Bears offensive coordinator Luke Gatsey is as obsessed with the process of developing Justin Fields as most people are with the production that quantifies his personal success.
“As long as we see growth, we know we’re on the right track,” Gatesy said.
Gatsey saw that increase through the first four weeks of the season, when Fields’ numbers were not only poor, but discouraging and looking like red flags—Fields averaged his passes for 117.8 yards per game and a 58.7 passer rating. 50.8% completed.
He responded with notable improvement – though hardly prolific production – completing 65.7% of his passes for 169.6 yards per game and a 96.9 passer rating over his next 10 games.
Nevertheless, Fields finished the 2022 season with marginally-best passing numbers. His 60.4% completion rate ranks 31st in the NFL. His 85.2 passer rating is 26th. Even his most impressive statistic – 7.1 yards per attempt – is 17th.
And Fields’ 149.5 yards per game is not only last in the NFL, it’s the second-lowest average for a second-year quarterback drafted in the first round in the past 30 seasons. He averaged more passing yards per game (180.0) last year as the starter in Matt Nagy’s offense.
But in terms of development on offense and in the fields, Gatesy saw progress.
“That’s what I saw every day [during the first month], I keep watching it,” Gatesy said.
Now he has that experience as we go into the next year. He had opportunities to become more comfortable with the communication of the system. Hopefully he will become more comfortable with the people around him.
“Any time you get that cohesion of the entity, and knowing what the culture looks like — and that’s the leader of that culture — I think that’s all promising stuff.”
When asked for examples of Fields’ growth, Gatesy mostly pointed to Fields’ maturity and comfort with his position as a team leader—even to Gatesy’s amusing annoyance.
“Now [look at] His press conference at the end of the year — he’s sitting there telling you every single play,” Gatesy said. “He told you we had a trick play. I’m like, ‘Come on, dude, you can’t do that. You cannot go in public and say no trick play. Be a supporter, lead. What happened to Chase challenged him last week [Claypool] on the shore and they handled it. This is what makes him the leader of the football team and remains a great professional and consistent every day. I think this is the most important thing.
“Then all the other stuff — those guys he sees on the practice field every day. They see him getting better every day. The results, the numbers that everyone’s looking for, will come. And we know that. The most important thing is is that we will continue to see growth.”
Gatsey’s confidence in Fields is so strong that he dared to compare him to Aaron Rodgers—whom Gatsey coached the last three seasons with the Packers—when Gatsey was asked about Fields to find out why. When to extend a play and when to throw it away. ,
“It’s part of the uniqueness of coaches who are special in different ways,” Gatesy said. “I was lucky enough to train a guy on my last stop [Rodgers] That he doesn’t see things like everyone else. So you work through that, like, ‘Why did you do that?’ He communicates more clearly than any other human being in the world.
“What’s cool about Justin is that he’s on that path. He has his why. He sees what he sees and he’s been able to communicate that. … He’s making decisions for a reason, so Those conversations have been really good.”
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