One of the Chicago Bears‘ biggest issues last year during their disappointing 6-11 season was a bad culture that engulfed the locker room.
Quarterback Justin Fields admitted recently in an interview with Fox News Digital that Chicago’s culture was a big problem last year.
“We’re kinda just trying to re-culture or getting the culture in the building,” said Fields. “I don’t think our culture was the best culture last year. So, working with the new staff everybody is just buying in.”
Fields’ comments certainly don’t come as a surprise — the Matt Nagy era went from promising in 2018 to disastrous by 2021.
The new Bears regime — general manager Ryan Poles and head coach Matt Eberflus — have made improving the culture in Chicago’s locker room a top priority this offseason.
But while improvements have been made, there’s still a long way to go based on something that recently happened that’s been a bit overlooked.
The Athletic’s Dan Pompei pointed out this week that Fields didn’t win the Bears’ Piccolo Award for the best rookie last month. That award is voted on by players and it went to running back Khalil Herbert, a sixth-round pick out of Kansas who rushed for 433 yards.
That might not seem like a big deal, but the fact that Fields’ teammates didn’t vote for the supposed franchise quarterback could mean something’s awry in the locker room. That doesn’t necessarily mean that Fields is a bad leader (I don’t think that’s the case at all), but it could mean that something is still off when it comes to the Bears’ culture.
Though, as Pompei pointed out, the Bears’ first-round picks who have won the award in previous years, turned out to be key leaders for the franchise. And the first-round picks who didn’t win the award didn’t turn out to be great leaders. So maybe there is something we can glean about Fields’ future based on the voting.
In the past 25 years, only four first-rounders have won the award as rookies — Brian Urlacher, Tommie Harris, Greg Olsen and Roquan Smith. Fields joined this group of first-rounders who were not given the award by their teammates: Walt Harris, Curtis Enis, Cade McNown, David Terrell, Marc Colombo, Michael Haynes, Rex Grossman, Cedric Benson, Chris Williams, Gabe Carimi, Shea McClellin, Kyle Long, Leonard Floyd, Kevin White and Mitch Trubisky.
I don’t think this is a sign that Chicago’s culture is irreparable — I just think it’s a sign that Poles and Eberflus have a lot more work to do than we realized.
This rebuild is going to be tough for fans, but it should be worth it in the end.
Featured image via Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports