When a quarterback has a tough year, people love to assign blame. For Justin Fields, it is rather remarkable how many people were quick to put all the Chicago Bears‘ offense problems on him. The numbers weren’t flattering. A 2-8 record. Throwing just seven touchdowns to 10 interceptions. It is fair to say he had a tough year. He made mistakes that quarterbacks can’t make in the NFL. Yet they were also mistakes that have been typical of rookies going back decades.
One of the weirdest criticisms though has to be about the pressure he faced. Fields was sacked 36 times in 2021. That is a lot when he only played 12 games. Under normal circumstances, people would say his protection wasn’t good enough. For whatever reason, there was a large contingent of people swearing up and down that he was the one responsible for the issues: him and his tendency to hold the ball too long.
Pro Football Focus finally put this debate to bed.
Their excellent 2022 QB annual revealed all their compiled data on every quarterback that played last season. One of their categories was Pressures Responsible For By Position. For the year, Justin Fields was pressured 128 times. Just 15 of those pressures were deemed as a direct result of the rookie’s own decision-making, which means the remaining 113 fell at the feet of the offensive line.
Yes, Fields held the ball too long at times. This is not incorrect. It is a byproduct of being a rookie and his time at Ohio State. He enjoyed good protection there and was at his best throwing the ball down the field. It is only natural he wanted to do the same in Chicago and proved he could. Unfortunately, the weak state of the offensive line and poor coaching made that problematic.
New GM Ryan Poles and head coach Matt Eberflus hope to correct those issues.
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