Bears

Hub Arkush: How committed is Bears GM Ryan Poles to Justin Fields?

What is the next No. 1 priority for the Chicago Bears and general manager Ryan Poles?

There is no mystery surrounding Poles’ plan. Following the draft, he left no doubt he’s in a complete rebuild and fully aware it’s going to take at least a few years.

“We’re just going to keep pounding and pounding, knowing that we can’t fix everything in one year, but we sure can just keep chipping away,” Poles said.

I’m not saying that’s right or wrong. From where Poles and the organization stand today, it’s not a bad idea.

But it means that while you always try to win, it’s going to be a while before the Bears do. Finding and developing young talent is a much greater priority right now.

So, Poles most immediate challenge has to be finding out if Justin Fields can be his franchise quarterback, and that should result in our finding out just how committed Poles is to Fields.

Poles was asked his feelings about Fields his first day on the job.

“Like any player, support and development, getting back to the details, doing the fundamentals and taking the approach to reach that ceiling, and that’s hard and that’s detail,” Poles said. “And I’m excited to see him grow.”

If that doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement, it’s because it’s not an endorsement at all.

Poles has said any number of nice things about Fields, his abilities and his prospects.

But if he has said at any time, ‘Justin Fields is going to be our franchise quarterback. I’m confident in that, and it’s one position I don’t have to worry about,’ I can’t find that quote or anything resembling it anywhere.

Fields still is a dramatically better prospect than any of the QBs taken in last weekend’s draft. His ceiling is sky high, and he will get the chance to reach it.

But will it be a fair chance, and can he?

Fields had a bad rookie year by any measure, and while they certainly contributed to it, the idea that it was all because of Matt Nagy, his scheme and play calling, the offensive line, receivers, etc. is pure fantasy.

Fields’ biggest issue was Fields, and the fact that like almost every rookie QB in history he just wasn’t ready.

Throwing him to the wolves in Cleveland in Week 3 with Nick Foles on the bench was organizational and coaching malpractice, and the beating he took was far more because Fields didn’t know what he was seeing across from him and held the football far too long than the scheme or the coaches.

There was minor incremental improvement after but other than a special second half in Pittsburgh in Week 9, a strong first half in Green Bay in Week 14, and a few other short spurts, it was a weakness that lasted all season.

It is not an indictment of Fields.

Peyton Manning and Troy Aikman had similarly awful rookie campaigns before finding their way to Canton, and Fields possesses many of their traits.

As easily the most critical component of Poles’ rebuild, if Fields doesn’t take a big step forward this year working with a rookie offensive coordinator in Luke Getsy and QB coach Andrew Janocko, who has one year of experience coaching the position, Fields can’t remain Poles’ guy.

So why has Poles seemingly weakened Fields’ supporting cast and last year’s 32nd-ranked passing game by excising four starters and almost all the key backups to be replaced by veteran free agents that barely qualify as journeymen and Day 3 draft picks?

Could it be impacted by the knowledge the 2023 QB draft crop will include C.J. Stroud, Bryce Young, Phil Jurkovec and quite possibly two or three more QBs who will contend for Top 10 picks? All would have gone ahead of Kenny Pickett this year, and the Bears are an early favorite to have a Top 5 pick, possibly even the first or second pick.

I absolutely don’t believe that is Poles’ plan, but it has to be a comfort to him if Poles is understandably not all in on Fields yet either.

Hub Arkush

Hub Arkush

Hub Arkush is the Senior Bears Analyst for Shaw Local News Network and ShawLocal.com.