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The first 2 weeks of the NFL season have not gone the way that Bears fans hoped and expected it would. The Bears have looked like an absolute dumpster fire on both offense and defense, despite a number of seemingly brilliant roster upgrades by General Manager Ryan Pace over the offseason.

Not only are the Bears looking bad, but the Green Bay Packers (without Aaron Rodgers) are looking like they could still be the team to beat in the division. 2023 was supposed to be a rebuilding season for the Packers, and the Lions' chance to shine for once. And maybe the Bears could have potentially played spoiler or snuck into a wild card playoff spot. But no, it looks like the NFC North will come down to Detroit and Green Bay, while the Bears will probably go back to hibernating in the basement.

Many pundits are quick to blame Justin Fields, and to insist that he will likely be replaced by the end of the season. But I'm not so sure that Fields is the problem. Yes, Fields does have plenty of blame. He is looking like he's slow to process the defenses, and he is flat-out ignoring open targets down the field. Those are problems that are almost entirely on Justin Fields.

But I don't think that Matt Eberflus' coaching and Luke Getsy's play design are doing Fields any favors. In fact, the play design and play selection seem to be actively making Justin Fields' job harder than it needs to be.

I am horribly confused and frustrated by the play designs that Matt Eberflus and Luke Getsy are creating.

I felt confused by a lot of the Bears' offensive play calls when I was watching the live games. But the live action is so fast, and the replays don't always show what I need to see. So thankfully, J.T. O'Sullivan has done full breakdowns of both of the Bears' first 2 games, which really helped to reassure me that yes, these play designs are as bad as they looked to me in live action. In fact, they might actually be worse!

Nullifying Fields' strength as a passer with questionable design

There was a play in the opener against Green Bay that had me scratching my head wondering what happened when I watched it live on TV. It appeared to be a designed bootleg pass, which is great in principle. Justin Fields excels when he's able to get out of the pocket, so I want to see designed bootlegs. But in this particular play, while Fields is rolling out to his right, an offensive lineman comes from the other side of the formation and kicks out the edge defender right into the path of Fields' bootleg motion. It didn't seem to make sense to me that the play would be designed to be a bootleg with a pulling lineman kicking out the edge defender.

When I watched the play live, my best guess was that the play was designed with the play-side guard pulling out to try to seal the edge defender and give Fields more room. But later in the week, I watched J.T. O'Sullivan's QB School breakdown of this game, and realized that this play was way stupider than it looked in live action.

J.T. O'Sullivan has a great (and frustrating) breakdown of the Bears' first game.

After further examination of this play, (starting at 4:28 in the above video) it turns out the mystery lineman kicking out the edge defender on the boot is not the play-side guard, as I thought it was. Hell, it wasn't even the back-side guard! The pulling lineman was the back-side tackle. That's right! This play apparently expected the back-side tackle to pull all the way across the formation and presumably seal the play-side edge defender, before the QB who runs a 4.2-second 40-yard dash gets outside on his boot action. It's no wonder the best the tackle could end up doing is just kick out the defensive end. That end is already flowing in the direction of Fields' boot action. But the result is that the pulling tackle ends up pushing the defender right into the path of where the boot action is supposed to take Fields, and so Fields ends up having to make the throw with this defender right in his face.

To make matters worse, this play starts with a tight end to the play side of the formation. Prior to the play, he motions across the formation and then make an unnecessary block against the backside edge rusher. If you wanted to seal the defensive end for the boot (as opposed to just doing a naked boot and allowing Fields to use his athleticism to avoid the rusher), then why not just keep the tight end on the play side, and let the tight end use his superior position and leverage to seal the defensive end? Why would you motion that tight end across the field, only to have him block a defender who the bootleg is designed to neutralize anyway? And then why would you pull the back-side tackle all the way across the entire formation to have him do the thing that the tight end was already in a better position to do, but now it's 100 times harder because the pulling tackle is a less athletic player in an inferior position?

Who came up with this play?! Who thought that pulling the back-side tackle on a designed boot was a good idea?

Maybe the play wasn't a designed boot? Maybe Fields panicked and rolled out on his own? This blocking scheme looks a lot more understandable if it's a normal pocket pass. In that case, both the tight end and the pulling tackle have extra leverage and momentum for their kick-out blocks against both edge defenders. But the route concept by the receivers looks like a flood concept (in which all the receiver routes "flood" to the same side of the field). That is a classic route combination to match up with a designed roll-out play, because it gets all the receivers on one side of the field where the QB is rolling into. And Fields executes the rollout after the play fake without any hesitation. So it looks like Fields thought this was a designed roll-out.

Is this play a designed bootleg or not?!.

So does Justin Fields not know the play? If so, is that indicative of a failure by Justin Fields to adequately study and understand the playbook? Or did the coaches not teach the play properly? Or was the whole play poorly designed to begin with? In which case, the coaches are setting Justin Fields up for failure.

Poor J.T. O'Sullivan can't make heads or tails of this play either, and he knows way more about football than I do!

One of Justin Fields' strengths as a passer is his ability to get out of the pocket, extend plays, and either get the ball downfield or take off running. Designing plays to get Fields out of the pocket and give him plenty of options to throw to is good design. That is what Luke Getsy and Matt Eberflus should be doing. But you completely defeat that purpose when you design your blocking scheme to funnel the defenders outside the pocket and right into Justin Fields' face.

I want to emphasize that, yes, this was a successful play in the end. It was a downfield completion to Darnell Mooney for a 1st down, and Fields did not take a hit. But if the Bears' successful plays are this ugly and messy and have such seemingly obvious and glaring design problems, then it makes sense that so many of the Bears' plays look like utter disasters.

Nullifying Fields strength as a runner by asking him to do too much

But it wasn't just that one play that showcased confusing design. Both of the Bears' first 2 games have had numerous plays that seem like they are very poorly thought out. Even the plays that end up as positive chunk plays (like the one mentioned above) are showing these frustratingly stupid design decisions that make the play much more difficult to execute than it needs to be. If the positive plays are designed to make them harder than they need to be, then it seems obvious that the negative plays are probably poorly designed too.

For example, we have plays in which Fields is running a read option, while seemingly also trying to peek on a possible RPO screen to the opposite side of the un-blocked conflict defender on the handoff read. See the play starting at 3:34 in the below video. So Fields has to glance to one side to see if the screen might be open, then get his head around to the opposite edge to see what the conflict edge defender is doing. All this needs to be done in the second between the snap of the ball and the moment when he needs to decide whether to hand it off or pull it and run. That's hard to do. Even in Madden, with a bird's eye view of the action, that is difficult to do in such a short time.

J.T. O'Sullivan also broke down the Bears' second game.

So is the play designed for Fields to make both of these reads, in which case this play is horribly designed to make Fields' job much harder than it needs to be? Or is the screen motion by the slot wideout supposed to be a bluff that Fields isn't actually supposed to consider, and it is Fields who is making the play harder on himself?

If you're going to run this play with the option to throw that screen, then (in my opinion as an amateur sofa coach and Madden player) the decision on whether to run the screen or not needs to be a pre-snap decision. That way, if the QB rules out the screen before the snap, he can focus his immediate attention on the edge defender on the other side of the formation and make a good decision on whether to hand the ball off or run it himself. If the coaches are asking him to read the screen option and also the run option (on opposite sides of field) at the same time, then the coaches are setting him up for failure.

Stuff like this makes me wonder if Fields' failure to see wide open receivers down the field might be the result of play design and coaching as well. Are the coaches asking him to read things that are taking his attention away from where the open guys are?

Fields missing multiple open receivers looks bad on Fields,
but I don't know what he's coached to look for on this play.

I play Madden (and other football games too). I admit that this stuff happens to me all the time too. I leave guys wide open -- sometimes for potential touchdowns -- because I'm looking for something to break open somewhere else. And I have the benefit of seeing the whole play from a bird's eye perspective in a video game. Justin Fields has to see it all at ground level.

Do I wish he'd seen Roschon Johnson waving his arms in the seam with nobody between him and the endzone? Yeah, of course I do! But I don't know what Fields was coached to do on this play. Judging by the wacky ass shit that I've seen in the design of other plays, I have no reason to believe that Fields isn't doing exactly what he was coached to do.

Looks like bad coaching to me

The problems aren't limited to quarterback play either. There are problems with pass protection, in which the linemen are just not in sync with each other. Tight ends and receivers are apparently trying to fill or chip in between the guards and the tackles, and getting their feet tangled up, which both blows their own block and also sabotages the other linemens' blocks. Players are making mental mistakes and showing poor discipline. There are penalties all over the place, including egregious ones like false starts. There was a whole controversy regarding the lack of effort Chase Claypool was putting into his blocking and route-running in week 1. There are defensive breakdowns almost every 3rd down. The defense is getting pressure, but can't actually wrap up opposing QBs and put them on the ground. In fact, the only part of Bears that looks even remotely competent right now is special teams play. There haven't been any major special teams blunders yet. Key word being "yet".

When a team looks this bad from top to bottom, I am hesitant to put any of the blame on one player -- let alone all the blame. To me, it does not look like the Bears' failings are Justin Fields' fault. To me, it looks like awful scheming and even worse coaching. And it is exceptionally frustrating to see the team crash and burn like this after GM Ryan Pace seemingly made every right decision in terms of roster-building during the offseason. Bringing in D.J. Moore, D'Onta Foreman, T.J. Edwards, and Tremaine Edmunds were all fantastic moves. Ryan Pace seemingly did everything right. The coaches are letting him, and all of us fans, down. If things don't turn around soon, Matt Eberflus and Luke Getsy should start polishing up their resumes.

General Manager Ryan Pace seemingly made all the right decisions regarding the roster.

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