Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields didn’t have an ideal start to his NFL career. He was forced into a bizarre quarterback controversy that he didn’t have a legitimate opportunity to win and was hamstrung by former head coach Matt Nagy’s ineptitude. Now entering his second season, Fields has the starting quarterback job all to himself and a coaching staff that seems better equipped to put him in a position to succeed.
Fields’ first time beginning an NFL season as a QB1 kicked off last week at the Bears’ voluntary minicamp, and the difference was obvious. “It feels good just having that mindset,” Fields said. “It’s definitely a different mindset than last year, so I’m ready for the role and I’m ready to lead this offense and lead this team.”
Fields was ready last year when the Bears picked him 11th overall in the 2021 NFL Draft. Yes, he was a rookie. And, yes, for a coach like Nagy, who began last season on the hot seat, starting veteran Andy Dalton was a safe strategy to save his job. But it wasn’t in the best interest of the Bears’ future. Nagy’s mishandling of the quarterback situation played a part in his eventual dismissal, which, if we’re being honest, had to happen for Fields to have any chance at reaching his maximum upside.
“Last year was my rookie year, of course, my first in the league, didn’t know if I was going to start or not, didn’t know if I was going to play, so my mindset right now is completely different than last year,” Fields said. “I’m just excited to get started.”
Fields’ confidence, like any quarterback, is a prerequisite for NFL success. His play on the field has to match for Chicago to be competitive in 2022. He’s taken the necessary steps off the field by linking up in workouts with wide receiver Darnell Mooney and tight end Cole Kmet to build more chemistry, a sign of his growth as a leader of this team.
Despite the better circumstances surrounding Fields in his second season, challenges remain. The offense he mastered as a rookie has been scrapped, so a learning curve is likely. In some ways, it’s like going through another rookie year.
“It would be easier if it was the same offense as last year and we were just able to grow on that,” Fields said. “But kind of just reset, since the rookie year with learning this new offense and just kind of picking it up. I think that’s going to be the most challenging part with this new coaching regime, is just learning this new offense and making sure we all get it down, to the details.”
Fortunately for Fields and the Bears, there’s plenty of time to learn the details. The upcoming minicamps, both voluntary and mandatory, as well as training camp and the preseason, will put Fields in a position to thrive in 2022, something he wasn’t allowed to do as a rookie.