The Bears did their due diligence with the quarterbacks in the 2023 NFL Draft. They had to when they began the offseason with the No. 1 overall draft pick.
But in trading the No. 1 pick to Carolina in return for receiver DJ Moore, the No. 9 overall pick, plus a handful of additional picks, general manager Ryan Poles made it clear that the organization was behind quarterback Justin Fields in 2023.
For offensive coordinator Luke Getsy, it never was as simple as comparing Fields to Alabama’s Bryce Young or Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud. Getsy has a lot more intel from his year working together with Fields than he’ll ever have with a rookie coming out of college.
“I don’t really think it’s apples to apples in that sense,” Getsy said.
Poles wasn’t kidding when he said he would have to be “blown away” by a rookie QB in order to draft one with the No. 1 overall pick. Trading the pick always felt like the most likely outcome. Matt Eberflus and his coaching staff invested so much time and energy into Fields in 2022. Yes, the passing game was the worst in the league, but Fields showed flashes of potential – while setting records as a rusher – and his supporting cast at receiver was weak.
Replacing Fields with a rookie would’ve meant starting from scratch at the QB position. The Bears weren’t willing to do that.
“The way the team viewed [Fields] to where he was at this time last year, to where he is now, I think he’s just lightyears ahead of where he was,” Getsy said. “I feel like he has a ton more to grow going forward. So we’re excited to try to get the best out of him moving forward and keep working toward where we think he can go.”
The 2023 season will be a true test for the 24-year-old quarterback. Following next season, the Bears will have to decide if they want to extend the fifth-year option on his rookie contract [which would keep him in Chicago through 2025]. What happens next season will go a long way toward determining what they decide.
Poles added Moore at receiver. He added another pass-catching tight end in Robert Tonyan. He added a new starting right tackle in Darnell Wright with a first-round draft pick.
“Any time you can be together with somebody and keep that consistency, there’s going to be growth,” Getsy said. “He has a lot more growth ahead of him.”
Bears quarterback coach Andrew Janocko believes Fields’ comfort in the system grew over the course of the 2022 season. He believes Fields anticipated things better as the season wore on.
“You’re looking at the second Green Bay game [in December] from the first Green Bay game [in September] and you can see some of the things clicking for him and how he felt better with concepts that maybe in the beginning of the year he didn’t,” Janocko said.
The Bears will have receiver Darnell Mooney back to full health after a season-ending ankle injury last November. They will have a full offseason for receiver Chase Claypool to gain a familiarity with the offense and with Fields. They, of course, will have Moore entering the mix.
Getsy likes that Moore played with several different quarterbacks in Carolina. He totaled 5,201 receiving yards over five seasons with numerous different QBs – Cam Newton, Kyle Allen, Teddy Bridgewater, Sam Darnold and Baker Mayfield, to name a few. In theory, he should have no problem stepping into this Bears offense and being an electric playmaker.
“You can tell he doesn’t really get fazed by the new, which is going to be really good,” Getsy said. “Once those two can communicate with each other – body language, quick communication verbally and stuff – all that will get better as we get going.”
The Bears haven’t yet returned to the practice field. Organized team activities begin later this month. Those optional practices will be the first opportunity to see Fields and Moore on the field together. There’s still a long way to go before Week 1.
But the Bears feel good about the ingredients they’ve added to this offense. The real hard work – bringing it all together – is only just beginning.