Paul Sullivan: Crisis-management season arrives earlier than usual for the woeful Bears

Paul Sullivan, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Football

CHICAGO — Nothing darkens the mood of Chicagoans more than a bad Bears team with an ineffective quarterback.

And only two games into the 2023 season, both quandaries threaten to ruin our fall.

Justin Fields, the latest and most likable quarterback the organization has thrown at us in several decades, has failed to show signs of progress at the outset of his third season, prompting questions of whether he’ll wind up as another flop in a long list of Bears QB mistakes.

But now it’s what Fields said, and not what he does, that has the Bears in crisis-management mode and their fans in an uproar.

It’s said that the two most important people in Chicago are the mayor and the Bears starting quarterback. One is elected, so we’re stuck with him or her for four years for better or worse. The other is chosen by an employee of the McCaskeys, the family that owns the Bears and holds the key to our happiness from September to January.

Trusting the Bears to make the right move always has been risky business, but Fields’ arrival in 2021 prompted howls of joy. Two years later, it’s just howls.


Compounding the frustration of Bears fans is that Fields’ greatest attribute — his ability to escape the pocket and elude tacklers on the run — was missing in Sunday’s 27-17 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He looked statuesque at times, taking hits while searching in vain for his primary targets, receivers DJ Moore and Darnell Mooney. What happened?

The answer came Wednesday when Fields complained at his news conference about being too “robotic” in the field, blaming coaches for him overthinking in the pocket. When the sound bite hit the fan, via the internet and sports-talk radio, Fields was out practicing for Sunday’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs. Alerted to the firestorm he created, Fields later invited the media to his locker at Halas Hall to backtrack, saying all the right things about his respect for the coaches and taking responsibility for his performance.

Fields’ remarks and mea culpa and the sudden resignation of defensive coordinator Alan Williams for reasons that remain unclear made the Bears the talk of the NFL on Wednesday. Veteran Halas Hall observers called it one of the strangest days they had seen, and the Bears were suddenly in a public relations crisis.

Fortunately, crisis management is George McCaskey’s middle name, as evidenced by his 2022 news conference announcing the firings of GM Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy. The Bears chairman sent GM Ryan Poles out to the media Thursday to snuff out any fires, leaving President Kevin Warren on the sideline.


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