Bears general manager Ryan Poles has done almost everything he can to convince Bears fans and the NFL at large that he is “all in” on quarterback Justin Fields.
Recently he told Mully & Haugh at 670 The SCORE that his belief level in Fields is “sky high.”
“The way this guy is moving around the building right now is he is locked on, he is focused, he wants to be great,” Poles said of Fields. “He’s a first-in, last-out guy, and he’s pulling this team together, and you can tell the effect he has on other people.
“All these guys, they’re showing up, they’re going to work, they’re doing extra with him.”
Still, there is a narrative that Poles is in fact trying a rope-a-dope here and setting Fields up to fail either because he doesn’t believe he’s the long-term answer or possibly just because Fields “isn’t his guy.”
To be clear, while the chorus is growing, it is coming almost exclusively from fringe platforms looking for clickbait and to try to make one plus one equal anything but two.
Beyond being a complete fantasy, the whole premise is remarkably ignorant.
Even if Poles is less than confident Fields will become a franchise quarterback, what can he possibly gain by sabotaging him? If he isn’t “all in” on the kid, Poles doesn’t need anyone’s permission to move on from him. And if he’s ever even thought about that possibility, why would he work to lower his value first?
Obviously, he wouldn’t, but the reason the noise won’t go away, beyond the fact that it’s coming from less-than-credible sources, is how little Poles has done to help Fields succeed.
The offensive line is one thing. No one would be foolish enough to argue replacing Jason Peters, James Daniels, Germain Ifedi and Alex Bars from one of the NFL’s weaker units last season with Lucas Patrick, Dakota Dozier, Julien Davenport, Shon Coleman and a bushel full of Day 3 draft picks and undrafted free agents is an upgrade or an even swap.
At least Poles can argue he’s retooling his scheme and looking for completely different players in attitude and traits.
However, swapping out Allen Robinson, Marquise Goodwin, Damiere Byrd and Jakeem Grant – who weren’t anywhere near good enough to begin with – for Byron Pringle, Equanimeous St. Brown, Taje Sharpe, Dante Pettis, David Moore and third-round pick Velus Jones Jr. feels a lot like depth-chart malpractice.
The Bears and Fields were 30th in the NFL last season in receiving yards, only 20 total yards ahead of the Saints, who finished last.
With seriously sub-par years from Robinson and Goodwin, the quartet above totaled 93 receptions for 1,291 yards and five touchdowns.
The five veteran free agents replacing them last season caught 76 balls for 983 yards and six TDs combined, with 42 catches, 568 yards and five TDs coming from Pringle, barely surpassing what Robinson contributed in far and away his worst season as a pro.
So where can Fields look to get better in the passing game?
Poles and head coach Matt Eberflus seem to believe Darnell Mooney has another gear. A possibility, yes, but obviously not enough.
In fact, an overreliance on Mooney could further hinder Fields’ growth.
Much is being made of the rookie Jones. As a return guy and special teams demon, I get it.
But look behind the curtain. In six college seasons, he caught more than 24 passes once. He averaged only 20 catches a year ,and in his “breakout” season last year, as a 24-year-old playing against 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds, he still had only 62 catches, 807 yards and seven TDs.
On paper, I’d argue the Bears probably have the weakest wide receiver room in the league.
Show me who’s worse?
Poles’ problem is obvious: He’s trying to rebuild an entire organization into a contender, and making decisions based on short-term needs is a losing proposition.
He know his best hope is to be all in on Fields, and he will have to get him help – a lot of it at some point – and remember, he has at least four more years of control to get the job done.
But if Poles has a plan for anything but pain for his prized asset this season, right now it’s awfully hard to see.