Chicago Bears Q&A: What’s Justin Fields’ future now? What to make of Martellus Bennett’s comments? What would it take to get new ownership?

As the Chicago Bears pick up the pieces from a late collapse against the Detroit Lions, fans at least can take away some positives from the game — particularly quarterback Justin Fields’ strong all-around performance.

So what impact — if any — does Fields’ improved showing have on the team’s plans at QB? Brad Biggs answers that and much, much more in his weekly Bears mailbag.

Did this performance by Justin Fields change how the Bears will approach the QB position in the 2024 draft? — @daniel11605

Fields played well in Sunday’s 31-26 loss to the Detroit Lions at Ford Field, completing 16 of 23 passes for 169 yards, including a 39-yard dime to DJ Moore for a touchdown after Fields did a nice job of navigating the pocket. He accounted for 273 yards of offense as he also ran 18 times for 104 yards, season highs in both rushing categories. He took only two sacks, one on the final offensive play when Aidan Hutchinson stripped him on a play that resulted in a safety.

It was definitely an encouraging performance by Fields, who highlighted his athletic ability and knack for making plays on the edge of the pocket. He had a really nice sidearm completion when moving to his left and a well-executed throw to Darnell Mooney on a crossing route that went for 24 yards. In his first game back after missing four weeks with a dislocated right thumb, it was a very good bounce back from a lousy performance against the Minnesota Vikings on Oct. 15 at Soldier Field — the game in which he was injured.

We tend to seek weekly referendums on the quarterback and head coach. That’s the world we live in. The front office lives in a different world in which it evaluates each week and then stores it to make a decision based on an entire season. At the end of the year, general manager Ryan Poles and his staff will be able to thoroughly analyze Fields — what he did this season, in 2022 and even his rookie season — and then make a decision. Where is the growth? What does the career arc look like?

Fields’ performance against the Lions will help him. No question. At this point, however, I don’t think it changes anything. I still project the Bears to be in the market for a quarterback in the first round of the draft. Could that change over the next six games? Anything is possible, and like I said, the Bears will make a decision after Week 18 — not in the middle of Week 12 as the team prepares for a Monday night game against the Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium.

One issue I have with the Fields discussion that’s rampant on social media is a lot of it lacks nuance and can be too emotion-filled at times. This is a monumental decision for the Bears that they can’t go halfway with. By that, I mean they have to be all in on Fields or out. In my perspective, that means they have to be prepared to engage in contract extension talks with Fields this offseason or be prepared to move on.

The in-between choice — picking up the fifth-year option in his contract for 2025 and evaluating — is a non-starter for me. That would leave the position in limbo after the Bears were at the top of the draft in 2023 (and passed on C.J. Stroud) and again in 2024 as the Carolina Panthers look likely to have the worst record in the NFL.

Is there a window in which the Bears could hammer out an extension for Fields that’s somewhere between the megacontracts quarterbacks such as Patrick Mahomes, Joe Burrow, Jalen Hurts and Justin Herbert received and the one the Green Bay Packers signed Jordan Love to last offseason? I don’t know.

Again, this is just my opinion, but the only way keeping Fields makes sense to me is if the Bears are fully convicted that he’s their long-term answer at the position. Otherwise, the more prudent decision for a struggling organization would be to take a shot with a quarterback in what is viewed as a strong class.

Poles said he would have to be blown away to draft a quarterback last April. Obviously he wasn’t. I think he will have to be blown away by Fields to want to stick with him.

Why not a play-action pass on first or second down when the Bears were trying to run out the clock? Classic case of a beleaguered coaching staff trying to save their jobs at the expense of evaluating the quarterback for the benefit of the organization. — Ron M., DeKalb

A beleaguered coaching staff probably will do what it feels is best to close out a win. As we know, the Bears made a series of errors in the final 4 minutes, 15 seconds to cough up a 12-point lead. I certainly agree with the idea of allowing Justin Fields, who played well, to make a few plays at the end of the game. The Bears ran the ball well throughout the game and had some nice runs earlier in the fourth quarter. Obviously they wanted to chew some time off the clock and/or force the Lions to blow through their timeouts.

Giving Fields a run-pass option on the edge of the defense would have been better than running straight into the line for little to no gain. We can say that in hindsight. They did try the one deep shot to rookie Tyler Scott when DJ Moore was covered on a crossing route. But they weren’t successful, and given multiple opportunities to make a play on defense, they failed.

That’s what has been lost a little in the discussion. We’ve microanalyzed what the Bears didn’t do offensively at the end of the game, but with a stop on either of the late possessions by the Lions, the discussion this week is much, much different. As it was, the Lions faced only two third downs in their final two possessions and both were third-and-2.

Justin Fields definitely has shown some progress this season in the passing game as far as 300-yard games, three-plus-TD games, etc. However, in your memory has there ever been a less clutch QB in Bears history? I don’t think Fields has ever come back to lead a game-winning drive at the end of a game. At least I can’t recall one. It’s like this guy is set to automatic fail if it comes down to a game-winning drive. — Daniel S.

Fields is credited with one game-winning drive against the Houston Texans in Week 3 last season at Soldier Field after Roquan Smith intercepted Davis Mills to set up the Bears at the 12-yard line with 1:05 remaining. The offense ran two plays, gained no yards and Cairo Santos kicked a 30-yard field goal to win the game as time expired.

Fields’ statistics in the fourth quarter are significantly worse than any other quarter. Over the course of his career, he has completed 57.1% of his fourth-quarter passes (128 of 224) for 1,382 yards with 10 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.

He’s just one of 11 players on the offense, and the struggles belong to the entire unit in game-defining situations. That’s one reason the coaches might have been a little hesitant to dial up passes at the end of Sunday’s game. It’s also a primary reason I think many folks are frustrated with the decisions to run the ball at the end of the game. Why not give Fields an opportunity to make plays and seal the game — and by doing so, begin to change the narrative about him in the fourth quarter?

Why does the media freak out over Bears losses when they help position the team better for next year? — @gustave2316

Sunday’s loss, combined with the rest of the Week 11 outcomes, moved the Bears from No. 5 in the draft order to No. 4 based on the current standings. As you know, they also hold the Panthers’ first-round pick, which currently projects to be No. 1.

I won’t speak for others, but I don’t think I freaked out after the loss to the Lions, the second time this season the Bears have blown a large fourth-quarter lead. It was an opportunity to validate growth for a young roster and prove that, when the Bears play to their capability, they can go toe to toe with the best team in the NFC North and one of the best in the league.

The Bears need to figure out how to start winning games. They have a losing culture right now. Losing is never OK in an NFL locker room. No team wants players who are OK with losing, even when considering how it affects the draft.

I firmly believe the Bears are hopeful they can begin rolling off some victories in the final six games to serve as evidence to the players — if not the public — that the organization is making progress. Because ultimately the only way that is judged is through the standings.

It seemed like Justin Fields was visibly frustrated with Dan Feeney when he first came in to replace Lucas Patrick, as Feeney appeared to not know the cadence of when to hike the ball. Did you notice that? And did it seem like things got better after that talk? — @ajlight315

Feeney was pressed into action when Patrick went out with a back injury, the first time Feeney has played center in a game for the Bears. I asked him after the game about some of the things he was trying to hash out with Fields and his linemates and the delay-of-game penalty.

“That was just me and Justin, I was just trying to get everyone in the same protection,” Feeney said of the penalty. “We were just a little off. After that first drive we kind of clicked a little bit better. Our timing was a little bit better.

“I get practice reps, but the game is always a little bit different and I’ve just got to be better for him and the team so we don’t have that. Don’t want to kill the drive.”

If Patrick is sidelined this week, a full week of practice as the starter with Fields ought to put Feeney in position to be more precise Monday in a loud and hostile environment at U.S. Bank Stadium.

How correct is Martellus Bennett about the Bears as a franchise? For me, everything he said is a breath of fresh air. Forget the past and modernize to the present. — @jimtrots

A lot of what Bennett said makes sense to me.

The Bears do a very good job of selling the rich history of the organization, including the 1985 Super Bowl champions and the franchise’s place in the fabric of the NFL. I used to get a kick out of a video they would show at Soldier Field before kickoff that was narrated by the late, great Dick Butkus. One of the clips was from yesteryear, with Butkus noting the Bears dominated the 1940s. They won championships in 1941, 1943 and 1946, navigating the loss of personnel during World War II better than most other teams, but have won only two titles since. That sort of cracked me up. That pregame video hasn’t been used in a couple of seasons.

Bennett played for the Bears for three seasons (2013-15), and since then the organization has poured more than $100 million into a total overhaul of Halas Hall. It’s one of the nicest and most modern facilities in the NFL, with the technology players need to be put in a position to succeed. That’s legitimate. The team hired Kevin Warren as president and CEO in the spring to oversee all areas of the operation. We’ll see if he can make the kind of connections throughout the building that are more meaningful than what Bennett experienced. That will take time.

Almost everything Bennett said is fair game, though, as the Bears have largely struggled since before he arrived, with the exception of the 2018 season.

Isn’t Sunday’s loss to the Lions another example of how a prevent defense gets you beat? — Joey C., Morris

There was an awful lot of this on social media after the game, and I disagree. The Bears were not in a “prevent” defense on the final two series. They were blitzing, they were mixing coverages. They were not in a deep Cover-2 shell and just allowing Jared Goff to pick them apart underneath.

What they did didn’t work and wasn’t executed, so it’s open to examination and criticism. But it wasn’t a prevent defense. Let’s be on point when we’re questioning what they did and why they failed.

The Bears gave former first-round pick Mitch Trubisky four years to see what he could do. He was the starter entering his fourth season in 2020 before ultimately being replaced by Nick Foles. What is the objection to giving Justin Fields a fourth season as the starter, especially considering his ceiling — his best games — are at a higher level than Trubisky ever was? — Richie D., Hickory Hills

There’s more to unpack here than I originally thought when mulling this question. I understand why you asked the question, as the Bears traded up to draft Trubisky at No. 2 in 2017, four years before moving up to choose Fields at No. 11. But the logic is faulty from the start, as you’re comparing Fields to a quarterback who didn’t work out. How does it make sense to say: “Here’s a strategy that didn’t work. Why don’t they repeat it?” In the short history of first-round picks having a fifth-year option in their contracts, it’s hard (maybe impossible) to find QBs who were in limbo going into Year 4 and suddenly flipped the switch to become an elite performer.

The Bears were not in position to draft a replacement for Trubisky in 2020 because they were without a first-round pick as part of the 2018 trade to acquire outside linebacker Khalil Mack. That probably played as much a part as anything else in Trubisky getting a fourth season. Former GM Ryan Pace drafted Trubisky, and he was part of the decision to give Trubisky a fourth year. Current GM Ryan Poles inherited Fields. This team has two first-round picks that will be high — maybe in the top five — for what looks to be a pretty solid class of QBs.

Yes, Fields has six games remaining and is coming off a good showing against the Lions. We’ll see what he does the rest of the way. But I don’t think it’s sensible to look back on a move that didn’t work and say that should be a template for what the team should do in the near future.

Which comes first, building a team and then selecting a QB or selecting a QB and building a team? I ask because it seems that fans and teams like the Bears go QB first. I think as rare as talented quarterbacks are, it is even more rare to have one good enough to improve the team around him. If teams are like soil and QBs are like seeds, I think San Francisco and Kansas City took the right approach. They planted good seeds in good soil and they were able to thrive. In Brock Purdy’s case, I wouldn’t even say he’s a great seed but he’s better than many others. I don’t think teams should be drafting QBs until they have “tended to the soil” first. I honestly think the Bears should not take a QB in 2024 or 2025 or whenever until they have good soil for him to thrive. I would trade Fields after this season, get draft capital and let Tyson Bagent hold things down for a few more years while we build a good team. What is your opinion? — Chris K., Warner Robins, Ga.

I understand your point and I completely disagree with it. The Chiefs were a good team before Patrick Mahomes arrived, but they never were going to chase a championship with Alex Smith as their starting quarterback. The 49ers fell into Purdy by default after a slew of injuries and busting on Trey Lance. Why? Because they didn’t view Jimmy Garoppolo as a quarterback who would be able to win a Lombardi Trophy for them. Show me the list of teams that are regularly in the hunt for a championship without an elite quarterback. That’s a difficult list to compile, and it’s why the Bears haven’t been in the mix often in a long, long time.

I’d point to Joe Burrow as a classic example of a quarterback who immediately turned around the trajectory of a bad team. How about the Texans now that they have C.J. Stroud? That was a pitiful roster last season. They still aren’t very good when you examine the depth chart on both sides of the ball. But they have a quarterback playing at a high level who looks like he already has arrived as a star in the league.

The Bears will remain irrelevant in the big picture until they have the position figured out — with Fields or whoever.

When I was growing up it was common to see punters go for the “coffin corner.” The punter would try to kick the ball out of bounds, crossing the boundary as close to the goal line as possible. You never see it anymore. Why is that? — Tom S., Chicago

Good question. The simple answer is punters are way more advanced than they were in your youth. Back then, most punters carried two, maybe three clubs in their bag. That is, they could hit two or three different balls. Now there are punters who can execute six, seven, even more unique kicks at different points on the field and with different goals in mind.

Punters have gotten excellent at dropping balls inside the 10-yard line without the kind of spin that consistently carries the ball into the end zone. How many times do you see a fair catch at the 8-yard line? That’s because the return team doesn’t want the ball to land and be covered inside the 5. That happens often.

Aim for the sideline and you’re asking for a judgment by the official of where the ball crossed out of bounds. Punters can really execute the end-over-end punts and control those to a great degree. Those are very popular when teams are kicking from midfield and aiming to pin the opponent deep.

In the event the Bears decide to move on from Justin Fields, will the trade partner be able to pick up the fifth-year option if it wishes? — @gridassassin

A decision on the fifth-year option for 2025 in Fields’ contract is due by May 2. So provided a team traded for Fields before then, it would be able to make a decision on that lever because an acquiring team would receive the terms of his rookie contract.

I agree with you that evaluating Braxton Jones is a top priority for the rest of the season. There are two good left tackle prospects in the draft. What would Jones’ trade value look like assuming he stays the course and continues playing competently but not great? — @joroscoe

I don’t like that idea at all. Trading competent offensive linemen, especially young ones on a rookie contract, is never a good idea. That’s how you get yourself in trouble. The Bears need to stockpile more talent on the offensive line, whether that means drafting a left tackle or adding talent by other means. I can’t see them entertaining the idea of trading Jones even if they were to draft a left tackle in the first round. Not with him under contract for two more years.

What will it take to get new ownership for the Bears? The McCaskeys are atrocious and nothing will change until their ineptitude is gone. — @poishpistol7

This is a popular question when the team is cratering as it has been the last couple of seasons, and after Sunday’s disastrous loss, there were several versions of it. While it’s not the answer many are seeking, I will remind you of San Francisco 49ers owner Jed York’s words when asked about his stewardship of that franchise after a 2-14 season in 2016.

“I own this football team,” York told reporters. “You don’t dismiss owners. I’m sorry that that’s the fact and that’s the case, but that’s the fact.”

That came after the organization fired GM Trent Baalke and coach Chip Kelly, a year after firing coach Jim Tomsula and two years after a mutual parting with Jim Harbaugh. The 49ers wound up getting it right by hiring John Lynch as GM and Kyle Shanahan as head coach.

Owners, as York astutely pointed out, don’t fire themselves. That’s probably not the answer you were seeking, but it is what it is.


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