Bears general manager Ryan Poles was pleased that Justin Fields emerged as an impact player this season but knows that the talented quarterback can improve in one key aspect of the game.
Fields started 15 games, rushing for 1,143 yards and eight touchdowns on 160 carries and throwing for 2,242 yards with 17 TDs, 11 interceptions and an 85.2 passer rating. His 1,143 yards rushing were the second most by an NFL quarterback behind only the Ravens' Lamar Jackson's 1,206 yards in 2019.
"I thought Justin did a good job," Poles said during his end-of-season press conference Tuesday at Halas Hall. "I thought we changed a lot, we adapted, we tried to put him in a position to be successful. He showed the ability to be a playmaker, be impactful. He can change games quickly. Does he have room to grow? He does. He has to get better as a passer, and I'm excited to see him take those steps as we move forward."
Poles told reporters that he plans on Fields being the Bears' starting quarterback again in 2023.
"I'm excited for the direction he's going," Poles said. "As I mentioned before, he knows where he has to improve. I think he mentioned that the other day. We're excited about his development and where he goes next. He showed ability to be impactful with his legs. There's flashes with his arm. Now if we can put that together, I think we have something really good."
Poles was asked if he would consider selecting a quarterback with the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. The Bears (3-14) leapfrogged the Texans (3-13-1) into the top spot on the final day of the regular season Sunday when Houston rallied to beat the Colts 32-31.
"We're going to do the same as we've always done," Poles said. "We're going to evaluate the draft class, and I would say this: I'd have to be absolutely blown away to make that type of decision."
Poles was blown away by some of the plays that Fields produced this season. With touchdown runs of 67, 61 and 55 yards, the second-year pro became the first NFL quarterback with three TD runs of at least 50 yards in a career, let alone one year. He also became the first quarterback in the Super Bowl era with a rushing TD in six straight games and the first quarterback to rush for at least 70 yards in five consecutive contests since at least 1950.
Fields made strides as a passer as well. After throwing for five touchdowns in his first seven starts, he passed for 12 TDs in his last eight games.
Asked where he wants to see improvement from Fields in the passing game, Poles said: "just for things to slow down mentally, and then be able to react and anticipate quicker. Obviously with that, we also have to continue to build around him so that he can do that consistently as well."
Fields demonstrated the deep ball accuracy in 2022 that he was known for at Ohio State, completing 56-yard passes to Darnell Mooney against the Giants and Equanimeous St. Brown versus the Packers, a 49-yarder to N'Keal Harry against Green Bay and a 40-yard TD to Dante Pettis versus the Commanders.
"You think of plays like the shot to Mooney, the shot to Pettis in the corner of the end zone; those deep ball throws that we know he can make," Poles said. "Now it's just closing the gap and being consistent with it. And again, the beautiful thing about football is you can never point at one person and be like, 'It's his fault.' No, it's a collective where everything's got to work together. I know and we know if we continue to grow this football team and bring in a lot of good players that everyone's going to get better collectively."
Fields possesses all the traits and intangibles to be great. Poles described the promising young quarterback as "resilient" and someone who "has ownership" and a "growth mindset."
"The amount of time that he put in with the coaches to continue to get better," Poles said, "the guy is hungry to be successful in this league."