Lombardi: Why Justin Fields will never be a top-20 NFL QB

October 15, 2022 09:58 AM
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I feel bad for Chicago Bears fans.  The Bears are a historic franchise, loaded with incredible players and coaches.  Now they watch their team in those ugly orange uniforms and realize they are about to embark on another four-year journey of pretending they have fixed their quarterback position. Justin Fields started his 16th game last night and normally when evaluating a quarterback, it takes 20 games to accurately judge their long-term success.  With Fields, we don’t have to watch another four games:  The verdict is in, and it’s not good.  Fields is a gifted athlete and runner.  He can throw the ball a mile, but he lacks the instincts, rhythm the timing and most of all the accuracy to throw the ball into tight windows when facing pressure. 

Older Bears fans remember Bobby Douglas, the flame-throwing left hander, who could run all over the field, yet when he had to fire the ball with timing and precision, he wasn’t able to do so.  Douglas was like Nuke Laloosh from “Bull Durham” -- great fastball, no control.  Douglas, a former second-round pick of the Bears, started 45 games and completed 42% of his passes.  Remember, Douglas played when running quarterbacks were not in vogue, when he carried the ball 141 times in 1972, he was the outlier of the league.  Bears fans also remember they won only four games that season under the direction of head coach Abe Gibron and by 1975 Douglas was traded and no longer a starter.  Fields is much like Douglass, only this era of football is more acceptable to quarterbacks that run.  The innate problems that prevented Douglass from playing will be the same problems that will keep Fields from ever being a top-20 NFL quarterback. 

Some might say, why are you being so hard on Fields, he had the Bears on the 5-yard line with a chance to win the game?  That’s true, but when a quarterback averages 10 completions a game and relies primarily on his running skills, what do you expect his longevity to be? 

Fields is a one-look-and-dash quarterback. When the Bears run play-action, or any type of boots, he can find the open man and (depending on his footwork) deliver an accurate throw.  Fields has a funky motion, poor mechanics that don’t hold up under pressure and struggles to throw the ball inside unless the wide receiver is wide open. He only throws the ball when the receiver is wide open, like when he was at Ohio State, which never happens in the NFL.  He is willing to throw the ball outside on deep passes, like his 40-yard TD to Dante Pettis, because it’s doesn’t require processing the coverage.  This has nothing to do with intelligence, rather, instincts and feel for the game.  And from watching Fields at Ohio State and now, he hasn’t been able to show improvement. 

The questions the Bears must address is:  Is there an offense Fields can run successfully?  Could he run the Eagles/Oklahoma Sooners offense?  Maybe, and the Bears are trying to use a version of that offense. They are trying desperately to run plays that highlight his skill set athletically -- and the results are not good.  They have the lowest amount of passing attempts in the league, the lowest number of yards passing and are 28th in the yards per attempt passing.  In three of their six games, the Bears have gained more yards running than passing.  Some might say the talent level around Fields is bad, which causes him to struggle.  Yes and no.  Yes, the Bears need a better offensive line, more explosive playmakers on offense, but Fields struggles to execute even when the receiver is wide open. All the chatter about the talent around him, is simply avoiding the obvious answer that I am sure Bears fans don’t want to admit -- yet. 

Chicago will play hard, compete and will cover spreads, especially when the Bears face another bad quarterback like they did last night.  Their margin for error is so small that it’s almost impossible for them to win games.  Carson Wentz wasn’t very good -- and that is being kind.  Throwing for 99 yards, not having any explosive passes over 20 yards, and taking three sacks.  What saved Wentz and the Commanders was they protected the ball and avoided losing, which saved them.   Both teams have short- and long-term issues at quarterback and until they solve them, they will be playing in ugly games. 

QB RATINGS

TOP FIVE

  1. Josh Allen -- been consistently the best quarterback of the year.
  2. Patrick Mahomes -- taking too many hits, but making great throws and was perfect in the red zone last week.
  3. Geno Smith -- he has been exceptional with his accuracy, timing and decision making. 
  4. Tom Brady -- throwing it 50 times and still making plays. 
  5. Jalen Hurts -- has not played as well the last two weeks, but is still a top-five player this season.  Needs to play his best game on Sunday. 

BOTTOM FIVE

28.  Davis Mills

29.  Carson Wentz

30.  Matt Ryan

31.  Justin Fields

32.  Baker Mayfield

With Mayfield out of the game on Sunday for injury, the Panthers will use PJ Walker as their starter.  As bettors, don’t downgrade the Panthers with Walker as he can’t play as poorly as Mayfield was playing.  Mayfield has more of a name, a draft pedigree, yet his play on the field was the poorest of his career. Mayfield could not complete simple throws and even though Walker isn’t a great player, he will improve the Panthers offense. 

POWER RATINGS

Buffalo

Kansas City

San Francisco

Tampa Bay

Philadelphia

Baltimore

Green Bay

Dallas

Cincinnati

Jacksonville

Minnesota

Cleveland

Chargers

Tennessee

New England

NY Giants

New Orleans

NY Jets

Denver

Miami

Las Vegas

Rams

Arizona

Indianapolis

Houston

Seattle

Atlanta

Carolina

Washington

Pittsburgh

Detroit

Chicago

  1. Miami has been trending down due to its injuries at quarterback and the play of its defense.
  2. Pittsburgh is bad, and not even Mike Tomlin’s brilliant coaching can rescue them. 
  3. The Rams can’t move the ball, protect the ball and struggle to be consistent.  Remove the cache from their team’s name, evaluate them on this season and they are playing at the lowest level of Sean McVay's time in Los Angeles. 
  4. Jacksonville is the most talented team in the AFC South, yet the Jaguars make so many dumb decisions during the game which prevents them from winning.  Don’t overlook their defensive talent when facing a bad offensive line and immobile quarterback. 
  5. The Jets have played well the last two weeks and have moved up in the ratings.  Both games were close entering the fourth quarter.  The Jets were trailing Pittsburgh 20-10 and scored 14 unanswered to win the game.  The Dolphins were attempting a go-ahead field goal, to make the score 20-19, which they missed;  then the Jets scored 21 unanswered.   

HALL AND OATES PLAY, I CAN’T GO FOR THAT

I admit the Jets have improved in my power ratings and I show them as a 5.6-point dog on the road in Green Bay, which would indicate a play on the Jets.  However, this will be a giant step up for the Jets, even though the Packers have not played well --especially defensively.  I don’t trust the Jets yet, even though they should give the Packers trouble.  So, for me, this game is a Hall and Oates play and I’ll remove it from my handicap. 

LINE OF THE WEEK

Rarely do you get points when the Chiefs play at home, which is why the line moved from the Bills -3 to 2.5.  Even though the Bills are the better team, getting the three for the home team is too tempting to pass, especially with Patrick Mahomes under center.  This will be a hard game for the Chiefs and will have home-field playoff implications.  After watching the Raiders tape against Kansas City, it would be hard for me to imagine the Chiefs being able to slow down the Bills as the matchups favor their receivers across the board.  I know it’s not smart to bet against a great quarterback playing at home, but this seems tempting. 

COORDINATOR BATTLE OF THE WEEK

Don Martindale, defensive coordinator of the Giants, has watched and practiced against Lamar Jackson since he arrived in 2018.  Martindale has practiced and competed against Baltimore offensive coordinator Greg Roman for years, and each man knows one another tendencies and adjustments.  For Martindale to be successful, he will need to be able to contain and control Jackson in the pocket and keep Jackson’s legs from beating him.  And based on the injury report, his defense might be a little undermanned. 

For Roman and the Ravens, they must protect the ball, and handle the designed pressures with his protections.  If he doesn’t change or alter his pass protections, the Ravens will struggle to consistently move the ball.  This will be a fun matchup to watch from a playing and coaching adjustments standpoint. 

Enjoy Week 6.  Check back on Sunday for my picks -- currently 12-7-1 this season.

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