One of the biggest debates surrounding the Bears season this year has been how to most effectively develop Justin Fields into a surefire franchise quarterback. More specifically, when should the Bears have thrown him into the fire?
On a recent episode of the Under Center Podcast, Tony Dungy joined the show, and voiced his opinion on how the Bears should’ve handled their rookie QB.
“I'm a firm believer that you take these young quarterbacks now and you get them involved,” Dungy said on the podcast. “Get them in the lineup and get them playing. I know Coach Nagy came from the Kansas City system where Patrick Mahomes sat for a year and he's played great since then, so that was kind of his thought process. But I just feel like we don't know how great一 Patrick Mahomes might be even better had he played that first year. I don't know.”
Mahomes sat practically his entire first season, starting only the final game of the Chiefs’ season in 2017, and it wasn’t a particularly great outing. He completed 62.9% of his passes for 284 yards, but he didn’t have any touchdowns and threw one interception. The very next year however, he was phenomenal, completing 66% of his passes for over 5,000 yards, 50 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. The Chiefs won the Super Bowl and Mahomes took home the MVP award along with the Lombardi trophy.
Meanwhile, Fields was thrust into the starting job in Week 3 this season due to an Andy Dalton injury. Fields has made some spectacular plays, illustrating why the Bears traded up to draft him at No. 11 overall this year. But he’s struggled at times too. On the year, Fields has only completed 57.6% of his passes for 1,585 yards and six touchdowns to 10 interceptions. But Dungy says we shouldn’t look at Fields’ short term struggles when evaluating his long-term development.
“When I got to Indianapolis, Peyton Manning had played for four years,” Dungy said. “He told me that that first year was invaluable. Yes, he set a record for rookie interceptions and they only won three games. But he learned so much more than he would have watching another player play. And I think that's that's important. When you get a great player and they're mentally tough, and those interceptions and those losses aren't going to hurt them in the long run, they learned. So I would have preferred to see Justin out there from day one, learning and getting in that process.”