Justin Fields

New Bears OC Shane Waldron will not change team's evaluation of Justin Fields

There was a thought that the new Bears OC could help the team see Fields in a new light due to his work with Geno Smith

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INDIANAPOLIS – When the Bears hired Shane Waldron to take over as the team’s next offensive coordinator, people immediately asked what it meant for Justin Fields. Waldron was the OC in Seattle who not only helped the Seahawks make the decision to go with Geno Smith over Drew Lock, but also helped Smith transform from a big draft bust to a legit NFL starter. If Waldron was able to revitalize Smith’s career, could he jumpstart Fields’? Would Waldron see something in Fields’ game that the Bears had missed?

Ultimately, would having Waldron in the building change the team’s evaluation of Fields?

On the Tuesday before the NFL Combine, head coach Matt Eberflus put that question to rest.

“No, it doesn’t,” Eberflus said. “It’s the same evaluation that I talked about at the end of the season at length.”

Overall, that evaluation was positive. Here’s what Eberflus said about Fields at the end of the regular season.

“We love where Justin is right now. He’s done a good job growing in the interceptions, keeping those down, the sack totals, he’s doing a good job with that, having his eyes down the field, he’s done a wonderful job with that, of being able to deliver some strikes down there and he’ll continue to grow as we grow as a football team.”

But it did not come without critiques. In the same end-of-year press conference, GM Ryan Poles shared where the Bears wanted to see improvements from Fields.

“Growth in the two-minute part,” Poles said. “That’s a critical part that we’ve got to continue to get better at because that’s where you win games and more games, close games and a lot of times when you look at the playoffs and championships, that’s where you close it out. That’s one big part.”

Flash forward back to the Combine, and consider this answer from Eberflus when asked what he’s looking for in a QB. He reiterated Poles’ desire for solid play in two-minute drills, but added a few other aspects he’s looking for, too. Some apply to Fields. Others do not.

“I look at situations,” said Eberflus. “I look at the guys that can operate third down, two-minute and the end of the game situations. To me that’s a separator.

“Then you look at toughness. Toughness for a quarterback really is about the mental toughness to be able to stand in the pocket and deliver the ball, and also to have the discernment to be able to move out of the pocket and create when it’s necessary.”

Any quarterback evaluator would have a hard time finding someone rougher than Fields. He routinely made big throws with pressure in his face, and rarely– if ever– let an impending hit stop him from stepping into a pass.

When Fields did take a big hit, he always shook it off and got back in the huddle. Unless Fields sustained a serious injury, he was going to play through pain.

The situational performance is a different story, however. In games that Fields started, the Bears completed 39.1% of their third-down attempts. That would’ve put them tied for 14th in the NFL with the Cardinals. Good, but not great. Things fell off the rails in two-minute drills however. Fields had 23 opportunities to score with around two minutes on the clock at either the end of either the second or fourth quarter, discounting drives that ended with kneel downs or drives where the Bears were down more than two scores at the end of the game. Of those 23 opportunities, the Bears only scored points four times. And of the 19 drives with no points, seven ended with a Fields interception. That means seven of Fields’ nine total interceptions came in clutch moments.

Waldron could be a guy to help Fields succeed in those clutch moments, but it’s clear Waldron won’t change what the Bears think of him.

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