The quarterback is ready for a change. He made that known Wednesday during his media session at Halas Hall.
“They wanted me to work on staying in the pocket during the offseason,” Fields said.
Fields later added: “I’ve got to extend the play, get out of the pocket, extend the play and do something with it.”
The third-year pro has done what the coaches asked through the first two games. He stayed in the pocket. Sometimes too long. On one second-quarter drive Sunday, he took a pair of sacks when he held onto the football too long and nothing developed downfield.
In Fields’ opinion, he should’ve tucked it and run sooner.
“I wasn’t necessarily playing my game,” Fields said. “Felt like I was kind of robotic and not playing like myself. My goal this week is just to say [expletive] it and go out there and play football how I know to play football.”
The Bears have called just a handful of designed runs for Fields through the first two games. In the spring, Fields said his goal was to throw for 4,000 passing yards in a season. The Bears are the only NFL team that has never had a 4,000-yard passer.
Fields is on record saying he didn’t want to run for 1,000 yards every season, like he did last year. A year ago, the Bears found the most success on offense when they leaned into Fields’ abilities as a mobile quarterback. When things were humming, Fields ran seven or eight designed runs per game. The offense moved the pocket horizontally to give Fields different throwing lanes.
But the offense the Bears have used through the first two weeks of 2023 hasn’t featured any of those elements. The Bears have all but coached the mobility out of Fields. They’ve limited the rollout passes. They’ve turned him into a statue in the pocket and asked him to read the whole field. He rushed for a career-low 3 yards Sunday.
Fields feels as if he’s thinking too much on the field.
Asked what was making him think more, Fields said, “Could be coaching, I think. At the end of the day, they are doing their job when they are giving me what to look at, but at the end of the day, I can’t be thinking about that when the game comes. I prepare myself throughout the week, and then when the game comes, it’s time to play free at that point. Thinking less and playing more.”
About two hours after he initially said that, Fields said his comments on coaching were out of context.
“I’m not blaming anything on the coaches,” Fields said. “I’m never going to blame anything on the coaches, never going to blame anything on my teammates. Whatever happens in the game, I will take all the blame.”
[It] could be coaching, I think. At the end of the day, they are doing their job when they are giving me what to look at, but at the end of the day, I can’t be thinking about that when the game comes.”— Justin Fields, Bears quarterback
Fields has voiced his concerns about the offense with his coaches. Asked if the Bears were over-coaching their QB, head coach Matt Eberflus said: “I wouldn’t say that.”
“I would say that it’s a partnership,” Eberflus later added. “So when he’s successful, we put him in position. When he’s struggling, guess what? We didn’t do a good enough job. So we all take ownership of that. We all take accountability for that.”
Offensive coordinator Luke Getsy is scheduled to weigh in with his thoughts Thursday at Halas Hall. The coordinators speak only once per week.
Eberflus pointed out that on both the touchdown-scoring drives during Sunday’s loss to Tampa Bay, Fields was doing what the coaching staff asked of him. He was making throws with rhythm and timing. He wasn’t afraid to take shots down field.
“To be successful, you have to be able to throw from the pocket, right?” Eberflus said. “And there’s a delicate balance there, if you have an athletic quarterback like Justin.”
In previous media sessions, Fields had never been this critical of the coaching staff or the game plan. Just two weeks ago, after a season-opening loss to the Packers, when asked about the passing attack targeting short throws, Fields said, “That was just the game plan,” but he didn’t go so far as to criticize the game plan.
Wednesday felt like a shift in tone.
“They’re not going to take it personal if us as players go to them and say, ‘I didn’t like this call,’” Fields said. “They need to be better. We’re all grown men in the building and we all can take it. It’s about working with each other, getting each other better, holding each other accountable and working towards the same goal. In terms of that fact, yeah, I think everybody can do better around here, including myself.”
Fields might be unhappy, but that doesn’t mean this rift can’t be fixed. There’s 15 games remaining in the season. This thing has barely started.
How Eberflus and this coaching staff respond to a frustrated quarterback could define the narrative around this entire season.