Skip to main content

Setting Justin Fields Up to Succeed

Fans think it's done through better players around him but the Bears see offensive system and commitment to fundamentals as the keys.

Quarterback Justin Fields is ahead of the game already and it has nothing to do with how much better he is at reading defenses in Year 2 or even who the Bears brought in to play receiver or block on the offensive line.

No one can be certain of how knowledge Fields has gained at ways to beat defenses from last year's experience or even of how well he knows his own offense until games are played.

The players they brought in to help him are largely the result of the salary cap situation left to GM Ryan Poles, who obviously would have wanted top-level receivers but had too many holes to fill with little cash and few draft picks. 

Fields can't account for a lower level of receiver, although it must be pointed out he does have his top three leading receivers back from last year in Darnell Mooney, David Montgomery and Cole Kmet.

The team sees Fields ahead of the game because of the nature of the offense coordinator Luke Getsy is implementing and the coaches' commitment to its principles. It is apparent in several ways.

1. Run Commitment

There is a true commitment to running the ball and building the passing game off of the run. The Bears never did this with Matt Nagy as coach. He dabbled at this and spoke about it on occasion but never committed to it. Nagy every now and then spoke of the run, then did things like try to throw the ball extensively against Cleveland with five-man protection and little to balance out the attack on the ground. Nagy was all about passing. 

Even last year when the Bears ran it the 11th most times in the league, it was largely the result of Fields scrambling or running simply because they couldn't pass block. Running gave a struggling offensive line a bit more of an edge than dropping back to throw most of the time would have provided.

The Bears say the truly balanced offense they are installing will be more conducive to running and to success. They think the running plays mesh well with the passing attack, even complement it.

"It gives you a chance to run the ball well," quarterback Trevor Siemian said. "You look around the league, and teams generally that run it well, those are the teams playing in December and January."

Running well doesn't necessarily mean the most yards or the most yards per carry. It doesn't even mean most rushing attempts, although it doesn't hurt because teams running it more usually are doing it at the end of games when they are trying to kill time with a lead.

2. Play-Action

They are committed to play-action passing as a result of their intent to run the ball. Deceive the defense and you're already a step or half-step ahead. Imagine Fields with a bit of deception and a step on his side.

"I mean, whether it's a zone (blocking), whether it's a gap, whatever running scheme we do, if you have success running the football, that opens up windows everywhere," Siemian said. "It forces the defense to play a certain way and then you can exploit off that."

The Bears never became a consistent play-action team. They had the second-fewest play-action passes in the league last year according to Sportradar, and in 2019 they were 21st in play-action attempts. They missed the playoffs in those years but in 2020 when they made the playoffs they were top 10 in play-action passes.

Green Bay consistently made a commitment to the play-action pass and running it since Matt LaFleur became head coach, with Bears new offensive coordinator Luke Getsy taking it all in as their quarterbacks coach. Now he has brought it to Chicago.

Scroll to Continue

Read More

"The things that we’re doing from a run game marry the things we’re going to do from a pass standpoint, the type of people we’ve tried to acquire fit certain roles in this particular offense," running backs coach David Walker said. "So once again Justin’s going to play better if we as an offense can run the ball effectively, that’s going to open up a lot of stuff for him.”

3. Speed of Play

The pace of the offense is important and the coaches are emphasizing this. It's part of the reason they're working closely with Fields to get the ball out faster.

"We stress the timing," quarterbacks coach Andrew Janocko said. "We stress the rhythm. We try to make things easy on them where they can process and they can play quickly. They can react and they can rely on the muscle memory."

Siemian started in this style of offense in Denver for one year before it was changed.

"You can lean on the wide zone (run blocking), the zone scheme, the play pass lets young players, be it quarterbacks, running backs, receivers, play quickly," Siemian said. "I've bounced around and been in different schemes, but I've always looked over the fence and been like, 'Yeah, I want to play in that again.' "

4. Efficiency

No doubt having Aaron Rodgers helped but the offensive system aided his efficiency. 

Rodgers had led the NFL in passer rating during his fourth and fifth years as a starter under Mike McCarthy but then went eight years before he did it again and then did it in successive seasons within LaFleur's offense.

The Bears are trying to create a more efficient Fields by altering his footwork. They already have him taking shotgun snaps with his left foot forward so he already is in shape to throw a quick pass without stepping.

"We're always just trying to be efficient and compact," Janocko said. "Whatever we do, whether it's the feet, everything starts with our feet and building it from the ground up. And then from there just being compact and allowing him to have the best release possible from the ground up, from the waist up, with his base and all that. We're always working on different things like that."

Twitter: BearDigest@BearsOnMaven