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After the Bears' embarrassing Prime Time loss to the Commanders a few weeks ago, I hopped onto my blog to complain about the team's offensive design philosophy and play-calling, and called for the Bears to either fire their offensive coordinator, or trade Justin Fields in exchange for a better pocket-passing quarterback. I also outlined my opinions for the types of plays that I thought the Bears should be running with Justin Fields.

Now, I admit, I'm not a football coach. I don't think I'm knowledgeable enough about football to actually be a coach -- at least not at anything above the high school or pee wee level. I'm no football genius over here. I would be fully willing to admit that the Bears could probably try what I recommended, and they'd still suck, and it would just prove that I have no clue what I'm talking about.

But starting with the Patriots game the following week, the Bears have been doing almost exactly what I recommended that they do. And it didn't make the offense incrementally better; it made the offense considerably better. The Bears came out in that Patriots game, and almost right from the start, they were running designed bootleg and rollout passes, read options, designed quarterback runs, and play action. They've also been incorporating a heavy dose of screen passes to their speedy wide receivers to help make up for their mediocre route-running. Ever since implementing these changes, the offense has looked genuinely good. The Bears have almost doubled their points per game, from 16.7 points per game in the first 6 weeks, to over 31 points per game in the three games since.

Justin Fields rollout vs Patriots
Photo credit: NBC Sports
The Bears have recently started executing an offensive gameplan closer to what I expected from the team.

If the Bears' coaches had been calling these sorts of plays, and getting this level of execution from the start of the season, they might actually still be in the playoff hunt. This average of over 30 points per game would have been enough to beat every opponent in those first 6 weeks. If the offense were playing like this early in the season, the Bears would definitely have beaten the Commanders, probably would have beaten the Giants, and might have been able to eke out wins against the Packers or Vikings. Instead of being 3-6, being mostly out of playoff contention, and trading away 2 of their 4 best defensive talents in exchange for draft capital, the Bears could potentially be 5-4 and looking to acquire veteran talent to make their own playoff push.

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With every new coaching staff or general manager for the Chicago Bears, I think they can't possibly be more disappointing and embarrassing than the last. But somehow, this organization always finds a way. Ever since firing Lovie Smith (and aside from one stand-out season in 2018), the Bears have been a slow-motion train wreck and can't seem to do anything right.

Drafting Justin Fields with the 11th overall pick in 2021 seemed like a slam dunk. But the Bears have squandered the pick with coaching staffs who seem completely unwilling to play to Justin Fields' strengths, and the offense has floundered.

I get that it's Fields' second year, and the Bears just hired a new coach and are in a rebuilding year. I've tried to temper my expectations and be patient. But it's hard to remain patient when there is a complete lack of any signs of development or forward progress. This is one of the worst offenses in the league, and it seems to be getting worse.

Justin Fields frustrated
Photo credit: Micheal Reaves, Getty Images
I'd be frustrated too if I were Justin Fields and have to put up Eberflus' and Getsy's awful play-calling.

It would be easy to blame Fields, and say that he's just a bad player and a bust. And yes, he does have some mechanical and accuracy issues to clean up, and he also needs to make decisions faster. It's just his second year; those things will hopefully come in time. But I don't think it's that simple. Matt Eberflus and Luke Getsy are refusing to take advantage of Justin Fields' physical talents. He runs a 4.44-second 40-yard dash. He is one of the fastest players on the team, and one of the fastest players on the field. Yet the Bears are not calling any designed QB runs, or read options, or even much in the way of rollout passes or designed bootlegs to get him out of the pocket where he excels as a dual-threat passer. They did a little bit of rolling out here and there in the loss to the Commanders, and were generally successful. So why aren't they doing more of it, especially in critical situations?

In the loss to the Commanders, Fields ran 12 times for 88 yards, and almost scored 2 TDs on the ground. Yet I don't think a single one of those runs was a designed QB run or read option. When he gets outside the pocket, it's also rarely because the play was a designed rollout. Usually, it's because he's flushed out by the pass rush and lack of an open receiver. Yet these plays are often his most successful, as both a passer and a runner. Some of his best highlights of the year have started with him getting outside the pocket.

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Even though I write frequently about the NFL and the Chicago Bears, I have (believe it or not) never been to a regular season NFL game. Living in Las Vegas, seeing an NFL game always required a road trip. My dad and I went to a few preseason games in Pheonix and San Diego when I was younger (I once saw Joe Montana play the first quarter of a preseason game with the Chiefs), but my dad is a public school teacher, the start of the NFL regular season always coincides with the start of the school year, and so road trips were impractical. So we had never been to a regular season game.

Until now.

I was public and outspoken about my misgivings regarding the financing of the Raiders' stadium in Las Vegas, and I vowed not to support the team. The Raiders were already getting unnecessary corporate welfare from the city of Las Vegas, so I wasn't going to be subsidizing them further with money from my pockets if proceeds from ticket sales weren't going back to the city of Las Vegas. In my opinion, a publicly-financed stadium should put proceeds from ticket sales into the city coffers, and I don't approve of any publicly-funded stadium that doesn't. Mark Davis is a multi-millionaire, and the Raiders are a multi-billion dollar entity; Davis and the Raiders should be able to pay to build their own damn stadium without handouts from taxpayers.

The situation with funding the stadium changed since, and I've softened my position on supporting the team and seeing events at the stadium. One exception that I always had was that I would be willing to shell out for a game if / when the Bears come to town. So I check the schedule when it's released in the spring to see if there's a home game against the Bears.

Sure enough, this year, there was a Bears game on the schedule, and it just happened to be on my birthday, no less!

I saw my first regular season NFL game. The Bears came to Vegas to play the Raiders on my birthday.
The Raiders have a mandatory vaccination policy for attendees, but I still masked-up as an added precaution.
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Last weekend's game between the Bears and the Browns was ugly. Rookie quarterback Justin Fields started the game in place of an injured Andy Dalton. We all knew that Fields would start eventually, but this was not the game to throw him to the sharks.

Just like I said at the end of preseason, the Bears' offensive line was completely unable to hold off an aggressive pass rush from the Browns. But it was far uglier than I think any of us thought it would be, as the Browns totaled 9 sacks of poor Justin Fields. I think we all hoped that his mobility would allow him to escape the pocket and make plays on the ground, but it did not pan out that way. Fields often looked timid while moving around, as if he was trying to force the ball downfield rather than let himself take off and run. This resulted in him being dragged down from behind several times, and taking a lot more hits than he should have.

Justin Fields sack
Photo by Associated Press
Justin Fields was sacked 9 times by the Browns, and couldn't move the ball at all.

The Bears' offense was completely incompetent. It wasn't just pass blocking and Fields. The running game wasn't very effective, and receivers were dropping more than their fair share of passes. The whole offense looked like it was completely overwhelmed and shell-shock -- not just Fields.

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A lot of my initial excitement for the Bears' potential in 2021 has been dampened by a lackluster preseason. It didn't matter whether Andy Dalton was playing quarterback or Justin Fields, the offense struggled to move the ball.

Most of this was due to poor offensive line play. I didn't get to watch the games live, but I looked up as much highlights and play-by-play as I could later in each week, and what I saw showed that all the Bears' quarterbacks were constantly under pressure. There was very little time to stand in the pocket and throw. The running game wasn't particularly dominant either, and the Bears had to endure a lot of three-and-outs.

Dalton looked fine when he had time to throw, but he rarely had time and wasn't able to make things happen while under pressure. Fields seemed to have the better preseason, but this was mostly owing to his ability to get out of the pocket and run for yardage and first downs. He had very little time to throw as well and didn't exactly look spectacular throwing the ball. Though he did make some very nice improvisational plays in the final preseason game against the Titans.

Bears 2021 preseason - Andy Dalton pressure
- photo by Nam Y. Huh, Associated Press
Bears 2021 preseason - Justin Fields pressure
- photo credit unknown
All the Bears QBs had to struggle with constant pressure.
Justin Fields at least has the mobility to get out of the pocket and make something happen.

There is a lot of popular demand to start Fields in the regular season, but I'm not so sure that is a good idea. If this offensive line cannot play better in the regular season, I would worry about the long-term health of Fields. He would likely take a lot of sacks and have to run and expose himself to lots of hits.

A big reason for the offensive line struggles is that the Bears are short at left tackle. Their other big-name draft pick was tackle Teven Jenkins, who may miss most (if not all) of the season after having back surgery in the summer. The Bears were so confident that he's be able to step in and start his first year that they released their previous starting left tackle, Charles Leno Jr.. With Leno (perhaps their best pass blocker last year) gone, and Jenkins out indefinitely, pass blocking is probably the single biggest area of concern.

Teven Jenkins - photo credit BearsWire
Teven Jenkins' injury is straining the O-Line.

Yes, the Bears did win 2 of their 3 preseason games, so perhaps that is something to be optimistic about. The defense played well in 2 of those 3 games, and the offense did do just enough to take and hold a lead. But most of that success was against backups after the first quarter was over.

As far as preseason stand-outs, receiver Rodney Adams and tight end Jasper Horstedd had some exciting and explosive plays. I think Adams will definitely earn himself a position on the team, even if it's in a rotational receiver role.

Honestly, as excited as I am to see Justin Fields leading this team, I do worry that maybe this isn't the best situation for him. Unless the Bears can shore up their offensive line with a free agent signing or two, or a trade for an upgrade at one or both tackle positions, starting Fields might just be setting the poor kid up for failure.

I have tickets to the Bears road game against the Raiders in October. I suspect that Fields will be the starter by that time, especially if the Bears offense under Dalton is as bad at converting third downs as they were in the preseason. But I also worry that if he is starting by that time, that he might not finish the season.

Allegiant Stadium
Photo by Orlando Ramirez, USA Today Sports
I'll be seeing my first ever NFL regular season game in-person when the Bears visit the Raiders in October.
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Welcome to Mega Bears Fan's blog, and thanks for visiting! This blog is mostly dedicated to game reviews, strategies, and analysis of my favorite games. I also talk about my other interests, like football, science and technology, movies, and so on. Feel free to read more about the blog.

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