The Curious Case of Justin Fields


Credit: Chicago Tribune

Seth Fisher, Student Correspondent

Who are they to doubt him? Justin Fields, a senior from Kennesaw, Georgia, was 2018’s top recruit coming out of high school. He committed to the prestigious University of Georgia to play under head coach Kirby Smart. He would see minimal play time as a freshman and later transferred to The Ohio State University. Fields would later set the Big Ten on fire in his two years as a Buckeye, finishing 3rd and 7th in the Heisman Trophy voting in 2019 and 2020. After his junior season, Fields declared for the NFL Draft. In that moment of career-defining declaration however, a wave of criticisms appeared on the horizon.
As a college QB who broke numerous records at a big time school, Justin Fields’ draft stock was undoubtedly one of first round status. In most experts’ rankings and mock drafts, Fields was often the number two QB and the second quarterback off the board behind the unanimous number one overall player Trevor Lawrence. Funnily enough, Fields handed Lawrence’s Clemson team their first loss of their 2021 campaign in the College Football Playoff semifinal. Fields’ potential, athleticism, statistics, and level of competition all fit the criteria of an NFL franchise QB and a top selection in the Draft. However, that isn’t quite what happened.
Dan Orlovsky, a former NFL QB and current NFL analyst for ESPN, said that he’d heard from NFL sources that some viewed Fields as a “‘last-guy-in, first-guy-out type of quarterback.’” and that he didn’t have “‘the maniacal work ethic.’” Orlovsky later stated to a source that he’d wished he’d added more “clarity and specificity” to his comments, though he maintained that some teams questioned Fields’ work ethic. These, to the knowledge of most, are the only public comments made to criticize Justin Field’s work ethic. NFL teams always conduct their internal discussion surrounding individual players, especially quarterbacks, but Orlovsky’s comments set off a firestorm of finger pointing. Which teams, evaluators, coaches, or scouts made the remarks will forever remain anonymous. Alas, Justin Fields doesn’t seem to care much that he won’t be calling out his haters face to face.
“I don’t know if it’s just a thing they were throwing out there or what, but I honestly take that personally,” said Fields in an interview with ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit. Fields went on to say that the knocks against his character and work ethic were more impactful than those against his “strong arm” or potential accuracy concerns. Others seem to share Fields’ sentiment. Herbstreit said in response to Orlovsky via Twitter, “Absolutely RIDICULOUS. Even if YOU aren’t saying it… to pass that along from “people in the know” is reckless and absurd!! Embarrassing!!” Fields’ coach at Ohio State, Ryan Day, had this to say: “The whole idea that he doesn’t have a very good work ethic? I mean, to me, that’s crazy.” Seemingly, the case against Justin Fields pales in comparison to the case for Justin Fields. Enter: Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy.
Now, in 2021, the Chicago Bears made the former Bulldog turned Buckeye the 11th overall pick in the Draft, trading up nine picks to do so. For a team that’s notoriously bad at acquiring star QB talent, Fields will again be tasked with holding an immense weight on his broad shoulders. This time, an entire city who’s hungry for playoff football. Though, if I had to guess, I’d say Fields is equally as hungry; He said it himself best at his pro day, “my wanting to be great, my drive, it comes from the inside.”