In Week 18, Jordan Love and the Green Bay Packers went up against the Chicago Bears and Justin Fields in a must-win game to qualify for the playoffs. This game, which the Packers dominated, is probably the last game Justin Fields will ever play for the Bears. This game displayed how the two rival franchises have differed with player development for the last three decades. There are many reasons young QBs fail, and the Jordan Love vs. Justin Fields is a perfect case study into areas of success and pitfalls of failure in quarterback development.
Factors that should be looked at to analyze Love’s development versus Fields’ are the preservation of his confidence and the consistency of his team’s offense and coaches. Preserving a young QB’s confidence is one of the most critical and difficult things to accomplish for a team. There are numerous quarterbacks, such as David Carr, Sam Darnold, and more, who possessed traits you want to see from a prospect but, because of their situation, crumbled. While Love learned for three years behind a future hall of famer Aaron Rodgers, Fields was forced into the starting role as a rookie. Fields demonstrated a struggle to throw the ball downfield, and it is clear he has “happy feet,” displaying nerves and a lack of comfort. You would hope that by the end of his third year, he would have eliminated these issues, but they still appear far too often. You often hear the term “the game slows down” when speaking about the processing speed of quarterbacks, but when they continue to get hit and left out to dry, this never improves and, in some cases, regresses. When viewing Fields’ stats, his high sack rate of 10.6 percent exhibits not only a poor line but that he holds the ball too long. This is even more prevalent because of the Bears’ short passing game, which should get the ball out quickly but fails to do so. When viewing Love, he appears calm and exhibits great anticipation. While he is the lesser “athlete” to Fields, his pocket presence is far smoother. He has been able to grow in a controlled environment with minimal pressure. Love’s success does not only come from learning and practicing at an NFL level for three years, but in the fact that time was under the same management, coaching staff, and offense.
The general manager and head coach who drafted Love with their system in mind remain in Green Bay, and while the assistants have changed, the offensive scheme has not. He has worked for and developed in an offensive scheme for four seasons and now knows this system like the back of his hand. This stability has given Love a chance to improve as he has been able to build on what he learned and does not have to rebuild his thought process, footwork, and mechanics every offseason. This is important because Love is known to struggle under these conditions as he suffered a regression from his junior to senior seasons in college due to the loss of receivers, running backs, and linemen, as well as a whole new offensive system. This occurred because his coach left for a better job, and his offensive teammates either transferred or graduated from the program. This downgrade in weapons and a worse coach hindered the potential he flashed in his junior year. Green Bay’s stability is paired with Quarterback Coach Tom Clements. When Rodgers brought him back to Green Bay, it felt like when he was originally hired to get the most out of an old Brett Favre and develop the mechanics and mental processing of a young Rodgers. Fields’ staff has been an entirely different story. After the entire staff was fired when his rookie season ended, he came into 2022 with new management, a new coach, and a new coordinator. As a result, he improved and had a generational running season, but his passing stats, 2242 yards, 17 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions, were mediocre, and the Bears resorted to using a running offense and underperformed. Going into 2023, they shifted the offense to be a quick, screen-based West Coast offense. And once again, Field's stats were mediocre and showed little growth. How can you be expected to grow as a passer when your system shifts every year? This restarts a whole year of progress, effectively keeping him in a limbo state of development.
Despite three years starting, Justin Fields has only shown a fraction of the production Jordan Love has shown in one season. His failure in Chicago is due to complete mismanagement from the Bears staff. He is a warning of what can happen when you drop a talented but raw player into a poorly constructed team. Jordan Love demonstrates the importance of building a QB for your team, not throwing one onto it.