The Bears aren’t fooling anyone by insisting they’re unconcerned with the Packers.
The closest they’ve come to admitting otherwise was when general manager Ryan Poles said, “The most important piece is we’re going to take the North and never give it back,” at his introductory news conference. He didn’t mention the Packers by name, of course, but everyone knew from whom he intended to wrest the division and to whom he would not be returning it.
But while coach Matt Eberflus endlessly repeats that the Bears’ focus is solely on themselves and various other clich?s to that effect, the truth is that they’re trying to steal from the team that has dominated them for three decades.
Each of the last three Bears coaches has failed miserably against the Packers, which factored significantly into their firings. Eberflus will take his first swing Sunday night at Lambeau Field, and he’ll do so with some personnel he poached from the archrival.
Eberflus’ biggest move was luring quarterbacks coach Luke Getsy from the Packers to be the Bears’ offensive coordinator, and Getsy has made it his mission to teach Justin Fields everything that Aaron Rodgers knows. The Bears now use essentially the same offensive system, and no one runs it more prolifically than Rodgers.
The Bears want Fields to take as much of that as possible. They want him to play the percentages and make a habit of taking the easy passes. They want him to use his mobility, but not make it the foundation of his game. They want him to know opposing defenses better than the defenders themselves do. And he spent much of his offseason studying Rodgers’ film to glean what he could from the future Hall of Famer.
“I like how he plays quarterback — that’s just me being real,” Fields told the Sun-Times. “I know we have a big rivalry and of course I want to beat him, but that’s just what it is.
“I want to beat the Packers this year. But [people] want me to dislike him? For what? There’s no reason for me. He’s a great quarterback. He plays the game very efficiently, for sure.”
He appreciates him on a more personal level, too, after Rodgers pulled him aside following the Packers’ 45-30 win at Lambeau Field last December.
“This offseason, just focus on a few things to get better at and just keep stacking on it,” Fields quoted Rodgers telling him.
To Fields’ point, why wouldn’t he try to emulate Rodgers? His consistency and efficiency put him in a class by himself, and that style of play ages fantastically.
Over the last four seasons, as Rodgers strode into his late 30s, he completed 65.8% of his passes and was intercepted on just 0.7% of them. There have been eight quarterbacking seasons in NFL history with 400-plus passes and less than 1% getting picked, and Rodgers delivered three of them (2018, 2019 and 2021).
The only players to throw more touchdown passes than Rodgers’ 136 from 2018 to 2021 were Tom Brady (137) and Patrick Mahomes (156), but they each had more than double his 16 interceptions.
Last season with Getsy, Rodgers led the NFL with a 111.9 passer rating, was third in completion percentage at 68.9 and was fourth with 37 touchdown passes to win his fourth MVP. He did that while averaging just 7.6 air yards per throw. Again, it’s all about efficiency and prudence.
Fields is well aware.
“I have that mindset of just keeping the ball safe and giving ourselves a chance, holding on to the ball and just getting little gains: boom, completion, boom, completion — moving on,” he said, contrasting it to being overly aggressive last season. “I watched a bunch of Green Bay film this offseason, and that’s all A-Rod does: boom, dump it off to the back in the flat, boom, they break tackles, boom, get 10 yards off of a two-yard throw. That helps you out.”
A lot went wrong for Fields last season, and much of it was related to the dysfunction around him. But he contributed plenty to a rookie line with a completion percentage of 58.9, seven touchdown passes, 10 interceptions and a 73.2 passer rating. That was the lowest rating by a Bears quarterback who threw at least 200 passes since Matt Barkley’s 68.3 in 2016.
In his two games against the Packers, Fields completed 56.7% of his passes with three touchdowns, three interceptions and a lost fumble. Rodgers, meanwhile, was nearly perfect with six touchdown passes, a touchdown run and a 136.5 passer rating while sweeping the Bears by a total of 25 points.
Fields likes to say that he’s not competing head-to-head with Rodgers because they’re not on the field at the same time, but he is in the sense that he’s trying to keep up with him. And there’s quite a gap to overcome.
Getsy has some of the clues for how to do it, but don’t get this twisted: He didn’t make Rodgers. If anything, the assumption could be that getting the chance to work alongside Rodgers catapulted his career.
“Think of how much they both learned from each other,” said Chargers Pro Bowl center Corey Linsley, who was with Getsy in Green Bay for six seasons. “I couldn’t think of a better guy to help a young quarterback grow.
“He has a great grasp on every facet of the game. Being in meetings with guys, you can tell who’s full of [nonsense] and who’s not. And he’s absolutely not.”
Getsy was a 26-year-old graduate assistant at Pitt when Rodgers won a Super Bowl and was coaching in the FCS when Rodgers captured his first MVP. That’s not to discredit him from making any contribution to Rodgers’ career once he became his position coach in 2019, but it’s very likely Getsy learned more from his player than the other way around.
And that’s actually fine as far as the Bears are concerned, as long as Getsy can relay it all to Fields.
One of the main points he has tried to transfer is the way Rodgers uses his mobility. While he doesn’t have anything close to Fields’ speed, he always has been opportunistic as a runner and moved well behind the line of scrimmage to buy time and surprise a defense by rolling out. Again, he and Fields don’t have identical repertoires, but Fields can extract something from that film.
“Just looking at things he does well, like get the ball out fast,” Fields said. “Just his footwork. He’s great at that. He’s a Hall of Fame quarterback, so there are a lot of things I can take from his game and try to incorporate into mine, for sure.
Fields might not have much time left to land punches against Rodgers in the rivalry, though. Rodgers is under contract through 2026, but he’ll turn 39 by the end of the season and already has talked openly about post-football life. There’s more pride for Fields in taking him down rather than merely waiting him out, but he’ll have to make up a lot of ground very quickly to do that.