In pushing back against the idea that this regime doesn’t believe in Justin Fields, I found myself landing here: “It is possible that this front office believes so much in Fields’ overall skills and his makeup that a bad year by the team won’t hurt the QB’s development.”
The idea, in theory, is that this new regime – which, mind you, didn’t draft Fields and is instead inheriting him from their predecessors – is so sold on Fields being the guy moving forward that they’re willing to expose him to a second straight season navigating rough waters. Tough times make tougher people. And we’ve seen Fields gut out some tough games in college and the pros. Ultimately, if the Bears feel this way, then perhaps a season of rough sledding will callous Fields to the point where he’ll be ready to face even tougher times when stakes (and expectations) are higher.
Maybe that is how things will shake out in the year to come.
However, completing that task won’t be as easy as flipping a switch.
During Darnell Mooney’s recent visit on the Red Line Radio podcast, Chicago’s top returning receiver was discussing the locker room energy (among other things) in reflecting on a 2021 season in which the Bears went 6-11. As you might expect, the vibes were *NOT* immaculate.
“You could definitely feel the energy a lot of guys just having that ‘let’s just get this over with, it’s getting brutal out here, just continuing losing,'” Mooney said. “It’s definitely hard to have the mindset going into next week, ‘My God, we just keep losing.'”
Oof. That was tough to digest.
As fans, we can empathize with that feeling. There are few things as disheartening in fandom than waking up on Sunday and feeling like a cloud is hanging over your favorite team’s sideline. Unfortunately, we’ve felt those feelings far too often over the last few decades. But for the players to feel that way is an indictment on the coaching staff.
Coaches are in place to keep guys pushing hard through the tough times. That a franchise that championed its team culture as the envy of opposing teams, only to watch it spiral out of control as it did in 2021 should be as embarrassing to the folks who let it happen as it was to the fans who were rooting for things to turn around. The Bears were led by a group that should’ve been operating with a strong sense of urgency. And yet, they didn’t use it to their advantage. Instead, it sounds like that group got stock in its rut and never found a way out.
Good thing the Bears jettisoned the coaches and general manager responsible for that messy season. And while the new guys are unproven, a clean slate could do wonders for all interested parties. Players, coaches, front office members, and fans can all relate to a long and trying season weighing heavily on them all. But the best of those negatively impacted by tough times rally, bounce back, and are better after coming out the other end of it. If the Bears get to that point, it will say a lot about the character and culture they were so proud of at one time. Training camp opens next month. And I’m looking forward to this team starting that particular journey as we all collectively move to step away from the past.