Drafting a first-round quarterback can be a rewarding, but exhausting experience (that is, if you’re doing it right). Fortunately for the Bears, Ohio State product Justin Fields sure makes it look like they did it right. Unfortunately for us, we don’t know precisely how the pick came together. We’ve heard bits and pieces along the way, but the complete timeline that led the Bears to Fields was still missing. That is, until Adam Jahns (The Athletic) filled in a bunch of the blanks.
It is your must-read piece of the day:
“We walk into the draft room with a plan — and with Justin being our No. 1 target."
From 11 filed reports to finding that "sweet spot" for a trade to working the phones only on Day 1, here's the inside story on the Bears' selection of Justin Fields.https://t.co/0enYyPMQJt
— Adam Jahns (@adamjahns) May 12, 2021
Jahns’ latest features all sorts of goodness that led up to the pick, but what sticks out to me most is the thoroughness and attention to detail that went into this pick. Because while we might poke fun at the Bears’ brass for their obsessive references to the collaborative process, it’s possible that said process actually yielded a gem.
Reporting from Jahns has the Bears using 11 staff reports on Fields from the pre-draft process. It starts at the top with GM Ryan Pace and Head Coach Matt Nagy. From there, it trickles down to Offensive Coordinator Bill Lazor and QBs Coach John DeFilippo, two assistants who figure to be instrumental in developing Fields as a rookie. On top of those reports, insight came through via all sorts of eyes throughout the front office. Three of Pace’s top lieutenants — Director of Player Personnel Josh Lucas, Director of College Scouting Mark Sadowski, and Assistant Director of Player Personnel Champ Kelly — also had involvement in the pre-draft process. As did scouts Chris Prescott, Jeff Shiver, Scott Hamel, and Brendan Rehor.
That’s a whopping 11 sets of eyes on Fields from a scouting perspective. Now, add Assistant Director of Pro Scouting Jeff King, Scouting Coordinator Bobby Macedo, Director of Football Operations Joey Laine, and Director of Football Systems Mike Santarelli. All of those football administration types were name-checked as part of the mechanism at one point or another. And let’s not overlook the assessments of new hires such as Offensive Analyst Tom Herman, Running Backs Coach Michael Pitre, and Defensive Line Coach Chris Rumph. Herman and Pitre were coaching collegiately in 2020, while Rumph was at Tennessee as recently as 2019. Altogether it’s a wealth of knowledge from 18 coaches or staffers who were a part of what seems to be a comprehensive piece of work. And to me, that’s the most impressive takeaway. Here’s why…
In 2019, I came to the conclusion that it was time for the Bears to re-vamp their quarterback-evaluation process. This is what I wrote at the time:
At a higher level, Chicago’s front office needs to re-evaluate their entire quarterbacking process. All of it. Every crevice, nook, and cranny. It needs to be an all-encompassing deep dive into the position. From top to bottom. This needs to be a complete tear-down and rebuild of the position group. Everything from the players, coaches, scouts, evaluation techniques, processes, language … everything. Any part that led the Bears to where they are today with this quarterback situation needs to be under the microscope, put through the wringer, picked apart, analyzed, and evaluated.
Whatever process led the Bears to take Mitchell Trubisky over Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes was wrong. And it needed to be torn down to the studs and rebuilt. That much was clear. Fast forward to February 2021, and I found an interesting nugget in Albert Breer’s deep dive into the deal that sent Carson Wentz to the Colts. One that highlighted John DeFilippo’s involvement in the evaluation process, which suggested that the Bears were taking a different route in 2021 than they did in 2017. It was a small step, to be sure. But a welcome one. And more than that, a necessary one.
The Bears not landing Wentz was the story for many. But for me, the takeaway was Pace involving others and taking whatever valuable data, information, anecdotes, etc. from anyone and everyone he could. This is what it’s supposed to look like when you learn from your mistakes. Again, we’re a long way from realizing whether the Bears hit the jackpot on Fields. But a better process in 2021 is more likely to yield a desirable result than one that was far less thorough in 2017.
Again, you’ll want to read Adam Jahns’ piece in The Athletic for a full scope of things. Trust me when I tell you that you won’t regret it.