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Justin Fields
Chicago Bears

Why Justin Fields Playing Week 18 Is Wrong Decision

  • Bryan Perez
  • January 5, 2022
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Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy declared Justin Fields the team’s starting quarterback in Week 18’s finale against the Minnesota Vikings in what will be Fields’ first game back from an ankle injury that’s sidelined him for the last two games. Consider this decision another in the long line of bad calls by a coach with one week remaining as an employee of the Bears. Look, I get it.  Young quarterbacks need reps—a lot of them. They need game experience; real game experience, not just preseason scrimmages or simulated situations in practice. In the case of Fields, who the Bears traded their 2022 first-round pick to move up and draft 11th overall in 2021, his development is the most critical factor in the team’s attempt to build a contender. So, yeah, common sense would suggest that getting him another four quarters of in-game reps in his rookie season is a good thing. But, here’s the rub: it isn’t. In fact, it’s downright negligent. Fields was a full participant in practice Wednesday and for all intents and purposes, is healthy. But he did miss two games with a bum ankle, and if his mobility is at all limited against the Vikings, the risk of him taking (more) unnecessary hits in Year 1 far outweighs the reward of reading a coverage, recognizing a blitz, or throwing a touchdown pass. The Bears have waited decades—literally—for a quarterback with Fields’ ability. He’s simply too important and too valuable to play in what’s essentially a regular-season exhibition game. And let’s be honest, what more do the Bears need to see from Fields this year? He’s proven he has the chops to be a franchise quarterback despite his expected rookie struggles.  "He's done everything that we've asked of him to do this year in the developmental part," Nagy said of Fields. Comments like that make the decision to put Fields at risk simply infuriating. Nagy, a lame-duck coach with no real vested interest in what happens on Sunday and beyond, is acknowledging that Fields has developed in accordance with the team’s expectations. He hasn’t been a disappointment or a letdown. He’s done everything the Bears asked of him, per Nagy. Great. Case closed, rookie season done. Nagy is the same coach who over the last two weeks benched his rookie offensive tackles, who need that valuable in-game experience too, for players like Germain Ifedi and Jason Peters, two veterans with no future in Chicago. The logic behind those decisions was almost as silly as the decision to gamble with Fields. In fact, it’s the absence of logic that makes Nagy’s thought process harder to digest than sour milk.  Try to follow along here, ok? Nagy benched two healthy, starting offensive tackles—rookies at that—for veterans on expiring contracts yet plans to start his less-than-100% healthy franchise rookie quarterback instead of either of his two veteran quarterbacks who are healthy and ready to play. Does your brain hurt as much as mine right now? Reports of Nagy being informed that Sunday will be the last game of his tenure in Chicago were once again shot down by the head coach, who said he hadn’t been told anything by the team regarding his future. But if the Bears’ brass had a true leader—paging Ryan Pace? George McCaskey? Anyone?—they’d prevent Nagy from starting Fields this week. And maybe the only way to stop him from such a horrendous decision is to fire him… right now. I know there will be a segment of Bears fans who hate the idea of sitting Fields. There will be a faction of fans who still need to be convinced that he is, in fact, the future in Chicago. But those fans are wrong. And it isn’t because Fields is a can’t miss for 2022; instead, it’s because the Bears should make sure he’s available to find out how good he can be in 2022. And starting him in Week 18 puts that in jeopardy.

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Bryan Perez