Northern Star




Northern Star

Northern Illinois University’s student news organization since 1899


Ensure student journalism survives. Donate today.

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

Look Both Ways: the Justin Fields debate

AP File Photo
Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields throws a pass in an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers on Jan. 7. The Bears’ fanbase is torn between keeping Fields or trading him and selecting quarterback Caleb Williams with the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft. (AP File Photo)


By: Zach Bertram, Senior Sports Reporter

For the second consecutive year, the Chicago Bears hold the No. 1 pick of the NFL Draft. Despite having the power to draft any college quarterback they’d like, the Bears should stick with current quarterback Justin Fields as their signal caller for the 2024 season.

Prior to the 2023 NFL Draft, the Bears traded the No. 1 overall draft pick to the Carolina Panthers in exchange for wide receiver D.J. Moore, the ninth overall pick, a 2023 second round pick, a 2024 first round pick and a 2025 second round pick. After the Panthers posted a league worst 2-15 record in 2023, the Bears once again earned the first pick of the NFL Draft via Carolina.

While there are many collegiate quarterbacks at the Bears’ disposal, none more enticing than Caleb Williams of the University of Southern California, the Bears should trade down from the first pick as they did in 2023 and accumulate young talent to pair with Fields.

Trading down in the draft would allow Chicago to acquire younger players on cheaper contracts in order to keep the current franchise players around Fields under contract. This would allow the Bears to retain players like 2023 All-Pro cornerback Jaylon Johnson.


Although Fields holds a 10-28 record through his first three seasons, the Ohio State product is not the only one at fault. Fields’ poor win-loss record can be attributed to a lack of talent around him throughout his time in Chicago.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Bears have refused to hold to the limited talent that they’ve had during Fields’ tenure. Since 2022, the Bears have traded All-Pro linebackers Roquan Smith,  Khalil Mack and defensive end Robert Quinn.

Trading away their star defenders has led the Bears’ defense to three straight below average seasons. The best defense the Bears have had in the Fields era came in 2023 when they ranked 20th in the NFL. The Bears also backed up Fields’ offense with the last ranked defense in the NFL in 2022. 

The offensive weapons surrounding Fields have been far from spectacular during his time with the Bears. Fields has played with just one Pro Bowl receiver in his career, former Bear Allen Robinson. Robinson spent one season with Fields in 2021, posting just 410 receiving yards and 1 touchdown, by far his worst season in Chicago. 

Moore is the only true No. 1 receiver that Fields has played with in his career. The two have played just 13 games together, but the small sample size was enough for Fields to help Moore post career highs in receiving yards and touchdowns in 2023

Other young quarterbacks such as Justin Herbert, Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa have been gifted with talented offensive weapons throughout their careers. 

Herbert has had 6 time Pro Bowl wide receiver Keenan Allen, wide receiver Mike Williams and running back Austin Ekeler. Burrow has had All Pro wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase, wide receiver Tee Higgins and Pro Bowl running back Joe Mixon. Tagovailoa has had six6 time All Pro wide receiver Tyreek Hill, wide receiver Jaylen Waddle and 2023 rushing touchdown leader running back Raheem Mostert.

While you may argue that Fields has been aided by the Bears’ superb run game the last two seasons, it is actually the Bears quarterback that has led the team in rushing yards in both 2022 and 2023. Thanks to Fields, Chicago finished 2022 first in the NFL in rushing yards and finished 2023 second in the NFL in rushing yards.

The truth is, Fields has been a one-man wrecking crew for the majority of his time in Chicago, but has not been able to produce wins due to the poor roster surrounding him. 


In Fields’ three years in Chicago, the Bears coaching staff has been a mess. Fields has had two different head coaches and two different offensive coordinators since being drafted in 2021. 

Fields’ first head coach was Matt Nagy who coached Fields as a rookie in 2021. Nagy was then replaced by current head coach Matt Eberflus in 2022. Former offensive coordinator Bill Lazor was fired with Nagy after the 2021 season and was succeeded by former Bears offensive coordinator Luke Getsy who was fired in 2023 after two seasons.

This means that if Fields stays for the 2024 season, he will be coached by his third offensive coordinator in four years.

It is hard to expect any young quarterback to succeed when they’re having to learn an entirely new offensive scheme almost every season because of the front office’s failures to find a good head coach and a good offensive coordinator. 


While Bears fans have been waiting for decades for their star franchise quarterback, it’s understandable that they want immediate impact at the position. 

However, only two starting rookie quarterbacks have won a playoff game in the last 10 years, San Francisco’s Brock Purdy in 2022 and Houston’s C.J. Stroud in 2023. As talented as a guy like Williams may be, NFL history shows us that him coming to Chicago and saving the Bears is quite the long shot.

After a league worst 3-14 season in 2022, the Bears showed vast improvements under Fields in 2023, finishing 7-10. With franchise cornerstones such as Moore, cornerback Jaylon Johnson and defensive end Montez Sweat all having career years in 2023, the Bears need an experienced quarterback in order to continue to improve and win the NFC North in 2024.

As much of a home run as Williams may seem to be, landing a star No. 1 overall is never a guarantee. Quarterbacks such as Jameis Winston, Sam Bradford, JaMarcus Russell and Alex Smith were all flops at the No.1 overall spot. It is simply too risky for the Bears to take an unproven quarterback and move on from one of the most talented dual-threat quarterbacks in the NFL.

The Bears need to follow their recipe from the 2023 NFL Draft and trade down for more assets to continue to improve their roster to build around franchise quarterback Justin Fields.



By: Zack Rodriguez, Sports Reporter

The Justin Fields experience has come to a screeching end after just three seasons — or at least it should. Let’s break it down.


The heart of the debate lies the question: has Fields made adequate strides to stake his claim as the starting quarterback in 2024? That’s the crux.

In a vacuum, the numbers through 13 games aren’t reflective of a quarterback steadfast in their development: 22nd in passing yards (2,562), 23rd in quarterback rating (QBR), 20th passing in touchdowns (16), according to ESPN

Through 38 starts, Fields has more sub-100 yard passing performances (six) than 300 yard outings (1). Here’s just a few names with one or more games with over 300-passing yards: Bryce Young, PJ Walker, Davis Mills and Desmond Ridder

The turnover figures raise one of the more significant concerns. Through three seasons, Fields has more turnovers (55) than NFL starts (38). He tied with Russell Wilson for the fifth most fumbles in the NFL, according to The Football Database, and finished 11th in fumbles lost (4) in 2023. 

There were moments where the Ohio State University standout looked the part, showcasing glimpses of brilliance. Nevertheless, he struggled to find continuity past a three-game stretch. Fields didn’t need to reinvent the wheel to prove his worth; he needed to take a leap, but the numbers don’t suggest he did. He still falls short in crucial aspects of NFL quarterbacking.


The Bears have until May 2 to pick up Fields’ fifth-year option. Projected at $19.9 million guaranteed, according to Spotrac. If he isn’t steadfast in his development, the Bears would have already lost leverage.

That’s not to mention impending free agents during this upcoming offseason cycle and over the next three seasons: Jaylon Johnson, Teven Jenkins, Kyler Gordon, Jaquan Brisker, DJ Moore, Braxton Jones and TJ Edwards. It’s going to be near impossible to sign everyone back if the Bears are forced to pay Fields north of $60 million over the next three seasons.

Yes, we could parlay the first overall selection for a king’s ransom and yes, that would give the Bears multiple building blocks towards the foreseeable future. However, nothing is more precious than a franchise QB and Bears brass clearly isn’t sure if Fields is there just yet. 


Hypothetically, what happens if Fields fails to ascend as a passer? Prolong the inevitable by dumping him for a rookie signal caller in a significantly weaker draft? Mortgage the future for a proven vet on the trade block? 

Furthermore, I don’t believe Bears general manager Ryan Poles wants to hitch his wagon to a player he inherited. This doesn’t mean he hasn’t grown fond of the fourth-year pro — I believe the respect is mutual — but the opportunity to reset the quarterback contract window with his pick of the litter is too enticing to pass up.

Fields is just as unfamiliar as a rookie quarterback. Fans have high hopes that he could become a star but it’s not a done deal. Rolling with Fields is just as much of a gamble as replacing him with a rookie in April’s draft. Except, NFL teams have three years of tape on Fields. 


I’d be remiss not to acknowledge some of the external influences that have stunted his growth. 

Former offensive coordinator Luke Getsy and head coach Matt Nagy did Fields a massive disservice with their play-calling apparatus. 

At times, the offense failed to tailor to his strengths, requiring him to operate predominantly from the pocket and focus on intermediate and short passing concepts rather than vertical shot’s down the field – an area where I do believe Fields thrives. 

Even so, transcendent superstars supersede any situation. Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert shattered rookie records with the 32nd-ranked offensive protection, according to PFF. Burrow dragged the 20th ranked offensive protection to the Super Bowl during his sophomore season, according to PFF

Patrick Mahomes secured his third Super Bowl victory while connecting with show-stoppers Mecole Hardman and Marquez Valdes-Scantling. Of course, he has tight-end sensation Travis Kelce and emerging rookie receiver in Rashee Rice, but it’s debatable whether this receiving core surpasses an offense led by Moore and Cole Kmet.

In comparison, Tom Brady spearheaded a dynasty alongside Rob Gronkowski and a receiving core composed of Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan and Danny Amendola. Brady was remarkable for his knack for elevating talent. 

Superstars overcome and elevate. Fields doesn’t do either. 


Landing the first-overall pick in back-to-back drafts is an unprecedented occurrence. Prior to 2022, 1947 was the last time Chicago held the first overall pick in the draft, according to The Sporting News.

In my opinion, to be known as the general manager who passed up on CJ Stroud and Caleb Williams in back-to-back drafts is fireable on all fronts. A decision of this magnitude could potentially set a franchise back decades. Case-in-point Mahomes every year he’s been a starter. Food for thought.

I expect the Bears to go public on a decision no later than the new league year on March 13.

More to Discover