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Justin Fields' Projected Leap Forward

It's a new offense and coordinator, and the Bears believe they'll see a leap forward by a second-year QB because they have the right people running things.

Bears coach Matt Eberflus was asked during minicamp about his experience with quarterbacks while he served as defensive coordinator for the Indianapolis Colts.

Of course, Eberflus learned plenty about stopping opposing quarterbacks as defensive coordinator but this inquiry referred to Colts QBs.

"What I learned in that situation was that Andrew Luck's really good," Eberflus said.

The Colts went through a different starting quarterback every year Eberflus coached there and Luck retired after the 2018 season, Eberflus' first season with the club.

"It actually brought our team together more, because the adversity of having a different quarterback every single year like that, our team just got closer and closer and closer," Eberflus said.

Unity is fine but there is no substitute for the same effective quarterback in a familiar, dependable offense year after year. Justin Fields doesn't have this situation yet, and it's a factor in clouding what's ahead for the second-year Bears quarterback.

This instability is what former Bears quarterback Jay Cutler was talking about recently when he spoke to Sun-Times writer Jason Leisure about Fields.

"He's got all the tools, but it's the same problem the Bears have had for a long time: They're turning over coaches and turning over OCs," Cutler told the Sun-Times. "It's hard for a quarterback."

As usual, Cutler only half-addressed a situation.

Justin Fields' Success with Luke Getsy 

The Bears need to have the right coordinator, coach and offense more than they need the same one because not many situations last for long in the NFL, in terms of winning or losing. NFL really does stand for: "Not For Long." 

Good coordinators leave to become head coaches. Bad ones leave because they're fired. Stability with NFL offenses stems from success, not the other way around.

The Bears had the same offense for four seasons under Matt Nagy and the OCs changed but were largely irrelevant anyway, until Nagy determined something Bears fans had long-since realized— he couldn't call plays. Then the OC shifting mattered and Bill Lazor's play calls were only marginally better. They found no sustained success with that offense.

If changing is such a deterrent, how did Matthew Stafford win the Super Bowl with a new coach, offense, offensive coordinator and new team? He went to the right situation, with a system of established success and one that has changed offensive coordinators regularly.

Jared Goff was awful as a rookie, winless in seven starts, then extremely efficient when Sean McVay and offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur took over the Rams in Year 2. Goff had the right people running things.

It's here to look when trying to determine what impact a new coach and new direction can have on Justin Fields in his second NFL season.

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The Bears like to think they have the right guy and right offense in coordinator Luke Getsy. If he is, the fact they are burdening Fields with a new coordinator and a new offense in his second season shouldn't matter. He'll take a necessary step forward.

Repeating a Past Bears Leap Forward

Chicago has already seen this happen.

For all of his faults as coach, Nagy and his Kansas City offense were upgrades over Dowell Loggains' offense under John Fox. Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky made a huge step forward in Year 2 under Nagy despite the deserved criticism he often received for poor downfield passing. It's just that Trubisky's talent was limited and so, too, was Nagy's play-calling ability.  As a result, they never built on their 2018 success.

If Fields makes a leap in Year 2 like Trubisky, the Bears should be entirely pleased.

Trubisky is a good comparison for Fields because there are so few quarterbacks who come into a new offense and with a new staff for their second NFL year.  It truly is like the Bears are repeating history with the way they're developing a quarterback, they just need to hope they're bringing the right people to their second-year QB this time.

Trubisky went from seven TD passes and seven interceptions in 12 starts to 24 TD passes and 12 interceptions. He went from 6.6 yards per pass attempt to 7.4. He learned how to rely on his defense and win, going from four wins in 12 starts in 2017 to 11 wins for 14 starts in 2018.

Fields had somewhat comparable numbers to Trubisky as a rookie. He averaged more yards per pass (6.9) and threw for the same TD total in two less starts, but also threw for three more interceptions and his passer rating was only 73.1 compared to Trubisky's 77.5. Trubisky's rating improved to 95.4 in Year 2, his first with Nagy. That's the same rating Aaron Rodgers had in his first season under LaFleur in an offense similar to what the Bears have installed.

If the Bears can see the same type of leap forward from Fields that Trubisky made in the first year of a new offense with a new coordinator, they could count this a successful second season for their QB.

The trick, then, will be building on the success, which Trubisky and Nagy never did. It might not be easy if they were to lose Getsy to a head coaching vacancy.

Worrying about this is putting the cart before the horse, and at this point the Bears really need to see positive development from Fields in Year 2 and forget the future.

Justin Fields at a Glance

The Vitals: Second season, 6-foot-3, 228 pounds.

2021: 10 starts, 12 games, 159 completions in 270 passes (58.9%) for seven TDs, 10 interceptions, 6.9 yards per attempt, 73.2 passer rating, 3.7% interceptions, 72 rushes for 420 yards and two TDs.

The Number: 12. Fields fumbled a dozen times, although the Bears recovered seven of those. Still, fumbling and recovering can be a drive killer. Mitchell Trubisky also had fumble problems as a rookie with 10.

2022 FanNation Projection for Justin Fields: 16 starts, 466 attempts, 298 completions, 63.9% completed, 3,448 yards, 21 TDs, 11 interceptions, 7.4 yards per attempt, 91.39 passer rating, 627 yards rushing, 97 attempts, 5 TDs.

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