The story of Justin Fields is one of immense talent and potential -- of a quarterback fighting against the unfair tides of NFL fate.
It's a story that's still being written, but it's one that has taken a dark turn after the opening two weeks of the 2023 season.
A campaign that started with unrealistic MVP expectations has seen Fields complete 40 of 66 passes for 427 yards, two touchdowns, three interceptions, and a passer rating of 70.7. That passer rating is worse than the one Fields put together in his rookie season with Matt Nagy.
The faith that reverberated throughout Chicago all summer has quickly turned into concern regarding Fields' future as the franchise's savior.
Fields had his issues in the Week 2 loss vs. the Bucs, there's no question. The third-year quarterback shares a good portion of the blame for his early-season struggles. The footwork has been inconsistent, he has been too deliberate in his reads, has failed to cut it loose to open receivers, is taking bad sacks, and is holding the ball too long.
He deserves a chunk of the blame pie we are serving up right now. Full stop.
But the biggest issue with the Justin Fields discourse is that things are not as black and white as people want to make them.
Justin Fields can be better. The decision-making has to get faster and the footwork more consistent. He's not absolved of blame for the early issues.
But it doesn't fall on Fields' shoulders alone.
Offensive coordinator Luke Getsy has been an abject disaster through two games.
The designed runs that field the Bears' four-game offensive explosion last season have been nowhere to be found. The Bears have run four designed quarterback runs through two games. When you have a quarterback with Fields' athleticism that can run away from NFL defenders, you have to play to his strengths. At the very least, have that tool in your toolbox.
No one is saying the Bears should run Fields 15 times per game, but they must utilize it. Quarterback-designed runs not only put the defense into conflict and open up the run, but they also can help Fields into a better rhythm.
Getsy and the Bears appear to have junked the aspects of last season's successful mini-bye reevaluation and have gone back to asking Fields to run an offense that doesn't mesh with his skill set.
Through two weeks, the Bears have cobwebbed the quarterback-designed runs and kept the vertical passing game mainly in the cupboard.
Fields is at his best when he can utilize his elite athleticism and stretch the field with the deep pass.
Instead, the Bears are focusing on the quick passing game, likely because of a lack of trust in the offensive line.
Through two games, Fields has a league-low 5.0 air yards per target, per Next Gen Stats. But the short passes haven't been effective for the Bears' offense. The Bears are dead last in the league with a Completion Percentage Above Expectation of -11.1, meaning the Bears should be completing 11 percent more passes than the 60.6 that Fields has through two games.
There's also the issue of Getsy's lack of creativity and insistence on running the same concepts repeatedly. That got the Bears in trouble in Tampa on their potential game-winning drive. Trailing 20-17, the Bears tried to run a screen to Khalil Herbert, but it was called back due to an offensive pass interference call on Chase Claypool. Backed up on their own 6, Getsy elected to call the same play. Bucs linebacker Shaq Barrett read the play easily and picked off Fields' pass.
Running the same play out of the same formation at the NFL level is inexcusable. That's the opposite of helping a young quarterback. That's openly harming his development.
Getsy needs to look at how Shane Steichen helped Jalen Hurts and borrow some of those concepts to help get Fields into a better rhythm and allow him to succeed.
All offseason, the Bears have harped on improving the rhythm and timing of the passing game. That hasn't shown up through two weeks. That doesn't mean the Bears are concerned about Fields' development, but the lack of consistency is an issue.
"You certainly want to see the consistency there. OK?" head coach Matt Eberflus said Monday. "You see flashes, and then you see improvement. You see that. And you saw the ball delivered down the field yesterday, which is all positive. Those are all positive things. And like I said, we just want to see consistency with that. Take what the defense gives you. You know, if that long ball is there, the shot is there, the in-cut is there, whatever that route might be, and if it's not there, then work down your progression. So it's just about consistency. That's really what it is."
What's the key to the Bears' passing game finding consistency? Quarterback-designed runs, getting Fields out of the pocket, and vertical throws.
"But like, you’ve seen the first start of the game, throwing the ball downfield. Putting the ball in DJ’s hands, allowing him to make a play, and it happened again, just get him the ball, make a play, and then Chase got in the end zone," Wide receiver Darnell Mooney said Monday when asked how the Bears' passing game can get better. "Just allowing the guys to be accountable on whatever it is down the field. Allow us to be able to make that play, drop that ball, whatever it is. Allow us to be accountable. Just kind of have to continue to think like that and just putting the fault on us guys."
Fields has been inconsistent, and the warts that were prevalent last year are rearing their head again. Getsy owns a lot of the blame. As a coordinator, it's your job to know not only your system but also your players' strengths and to build your offense around what they do well.
Fields is not Aaron Rodgers. Getsy has to let Justin Fields be Justin Fields, or this isn't going to work.
But the blame doesn't stop at Fields and Getsy.
The Bears are making a ton of stupid mistakes. Receivers are running the wrong routes, the spacing is terrible on a number of plays, and the protection breakdowns are everywhere.
That's a recipe to make life incredibly difficult for a developing quarterback.
Bad scheme, too many dumb mistakes, and a quarterback who isn't trusting what he's seeing -- all of it is an issue.
That's why things have gone so bad for the Bears' offense through two weeks and why the once unshakable belief in Fields is starting to wane.
If Fields fails with the Bears, it won't be for lack of talent or work ethic. It will be because if you played his career 10 times, this is the worst possible situation and outcome.
There's still time for the Bears and Fields to fix this. Things are dark but can turn around with a more Fields-friendly scheme, smarter play from all 11, and better play from Fields -- from footwork to decision-making.
Everyone deserves blame for what's gone wrong. Can they be part of finding a solution? Or will this be another chapter in the Bears quarterback failure cycle that has enveloped this franchise for 30 years?