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Merril Hoge Thinks Bears Environment Was Toxic for Justin Fields

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Pittsburgh Steelers Trade Target Chicago Bears QB Justin Fields

One legitimate concern about Fields’ game is his pocket awareness, which often leads to unnecessary sacks. He just doesn’t see the field very well. Russell Wilson has the same issue, however, so the Steelers might be dealing with a potential dilemma.

Fields had two head coaches and three different offensive coordinators in his three years in Chicago. That’s an incredibly tough environment for a young quarterback to develop and grow in. Now with the Steelers he is starting with a clean slate. So far, teammate Pat Freiermuth has been impressed by Fields.

Former Steelers running back Merril Hoge thinks Chicago was a disaster of an environment for Fields. Historically, the Bears have never developed a top-flight quarterback. Jay Cutler is the franchises all-time leading passer with 23,443 yards.

“What they did to Justin Fields is probably one of the worst things you can do to any player. What I mean by that is every year he had a different coordinator. He had different learning, he had a different system, and there’s no way, I don’t care what your profession is, if you keep starting over and over, and you change things every single year, I don’t care what your skill set is, you can never get good,” Hoge said during an appearance on on The Bill Michaels Show.

“You can never get better. You can never evolve. You can never develop. That was unfortunate for him. Now, I actually believe he’s in a really awesome spot in Pittsburgh for that development, if they can hold on to those two years and develop him.”

Former Bears director of player personnel Josh Lucas, who was on the staff that drafted Fields, never doubted the man that Justin Fields is, but did have some concerns on the field.

“Our main concern was: ‘Is this just a two-year starting quarterback in college that needs more time? He’s playing around phenomenal talent, offensive line and perimeter skill. He’s got more time to operate. Or is this like a lack of instinct?’ That was our big question, and after three years, I would say there’s a little bit of an instinct issue there,” Lucas said. “It’s why I think the league just told you he’s viewed as a backup quarterback right now more than a starting quarterback,” Lucas said in an interview with Pro Football Focus earlier this month.

Last month, former Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton touched on Fields’ situation and how he was traded out of Chicago. The Bears are expected to draft USC quarterback Caleb Williams at No. 1 overall.

“Justin Fields is finding out firsthand that this is a business, and unfortunately (it) hasn’t been in his favor,” Newton said on his podcast 4th & 1. “And it wasn’t up to him to be traded. It was a collision course, it was about to be a train wreck. Hell, his experience there was a train wreck.”

Newton feels like team’s have little patience with quarterbacks anymore. If there’s no signs of potential in 2-3 years, team’s are looking for a replacement.

“Not just the Chicago Bears, but a lot of organizations are feeling the heat. And you really only got two to potentially three years to show you’re good, because the NFL has changed. We’re not allowing players to develop anymore. We’re trying to sell jerseys, we’re trying to win football games, and we’re trying to win a Super Bowl … yesterday,” Newton said. “So, I don’t give a damn about developing. You got to already come in able to compartmentalize personal versus professional. “Professional manage a locker room where you are now thrust into a CEO role where you have to manage the owner, off the field, general manager, head coach, position coach and players. And for Caleb Williams, that’s a tall task. That’s a tall order. That’s not to say he can’t do it, but he must understand what he’s getting himself into.”

Fields took a small step forward in 2023, his third year as Chicago’s starting quarterback. The Ohio State alum threw 370 times, completing 227 for 2,562 yards and 16 touchdowns. He threw nine interceptions and maintained an 86.3 passer rating and a 5.29 adjusted net yards per attempt.

In 2022, he was 192 of 318 for 2,242 yards, 17 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, an 85.2 quarterback rating and 4.63 adjusted net yards per attempt.

Since 2022, Fields has the most rushing yards by a quarterback with 1,800 yards and 6.3 yards per carry. Both figures are higher than Lamar Jackson’s.