EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — There was a time when the Bears believed, perhaps correctly, that they had everything but the quarterback. They think they’ve found one in Justin Fields, but now they don’t have much else.
With Fields out Sunday because of a separated shoulder, the Jets laid bare the mountain of work the Bears still have to do in addition to further developing Fields. It was an unwanted trip back in time to the Matt Nagy era as the Bears lost 31-10 to a middling opponent.
Nothing has crippled the Bears more than their boondoggles at quarterback over the last several decades, and nothing will influence their future more than Fields flourishing.
But quarterback was hardly the only thing that got Ryan Pace fired.
It was easy to overlook how pockmarked with flaws this roster is when Fields was racing around setting records and making the games watchable even as losses inevitably piled up, but this was a reminder how long general manager Ryan Poles’ offseason to-do list will be.
Simply put, there isn’t much here other than Fields. Without him, the games are drab and inconsequential.
Bears coach Matt Eberflus is trying to hold a pedestrian roster to elite standards. It’s not going to work. Every opponent he faces right now figures on scoring no less than 30 points.
Offensively, the Bears can count on wide receivers Darnell Mooney and Chase Claypool as part of their future, but there are no other certainties. Backup quarterbacks like Trevor Siemian can get a team through a game or two if everything around them is solid, but when that’s all that’s in place, it’s hard to expect better than the 179 yards he put up Sunday.
That’s actually right around what Fields has been averaging lately, but something was missing … oh, right, Siemian’s rushing total was a whopping eight yards on four carries. Fields’ world-class speed offsets a lot of the deficiencies around him.
The Bears’ defense, meanwhile, is stocked with players who would have trouble finding starting jobs elsewhere. Jets backup quarterback Mike White lit them up for 315 yards, three touchdowns and an almost-perfect 149.3 passer rating.
That side of the ball should look better when safety Jaquan Brisker and cornerback Kyler Gordon get back on the field — both rookies are out with concussions — but there’s no other help on the way. Cornerback Jaylon Johnson is definitely a fixture, and safety Eddie Jackson was playing like a pillar before exiting with a non-contact left foot injury in the second quarter.
The good news for the Bears is that as they sink — soar? — to a top-three pick in the upcoming draft, quarterback doesn’t seem to be a need. Teams looking for a quarterback need as high of a pick as possible to ensure they get the right guy, but a team like the Bears that appears to have their answer in Fields can parlay it into multiple picks to solve multiple problems.