Pondering Bears quarterback Justin Fields leads me to thoughts of the family dog I purchased a decade ago.
The girls had decided they needed a small, fluffy breed that didn’t shed, and the man with a brood said the one we picked was ‘‘pet quality, not show quality.’’
The dog had a paw that turned out slightly and some other ‘‘defects’’ that mattered only if you were preparing to trot him in a ‘‘Best in Show’’ remake. That is, if you were ready for a commentator such as John Michael Higgins to spew cynically: ‘‘He broke his gait. He may as well have taken a dump.”
This dog we love is not in competition. Most assuredly, not in elite competition.
Sadly, Fields is.
As I have said many times, there is nothing harder in all of team sports than being a successful NFL quarterback. There’s no shame in being ‘‘pet quality.’’
But team owners aren’t looking for cuddly, flawed creatures to lead their teams. They’re looking for beasts such as Johnny Unitas, Joe Montana, Dan Marino, John Elway, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Tom Brady, Lamar Jackson — when they’re at their peaks — to lead.
Fields on Sunday was so bad that it is remarkable the Bears beat the Texans. A good running game, a good defense and a lousy Houston squad made the difference.
It’s astounding to think that an NFL quarterback in the modern era (since the invention of the T-formation, the banishment of the bump-and-run, the proliferation of tree-frog sticky receiver gloves and the apparent moratorium on holding penalties by offensive linemen) can throw only 28 passes in two games.
Yet that’s all Fields has thrown since the 17 he tossed in the opener. Consider: Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray threw 28 passes in the first half against the Rams on Sunday. Joe Flacco has thrown 155 passes so far, Josh Allen has thrown 132 and Joe Burrow has thrown 125. And so on.
Fields has 297 total passing yards in three games. Thirty-one quarterbacks have more. Twenty have thrown for at least 700 yards.
Fields’ four interceptions tie him for the second-most (or second-worst) in the league. His two passing touchdowns rank him 27th.
The point is, quarterbacks play the game to throw passes. The Ravens’ Jackson and a couple of other quarterbacks are legitimate running threats — and Fields has good wheels, too. But that’s not why anybody leads the way. Running is a corollary to quarterback success, not a foundation.
Second-year man Fields knows how badly he has played. People talk about giving him time to adjust and learn the pro game. But the flash of greatness needs to appear, patience be damned.
‘‘I just played like trash,’’ he said Sunday.
No need to expand.
The amazing part of the Bears’ 2-1 success is that they have made their mark running the ball. Kudos to backup running back Khalil Herbert for gaining 157 yards on 20 carries Sunday. And congrats to the Bears for their 281 total rushing yards, their most since 1984. The Bears had 283 yards rushing in that game 38 years ago and lost 23-14 to the Cowboys. The point being, you’re not going far if you can’t pass.
And we don’t know if Fields can do that. Oh, his arm is strong enough. But his vision, anticipation, instant check-down skill and feel for what is in front of him seem missing.
One would expect foes now to scheme mightily against the Bears’ rushing attack and to defy Fields to throw. Pass the damn ball, kid!
That’s almost exactly what Bears fans are saying, too.
Clearly, coach Matt Eberflus and offensive coordinator Luke Getsy are worried about Fields airing it out. Disaster might lurk. Indeed, his two aggressive passes deep down the middle — always a dangerous area — were intercepted by Texans safety Jalen Pitre.
The pro game is so fast that receivers who were open in the college game — especially when you’re leading super-talented Ohio State — get gobbled up by NFL defensive backs’ comeback speed and tricky schemes.
It’s not height, speed or strength Fields is lacking. But it might be the intangible something, the something his failed predecessor Mitch Trubisky lacked.
In that classic mockumentary ‘‘Best in Show,’’ the clueless announcer (played by Fred Willard) blurts out with a smile as he watches the finals parade, ‘‘And to think that in some countries these dogs are eaten!’’
We just eat quarterbacks here.