The 2022 NFL season is one where player development will take priority over wins and losses for the Chicago Bears until the team proves otherwise.
With that in mind, I found myself feeling encouraged when I saw where Bears quarterback Justin Fields checked in on Chris Simms’ annual rankings for the position group:
The quarterback countdown rolls on! 👀
— Sunday Night Football on NBC (@SNFonNBC) May 26, 2022
OK, so it’s not *ALL* great news. Fields comes in at No. 23 on Simms’ top-40 quarterback countdown. And while the No. 23 holds significance throughout the Chicago sports landscape (nods at Devin Hester, Ryne Sandberg, and that Michael Jordan fella), it is only natural to wish that Fields was ranking higher. Part of me wants to quibble about Daniel Jones and Zach Wilson coming ahead of Fields on the ranking list, but that isn’t worth beefing about. And it isn’t worth digging down that rabbit hole. Instead, I’d like to use this to underscore how much Fields’ stock has grown in Simms’ eyes.
When Simms rolled out his list last year, Fields came in at 39th. Not only was Fields just barely making the cut, he was ahead of only Case Keenum. Even Vikings third-round pick Kellen Mond was ahead of Fields. Yikes.
However, there is a thing about opinions that some folks don’t truly embrace … they change.
Opinions change due to performance, circumstance, and a number of other factors. So to see Fields move up 16 spots over the course of a calendar year speaks volumes to what he did as a player. But it also says something about Simms’ evaluative eye and assessment of quarterback play. What is even better is that this isn’t a knee-jerk reaction from Simms. In October 2021, Simms confessed he was too low on Fields with his rankings. He even said Fields was “light years ahead” of Trey Lance, who was the third of five first-round QBs chosen and was above Fields on the initial QB ranking rollout last year.
What a difference a year makes.
So why the change of heart? Simms explains, via NBC Sports Chicago:
“There’s a lot of wow with Justin Fields,” Simms said. “He made a lot of wow plays, and not just with his legs because his legs are gifted and he’s as athletic as anybody in the sport as far as the quarterback is concerned. He’s up there with Lamar Jackson as far as the ability to run and the wow factor running the ball. But I think the thing I’m most impressed by, going back and watching, is wow, damn, he makes some wow throws every game. Every game. And I think that’s where I went, ‘Man, OK, Justin Fields, a little bit more of a polished passer, a little bit more control with some of the down-the-field, wow-type throws than I gave him credit for.’ And he didn’t have the greatest offense or support system around him, and that’s where I give him a lot of credit.”
There is so much to like about Fields. The tools, drive, and intangibles that help create special quarterbacks is there with the Bears QB. And while the receivers and offensive line isn’t all there just yet, that Fields already made a significant move up evaluative rankings suggests to me that another could be coming once that stuff shakes out. Until then, Fields will need to keep improving on his own. He’s already come so far in a quick amount of time. Who’s to say he can’t keep chugging along?