Bears

‘The guy is hungry’: For Chicago Bears QB Justin Fields, an offseason of growth lies ahead

Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields walks off the field for the last time this season Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023, after their game against the Minnesota Vikings at Soldier Field in Chicago.

Justin Fields believes this is his team.

The Chicago Bears quarterback showed the leadership skills needed in an NFL quarterback this season. His coaches noticed that, they saw the hunger and the fire in the 23-year-old from Georgia.

General manager Ryan Poles and head coach Matt Eberflus took over about a year ago. They constructed a quarterback room with Trevor Siemian and Nathan Peterman that was intended to reinforce Fields’ standing with the team. Siemian and Peterman were here to backup Fields, not supplant him.

The Bears essentially handed the reins to Fields and said: Let’s see what you’ve got. They were testing not only his on-field skills, but also his leadership abilities.

From that perspective, Fields passed the test. His teammate knew who was in charge, especially on the offensive side.

“Resilient,” Poles said of Fields. “A guy that has ownership. He has a growth mindset. The amount of time that he put in with the coaches to continue to get better, the guy is hungry to be successful in this league.”

Poles spent a lot of time Tuesday talking about building the foundation for what he wants his organization to be. Fields embodied that as much as any player.

The on-field skillset only bolstered his teammates’ confidence in the quarterback. It’s one thing to lead off the field – to organize workouts in the offseason, to bring your own notes to meetings – it’s another to gain the respect of teammates on the field.

“The guys in here, they know how hard I work,” Fields said Monday as he cleaned out his locker at Halas Hall. “They know what I want to accomplish and just my mindset overall. Really, just trying to get guys on the same page, that mindset that culture to where no matter what we go through nothing can phase us.”

Fields finished 63 yards shy of Lamar Jackson’s 2019 quarterback rushing record. His rushing abilities kept the Bears in a lot of close games that otherwise might have been out of hand.

He showed flashes of ability in the passing game. There were plenty of high-level throws throughout the year, but the consistency was lacking. A weak supporting cast at receiver didn’t help matters.

“As a passer, just for things to slow down mentally, and then be able to react and anticipate quicker,” Poles said of what Fields could improve on. “Obviously, with that, we also have to continue to build around him so that he can do that consistently.”

Fields said he has full trust in Poles to bring in the right pieces for this offense to improve next season. The GM is going to have his work cut out for him. The Bears will likely make changes on the offensive line, they will need another running back (whether they re-sign David Montgomery or find someone else) and they will likely look to bring in another receiver to help Darnell Mooney and Chase Claypool.

Fields, though, is far more focused on how he can become a better quarterback, regardless of who he’s throwing to.

“My job is strictly get better, work on my skills at quarterback and ultimately get my teammates better,” Fields said. “So, of course I’m going to pay attention to who we get and stuff like that, but to be honest I’m just focused on me right now.”

Claypool is already planning to meet up with Fields at some point during the offseason to work out together. The Bears haven’t given a timeline for Mooney’s return from ankle surgery, but Poles and Eberflus indicated that it would be sometime this spring. Fields, Claypool and Mooney will need to be on the same page if this passing game is going to improve next season. Add tight end Cole Kmet into that boat as well.

The Bears were excited about where this offense was trending midway through the season. For a five-game stretch from late October to late November, the team averaged 29.6 points per game.

Things fell off the rails in December, but the offense showed an explosiveness that not too many Bears teams have showed over the years.

“We know what we can do as an offense and what we can accomplish,” Fields said. “The fact that this was everybody’s first year in the offense and we were doing that, Luke [Getsy’s] first year as an OC, that gives us a lot of hope, a lot of optimism for the future.”

Sean Hammond

Sean Hammond

Sean is the Chicago Bears beat reporter for Shaw Media. He also contributes to high school football coverage at Friday Night Drive. Sean has covered various sports at the amateur, college and professional levels since 2012. He joined Shaw Media in 2016.