1/6/22: The best and worst of Justin Fields' rookie season

Justin Fields has provided plenty of both in his rookie season

Justin Fields Chicago Bears
(USA Today Sports)

Welcome to Midway Minute, the daily Chicago sports newsletter. Did someone forward you this? Join our list for free to get this email in your inbox.

Good morning, friends!

I received a few emails about the possibility of Jim Harbaugh to the Bears and it was pretty much split evenly down the middle.

Dave: "Jim Harbaugh is exactly what the Bears need. He can put together a good staff and I'd rather take a chance on him than gambling on another coordinator."

Lawrence: "Please for goodness sakes do not let Jim Harbaugh anywhere near the Bears."

So it's settled then!

Wednesday's scores
St. John's 89, DePaul 84
Penn State 74, Northwestern 70

Today's schedule
Loyola vs. San Francisco (1, no TV)
Maryland at Illinois (6, ESPN2)
Hawks at Coyotes (8, NBCSCH)

Highs and lows

By Brendan Sugrue

If you were planning on skipping out on the Chicago Bears regular season finale this Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings, Matt Nagy may have reeled you back in. The soon-to-be ex coach told reporters Justin Fields will make his return to the starting lineup Sunday after missing the last two weeks due to an ankle injury.

Fields' return offers some level of intrigue as it would be great to see the rookie leave on a high note. But his return also comes as an injury risk during a meaningless game. Either way, it will officially mark the end of Fields' rookie season, which has provided reasons for both celebration and concern.

The best of Justin Fields' rookie season

1. The touchdown scramble against the 49ers: Fields made one of the plays of the year against the 49ers on Halloween. On fourth and short just outside the redzone, Fields kept the ball for a run on the right side. He then had to double back missed three Niners defenders to get the first down. But he wasn't done there as he turned on the jets to spring into the end zone for a 22-yard touchdown run, nearly evening the score. That run also catapulted Fields to his first 100-yard rushing day.

2. The comeback against the Steelers: On November 8, the entire NFL was officially introduced to Justin Fields. The Bears were facing the Steelers and, as usual, had fallen behind at halftime. But Fields led an improbable comeback in the second half that featured three big-time throws. First, Fields fired a rocket to Jimmy Graham, then a dart to Allen Robinson that set up a masterful 16-yard touchdown throw to Darnell Mooney to take a late lead on Monday Night Football. The Steelers did drive down the field to steal the lead right back, but Fields very nearly had the last laugh. His final line gave fans hope. He finished 17-of-29 for 291 yards, a touchdown, and an interception.

3. The first touchdown of Fields' career: You can't make a list of Fields' best-of moments without including the first one. Though he wasn't starting yet, Fields saw the field during the Bears first game against the Los Angeles Rams in certain packages. One of those times, he dialed his own number to cruise past the Rams defenders to score the first touchdown of his career. It was his best highlight of the day and gave fans a glimpse of what might be as a dual-threat quarterback.

The worst of Justin Fields' rookie season

1. His first start: Though Fields' first start against the Cleveland Browns failed more because of Nagy's inept game planning, it was hard to watch the rookie face a relentless defense. Fields completed just 6-of-20 passes for 68 yards and was sacked nine times on the day in the 26-6 loss. Fields didn't have a chance to do anything and while Nagy did get the brunt of the blame, the game was still sobering after fans threw a parade for Fields' first start earlier in the week.

2. Five turnovers in Tampa Bay: Fields had the opportunity to go toe-to-toe with Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers back in October and it's safe to say the GOAT won this battle easily. Fields had five turnovers, throwing three picks and losing two fumbles in a 38-3 loss. It was easily his worst performance as a rookie, but he fortunately hasn't had a game like that since.

3. Injuries: We all know the best ability is availability and unfortunately, Fields hasn't excelled in that department this year. After taking over starting duties in week three, Fields has missed three starts due to injuries to his ribs and ankle. Injuries happen and neither was serious, but we want to see Fields develop during his first year. Seeing him in and out of the lineup hurt.

Which category will Fields' final start fall in come Sunday night?

Hopefully the former.

Recommend Midway Minute to a friend and earn some newsletter swag. Grab your personal referral code here. 

News and results

Bulls: Alex Caruso in COVID-19 protocols

Caruso was pretty much the only Bull to have avoided protocols. Now he's the 15th member of the team to miss time. The guard was just about ready to return from a foot sprain, but he'll miss at least six more days unless he can return two negative tests within 24 hours.

DePaul: Still winless in Big East

Wednesday's 89-84 loss at St. John's dropped the Blue Demons to 0-3 in the Big East after a 9-1 start in non-conference play. Javon Freeman-Liberty had 24 points and seven rebounds.

Bears:  Quinn and  Gipson win renamed 'Good Guy Award'

Each year, the Chicago chapter of the PFWA gives out an award to players for their cooperation with the media. This year it's been renamed the "Jeff Dickerson Good Guy Award" and the first winners are Robert Quinn and Tashaun Gipson, Sr. A great honor for all three men.

1. Hub Arkush wrote an apology for the "pretty nasty mess" he made with his comments about Aaron Rodgers. Shaw Media

2. The Missouri Valley Conference is looking at adding UIC to its member list, our good friend Matt Brown reports. Extra Points

3. Sunday Night Baseball might be getting an "A-Rod Cast." Bleacher Nation

4. Here's a great mini-doc about the life of Gary Hughes, the former Cubs scout who died in 2020. Vimeo

5. The Soldier Field turf has claimed Adam Schefter's meniscus as its latest victim. True story.  Extra Mustard

You've reached the end of Midway Minute!

If you enjoy this newsletter, you can ...
✍️ Become a supporting member and get extra perks
🍺 Buy us a coffee or beer
👍 Refer some friends and earn some cool Midway Minute swag
🔗 Recommend a link or story