes good play. Every quarterback can point to excuses, but, more often than not, the great ones rise above them and play at their best when it's needed.

If the Bears are going to stick with Fields, he has to prove he can elevate when things aren't going his way. If he can't, the Bears will have their answer. Being outplayed by Flacco under similar circumstances is a blemish. One that shows the difference between Fields' flashes and the high-level passing ability required to win at a consistent clip in the NFL.

"First off, I need to play better as the quarterback of this team," Fields said after the loss in Cleveland. "We all got to be better on offense.

"It's simple, we just got to be better. I got to be better."

It's unclear if three games of "better" play will cement his as the Bears' franchise quarterback. It probably won't. The Carolina Panthers' win Sunday muddied the draft picture a bit. The Panthers now are just one win in front of the New England Patriots in the race for the No. 1 pick. If the two teams finish the season tied, the Patriots are likely to win the tie-breaker based on strength of schedule.

The Bears getting the No. 2 pick instead of the top selection could further complicate the quarterback questions that will come in the future.

But for now, Fields and the Bears are done trying to look into the future. Whatever happens, happens.

"People question a lot of stuff. That's not my problem," Fields said when asked by Cleveland media about why there were questions about his future. "I just come to work, do my job as best as I can. That's it."

On Sunday, it wasn't good enough, and Fields is running out of time to deliver the closing statement needed to cement himself as the franchise savior he was billed to be.

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