Bears quarterback Justin Fields finished the regular season with a 2-8 record as the team’s starter. He threw 7 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, completing just 58.9 percent of his passes and averaging just 6.9 yards per attempt.
There were some bright spots though. Fields rushed for 420 yards on the season. He demonstrated a blossoming connection with young wide receiver Darnell Mooney. Also, despite being one of the most pressured quarterbacks in the NFL, Fields had a 73.2 passer rating under pressure — higher than fellow rookies Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson.
If Bears fans want to look at those positives and feel excited, then by all means, go right ahead. One thing you absolutely shouldn’t base the success/failure of Fields’ rookie season on though, is his following on Instagram.
Look what the Bears have done to their fans. This is what 12 years of Jay Cutler and Mitch Trubisky does to people. It turns them into slobbering messes looking for any reason to defend Ryan Pace’s draft day decisions. I mean, Instagram followers? Really? I mean, if that’s how we’re doing things then the Raiders made a huge mistake by cutting Will Compton for the second time in a week. That man has 130 thousand followers on Twitter — more than Aaron Donald, Shaq Barrett, Fred Warner, and Eric Kendricks. CLEARLY, the Raiders just cut one of the most valued and respected NFL players, right?
Or...and just hear me out on this one. Maybe the Raiders cut a mediocre football player who has amassed a substantial social media following because they understand how to use social media. Hmm? No, that can’t possibly be right. After all, Johnny Manziel had 1.7 million followers before deleting his entire Instagram page in 2019, and we all know how respected he is in the NFL.
Obviously, this is an abysmal way to measure respect in any sport. If you understand social media at all, it makes sense why Fields has gathered such a huge following after just one year in the NFL. For one, he played at one of the top college programs in America and, despite never winning a national championship, is considered one of the best quarterbacks to ever play at Ohio State. Fields was drafted to one of the NFL’s most historic franchises and started a quarterback controversy before ever taking a snap for the Bears. The Bears have always been a proud franchise, but have never had a true star quarterback.
In their history during the Super Bowl Era, only one quarterback drafted by the Bears has ever made 100 career NFL starts: Jim McMahon. While McMahon was definitely a pivotal part of the Bears’ victory in Super Bowl XX, he was also never an elite quarterback in the NFL, earning his championship ring while being carried by an all-time great defense and a guy named Walter Payton. Fields is the next in line to try to break the streak, and the United States’ third-largest market is putting all of their faith in him. That’s going to draw a lot of attention.
All of that combines into a quarterback who’s going to get a lot of looks on social media. Sure, he’s not the most active, posting maybe once a week at most, but that’s not going to matter given everything else I’ve said.
You know who has zero social media following in the NFL? Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck, Justin Herbert, Matthew Stafford, Philip Rivers, and many other well-respected current and former NFL quarterbacks. I understand there’s a difference between having a small following on social media and not being on social media at all, but these guys just go to show that how many online fans you have doesn’t dictate how good a football player they are.
You should never judge a man on imaginary internet points whether it be positive or negative. Fields showed some promise in 2021. Now, he’ll get a full offseason with a hopefully competent head coach, who can help springboard him into superstardom next year. Or maybe he’ll flounder in his sophomore season and finish last place in the NFC North. We’ll see how many fans are bragging about his social media following then.