Publish date:

It's Right There for Justin Fields to Prove

The quickest way Justin Fields can prove he deserves to remain starting quarterback is by leading a win on the road over a good team—something none of Matt Nagy's Bears quarterbacks have done.

Every Bears game Justin Fields starts for injured Andy Dalton will take on a dual nature.

There is the game Justin Fields plays as he tries to became the true starter and then there is how the Bears fare on a given day in their bid to win the NFC North.

The first of these occurs Sunday in Cleveland, and the faster Fields can mold the two separate situations into one and the same the better off the franchise will be. 

"We'll see how ready he is and I think that's part of the evaluation process," coach Matt Nagy said.  

Fields' debut as a starter is supposed to be temporary, lasting only until Andy Dalton returns.

"Of course, I'm going to go out there on Sunday and play my best and just try to come out with the win and that's my main focus," Fields said. "My main focus isn't winning the starting job.

"I think that's going to come with time, so my main focus right now is just to prepare the best I can and go out Sunday and execute at a high level."

If his athletic ability and passing let the Bears accomplish something they have never done under Nagy, then perhaps the time Fields spoke about has come. 

If he is good enough now to win on the road over the Browns, how could Nagy turn back and return to Dalton? None of Nagy's other Bears quarterbacks has defeated a good team on the road—not Mitchell Trubisky, Chase Daniel, Nick Foles or Dalton.

The Bears did beat the playoff-bound Minnesota Vikings at the end of the 2019 season but it happened when Mike Zimmer held all of his starters out to get them ready to upset the New Orleans Saints in an NFC wild-card road game the next week. So that was not a good team they beat on that day. They beat Minnesota in 2018 on the road, too, but the Vikings weren't going to the playoffs at 8-7-1  and were playing out the string.

Beyond those wins with asterisks over the Vikings, none of the 15 road wins came against good teams. Beating the Cleveland Browns could be something different.

Coach Kevin Stefanski has a team some saw ascending to the Super Bowl.

"Myles Garrett, Jadeveon Clowney, they have a great secondary," Fields said. "They play fast, they play with speed, they play physical, so that should be a great challenge for us."

The Browns gave Kansas City a battle on the road in their opener before a 33-29 loss. Baker Mayfield has looked every bit the part of a passer destined for postseason success with 81% passing accuracy even without his full complement of wide receivers.

It's a team which uses a devastating running attack and play-action passing to occupy the defense's eyes, much like the Los Angeles Rams did. In the opener and even last season this combination was enough to keep Roquan Smith, Khalil Mack and the Bears defense on their heels the entire game.

They'll need every bit of the momentum they established with four takeaways last week to get this done.

"The last game, just doing what we did, it's type of plays that we know this defense is going to be able to make," safety Eddie Jackson said. "So, just, we want to continue to feed off that every week."

If Fields blends with running back David Montgomery in the running game, finally gets the passing game focused downfield more and beats a good team on the road, then only Nagy's stubbornness could prevent his ascension.

So far after a week of practice, Nagy admits to seeing things he hadn't when Fields was merely one of the three quarterbacks at training camp.

"You see that as you go," Nagy said. "There's little things that we're learning, too, like this week with him getting all the reps in practice there's things that we're seeing that maybe we didn't see in the first two weeks because he wasn't getting those (first team) reps. That part is good. That's healthy.

"Because now, as long as we take that to him and say, 'Listen, when you do this, this, or that, this is what you've got to get a little bit better at, this is what you're doing well.' "

The predictable and immediate fan reaction via social media was how blind Nagy has been to his own quarterback, however, his comment wasn't speaking only about Fields' talent but also indicated flaws in Fields' game they can now improve.

"That's the beauty of him having these great reps in practice, which is what he wasn't getting," Nagy said. "But now he has an opportunity to do it, so we've got to take advantage of it."

It's up to Fields now to prove he can convert a game plan into reality, improve daily in practices and beat a good team on the road.

Nagy had a pet phrase in training camp when talking about how long it would take to develop Fields. He said after all the work, the time when Fields should start will become "obvious to everyone."

It should be obvious if Fields and the Bears beat the Browns. 

If he doesn't, there's simply more work to do.

Bears on the Road

Under Matt Nagy

2018

L 24-23 Packers (6-9-1)

W 16-14 Cardinals (3-13)

Read More

L 31-28 OT Dolphins (7-9)

W 41-9 Bills (6-10)

W 23-16 Lions (6-10)

W 30-27 Giants (5-11)

W 14-9 49ers (4-12)

W 24-10 Vikings (8-7-1)

2019

W 16-14 Broncos (7-9)

W 31-15 Redskins (3-13)

L 24-21 Raiders (7-9)

L 22-14 Eagles (9-7)

L 17-7 Rams (9-7)

W 24-20 Lions (3-12-1)

L 21-13 Packers (13-3)

W 21-19* Vikings (10-6)

2020

W 27-23 Lions (5-11)

W 30-26 Falcons (4-12)

W 23-16 Panthers (5-11)

L 24-10 Rams (10-6)

L 24-17 Titans (11-5)

L 41-25 Packers (13-3)

W 33-27 Vikings (7-9)

W 41-17 Jaguars (1-15)

2021

L 34-14 Rams (2-0)

*Minnesota played almost all backups

Twitter: BearDigest@BearsOnMaven