The narrative surrounding Justin Fields' fumbles is exaggerated and often exploited by critics of the Chicago Bears.
BY V. CARBONNEAU DECEMBER 1, 2023 (6:17 PM)
When discussing Justin Fields on social media, two opposing sides often emerge, with very few occupying the middle ground, as I do. On one side, there are staunch supporters who believe Justin Fields can do no wrong, often coming up with excuses when his flaws or mistakes are pointed out. On the flip side, there are critics who dismiss Fields as subpar, reducing him to nothing more than a glorified running back.
The Chicago Bears face a looming decision regarding Justin Fields. Not too long ago, following the first Minnesota Vikings game, I posted a tweet that sparked extensive discussions. It garnered attention on local sports radio and was shared multiple times. The tweet presented Justin Fields' stats over his last 17 games (excluding the half he played against Minnesota).
Justin Fields has displayed inconsistency but has shown that success is possible with him at the helm. The purpose of the tweet was to emphasize that quarterback wins are not solely determined by the QB's performance. I would argue that this applies to most quarterbacks, as wins are influenced by team dynamics and coaching. However, I omitted a crucial aspect (due to character limitations), which was Fields' fumbles. Predictably, I received criticism for this omission. I defended the fact that, at the time, out of 32 fumbles, he had only lost nine. Now, the count stands at 35 fumbles, with 12 lost. This did not satisfy many critics, leading me to ponder how many of these fumbles were genuinely his fault and how many of them had a detrimental impact on the team.
To address these questions, I embarked on a project to track each of Justin Fields' fumbles and analyze game footage to determine whether they were primarily his fault and, regardless of fault, whether they had a negative impact on the team. While I had a preexisting bias in favor of Fields and his relatively low fumble loss rate, I made a sincere effort to remain objective. I will be releasing a podcast (please subscribe to ensure you don't miss it) next week on The Halas Huddle, where I will delve into the details and engage in a broader conversation about this matter. Here is a brief summary of the findings, which include the most recent victory over the Vikings:
As of now, Justin Fields' fumble statistics are as follows:
Total Career Fumbles: 36
Total Career Fumbles Lost: 12
Fumbles in 2023: 7
Fumbles Lost in 2023: 5
Fumbles in 2022: 16
Fumbles Lost in 2022: 2
Fumbles in 2021: 12
Fumbles Lost in 2021: 5
It's worth noting that there are still five games left in the 2023 season, and it's likely that Fields will experience more fumbles. He may even reach double digits, as he has in each of his previous two seasons. However, the significant difference this year is that he has lost nearly every fumble, whereas in 2022, Fields lost only 12.5%. In 2021, he lost nearly half. While it's true that he has lost 33.33% of his fumbles, not all fumbles - including those lost - had a negative impact on the team. You might wonder how this is possible, but I will provide a couple of quick examples. For a more in-depth discussion, please check back next week for the podcast (I will add the link here once it's live).
Out of Justin Fields' 36 fumbles, I assigned a negative grade to 21 of them. Although he lost only 12, some of these fumbles resulted from sacks that led to yardage losses and subsequent punts. This still reflects negatively on Justin Fields. However, as I discuss on The Halas Huddle podcast, it's essential to consider context when analyzing statistics. While stats and analytics are valuable, so is film analysis and breakdowns. The most comprehensive analysis combines both approaches and takes context into account.
Out of those 21 negative-fumble instances, eight are attributed, either fully or partially, to other players. You may wonder how that's possible. Well, some of these fumbles should be equally, if not more, attributed to the running back during a handoff exchange at the mesh point with the QB. Others are the result of mistakes by the center, and on the podcast, I will discuss how many of these should be attributed to Sam Mustipher, who also had snapping issues. The team needs a reliable center as soon as possible. Additionally, some fumbles went out of bounds despite substantial gains.
In summary, when someone presents 36 fumbles as a negative, it lacks the necessary context and is an exaggeration. Remember, only 12 of those fumbles were lost, and only 21 were deemed "negative," with just 13 solely attributed to Justin Fields. I must acknowledge that a couple of these occurred in the fourth quarter and arguably cost the Chicago Bears a chance to win the game. However, many quarterbacks have similar incidents on their records. While ball security is a valid concern, the prevailing narrative that many are pushing is greatly exaggerated.