Justin Fields #1 of the Ohio State Buckeyes awaits the snap during the fourth quarter of the College Football Playoff National Championship game against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Hard Rock Stadium on January 11, 2021 in Miami Gardens, Florida. | Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Experts have heaped praise on the Bears’ selection of Ohio State QB Fields, but I’m not ready to call this pick a game-changer
All I’ve seen for analysis of the Bears 2021 draft are grades of A to A++ to ‘‘The Rapture.’’
The previously reviled Ryan Pace, once a dunce as a general manager, is now a genius.
Amazing what a quarterback named Justin Fields can do for a franchise.
Sports columnists are skeptical by nature, even cynical. Some people might say we’re a herd of Negative Nancies.
Then there is my colleague Rick Morrissey. If a water glass is half-full, I’ll instinctively say it’s half empty. Rick M. will say its three-quarters full of pesticide.
Indeed, upon hearing the Bears’ draft news, that human rain cloud wrote that he wished he ‘‘had slept in’’ and did it ‘‘for a month.’’ He said that all the ‘‘salivating’’ deeply troubled him, that the main outcome of this choosing of a star quarterback from Ohio State in the first round was that Pace ‘‘will likely gain another year or two of employment.’’
I am a cheerful tulip compared to that crabgrass.
And yet . . . even I have doubts.
Small ones, true. But they lurk.
For example, why was Fields, who was predicted to go way up in the draft, as high as No. 2 or No. 3, available all the way down at No. 11?
I mean, there was a time when Fields was considered an equal or better quarterback than first overall pick, Trevor Lawrence.
Big-haired Mel Kiper called Fields his ‘‘second-ranked quarterback, who would be in the discussion at No. 1 overall in any other year.’’
So three quarterbacks went before Fields? At one, two, and three?
Then nothing for seven picks? The Bears traded up for Fields, so who knows when he would have gone if they hadn’t taken him.
A tight end, an offensive tackle, two cornerbacks, three wide receivers — all better picks than Fields?
Yes, I’ve heard the justifications, the ‘‘logic.’’
Those teams didn’t need quarterbacks. They needed help elsewhere.
So the Panthers are happy with Sam Darnold? The Falcons love Matt Ryan, who turns 36 in a week?
The Lions like their swap with the Rams for Jared Goff?
The Broncos are good with Teddy Bridgewater or Drew Lock?
The Eagles — serious? — will hand the controls to 22-year old Jalen Hurts? And then there’s the 49ers, who took virtually untested North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance at No. 3.
All those teams passed on Fields. Maybe they’re right. In fact, they might be absolutely right.
Which troubles me.
Very little has been made of Fields having epilepsy. He had one seizure in ninth grade, woke up in an ambulance, and that was pretty much the extent of it, he has said. It’s under control, with medication, and he claims it has had ‘‘zero effect on football.’’
I’m sure he’s right. But it’s hard not to worry about possible exacerbating head trauma in a league where head blows are fast and furious.
Indeed, according to the Epilepsy Foundation, traumatic brain injuries (TBI) are themselves potential causes of epilepsy.
‘‘TBI is a well-recognized cause of seizures and epilepsy’’ says the foundation’s website. ‘‘TBI can occur as a result of the head suddenly and violently hitting an object (falls, car accidents, sports injuries).’’
‘‘We’re completely fine with it,’’ Pace said of Fields’ condition.
I guess we should be too.
Yet I’m reminded here of former Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, and his Type 1 diabetes, and his need to maintain precise sugar/insulin balancing for optimum performance.
Cutler almost never talked about his condition. But it was hard not to wonder if late in tough games in hot, humid conditions, he didn’t fade a bit either mentally or physically because of it.
There was some idle gossip among NFL ‘‘insiders’’ that Fields was not a hard worker. A big no-no. But that stuff got blasted out of the water by, among others, Fields’ college coach, Ryan Day, who called it ‘‘reckless.’’
But did some of it stick?
I don’t know. In this year-plus of COVID, we know so little about so many athletes.
I also wonder if Pace isn’t trying to make up for his 2017 blunder of taking bust Mitch Trubisky when the transcendent Patrick Mahomes was staring him in the face. Let’s hope this isn’t Pace-ian payback, or even the Bears’ way of proving they will take a black quarterback as their premier player.
One last thing. Ohio State is not known as the cradle of quarterbacks, unless Art Schlichter from 30 years ago floats your boat.
Call me concerned. Not Morrissey-level, of course. Just garden-variety concerned.