Ryan Poles is entering his second year as an NFL general manager, and he is finding out his role is about more than just player personnel. All the adversity he had to deal with last week is also part of the job.
There is not a general manager’s handbook that you can check for reference. You learn and grow as a general manager based on how you handle situations and learn from those experiences. Everyone in the organization is watching how the general manager reacts. If you’re perceived in a negative light, that negativity will spread through the entire building.
Many issues need fixing in Chicago, but the top priority will be to address the quarterback situation. Poles needs to find an answer to the question: is Justin Fields a quarterback who can win the Chicago Bears a Super Bowl?
The previous regime drafted Fields. Poles, Matt Eberflus and Luke Getsy have a two-year window to determine their quarterback’s future with the Bears. If Fields is not the future, look for them to acquire a quarterback through the draft or possibly via trade if one becomes available.
Still, it’s hard to ignore the disconnect between Fields’ skill set and the offensive scheme the Bears are running. So, I went back and read through the scouting reports on the young quarterback to reflect on his strengths and weaknesses.
Fields’ Scouting Report
Justin Fields’ Strengths
He has all the physical tools. He has the size (6-foot-3, 228 pounds), strength, speed and athleticism to succeed at the professional level.
Fields excels in play action and against the blitz. He also plays well against a three- or four-man rush and in clean pocket on his first read. Furthermore, Fields shows real talent on longer developing throws and impressive accuracy on downfield throws. His completion percentage on downfield throws was 64 percent — one of the top quarterbacks in the 2021 draft class.
Justin Fields’ Weaknesses
Fields struggles to get beyond his first read as a passer. His depth on drop-back passes was less than six yards, and he scrambled out of the pocket almost 30 percent of the time, the highest rate of all quarterbacks in his draft class.
He often throws behind the line of scrimmage in the screen game, and his passer rating dropped compared to all other throws. Fields must improve his performance in the red zone and two-minute-drill situations under pressure. And while he also needs to work on getting through his progressions beyond his first read, it’s his issues in the two-minute drill he needs to work on the most.
Looking to the Future
Last season, Fields showed how unique he is as an athlete. He was making plays with his legs and improving as a passer.
This year, he is playing from the pocket more and not using his singular athletic skills. He holds the ball and struggles to produce when he gets off his first read. He made some nice throws downfield against the Kansas City Chiefs, but Chase Claypool and D.J. Moore had drops. He’s also struggled in the screen game. The best example was the interception Fields threw against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Shaq Barrett pick-six! Huge play for the @Buccaneers
— NFL (@NFL) September 17, 2023
This year, he is highlighting all his weaknesses coming out of college.
If the Bears decide to move on from Fields after the season, they can trade him. The San Francisco 49ers traded Trey Lance to the Dallas Cowboys for a fourth-round pick. Will Chicago ask for more than that, or just want to move on and take the best deal they can get?
If they are convinced his skill set is not a schematic fit, the Bears will have more than enough draft capital to make a move on a quarterback in the 2024 NFL Draft. The Bears have two first-round picks, their own and the Carolina Panthers‘ first-rounder.
If they must sweeten the pot, they have Carolina’s second-round pick in 2025. If the Bears decide to get aggressive via a trade, the draft capital is there, and they are projected to have an estimated $111 million in cap space next year.
Unless something changes drastically in Fields’ performance or they adjust the offensive scheme, I believe the Bears will move on. This is a deep 2024 quarterback draft class, and I lean toward the Bears drafting another signal-caller.
Still, if Fields does get into a suitable scheme, he will have a chance to be a successful quarterback. Teams can replicate the success offenses have had with dynamic, athletic players under center, like the Philadelphia Eagles with Jalen Hurts, the Baltimore Ravens with Lamar Jackson, and — in a small sample size — the Indianapolis Colts with Anthony Richardson.
Rick Spielman is a former general manager of the Dolphins and Vikings and winner of the NFL Executive of the Year award by Pro Football Weekly in 2017. Follow him on Twitter @spielman_rick