Chicago has to decide now whether it can believe what it sees. Do we believe our own eyes? To an outsider, that must sound so easy.
But to a city that saw the Chicago Cubs win a World Series after 100 years, the White Sox after nearly 90, the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup after almost 50, and a man who could fly leading the Bulls to a dynasty — things Chicagoans had fully accepted they’d never see — this one is particularly hard.
Those things were nothing. Now, Chicagoans have to believe that they have finally, finally, finally gotten what they crave most: A real quarterback. Justin Fields is the new Bears QB. Do you believe, Chicago?
And it’s not only that. Today, Chicagoans have to decide if they saw history just change in one evening. First, the hated Aaron Rodgers clearly leaked to ESPN that he’s done in hated Green Bay, and then just a few hours later Thursday night, the Bears traded up in the NFL draft to the No. 11 spot, where they picked Ohio State’s Fields.
It has been 70 years since the Bears have had a quarterback in Sid Luckman. And it has been 30 years since the rival Packers have had either Brett Favre or Rodgers at quarterback.
All that time — 30 damn years! — the Bears have countered Favre and Rodgers with Flotsam and Jetsam, Trubisky and Cutler, Ernie and Bert.
Now, maybe Green Bay can be in quarterback hell for a while. Maybe the quarterback gods are just that bored with the status quo.
We’ve seen Fields with our own eyes, beating up on Clemson, playing hurt, running superfast, throwing hard and accurately. But we’ve also seen the Bears miss on every quarterback for decades.
Which one are we supposed to believe now? Going into the draft, if there was one thing I knew it was that Fields is better than Alabama’s Mac Jones — not to mention Brigham Young’s Zach Wilson and North Dakota State’s Trey Lance — no matter what the draft-board predictions were saying. That was a lockdown, guaranteed, sure-fire fact.
But then other teams were passing on Fields. And then the Bears, the team that can’t judge a quarterback, took him. And if that wasn’t condemnation enough, genius Bill Belichick then picked Jones to replace Tom Brady.
Did everyone else know something about quarterbacks that the Bears didn’t? For decades, the answer to that has been this:
Hah, hah, hah. Stupid question.
The NFL draft is all about believing. It’s about hope and history. Other teams want to change history, too. The New York Jets are still trying to replace Joe Namath, who left 45 years ago. They took Wilson, and chose to believe. I don’t think he’s that great. The San Francisco 49ers traded away so much just to get Lance, who comes with film of just one game since 2019.
The last time the Bears traded up to get a quarterback it was for Mitch Trubisky, who had started one year at North Carolina — not exactly a football powerhouse — and lost a minor bowl game.
Somehow, Bears general manager Ryan Pace has hung on to his job after the Trubisky disaster. And maybe the scariest thing about Fields is that Pace is the one who picked him.
It’s just hard to know whether to believe the whispers or what we saw in Fields with our own eyes. You never know what’s behind the whispers.
The 49ers used Jones as a smokescreen to hide their interest in Lance, presumably so that the Jets wouldn’t rethink which QB to take. So suddenly, Jones, who made for a fine bottom-of-the-first-round pick, was projected to go No. 3 in the draft.
Once the 49ers took Lance, Jones started sliding down the draft board.
Fields was always going to be the No. 2 pick, behind Lawrence. Out of high school, he and Lawrence were basically co-No. 1s. So it’s a little hard to understand what was behind his fall to No. 11.
Leading up to the draft, former journeyman NFL quarterback Dan Orlovsky, now at ESPN, said that there were questions about Fields’ work ethic. Then, somehow, it came out that Fields has epilepsy.
For whatever reason, an anti-Fields campaign was on.
Now the fun part starts. The Bears, who recently signed Andy Dalton and named him the starter, have to convince fans to be patient while Fields develops. Meanwhile, Fields has to deal with a fan base that has absolutely zero patience left.
Coach Matt Nagy had been brought in because of his grasp of the modern offense, and then showed no signs of that while failing to develop Trubisky. Pace is out of chances, too.
Time is up. I’ll estimate that Fields will get three weeks into the season to know what he’s doing. A three-week honeymoon.
And then? Chicago will judge what it sees.