Burrow led the Bengals to an improbable Super Bowl run in 2021 — Burrow’s second year in the NFL.
Cincinnati wasn’t even expected to be a playoff team after winning only four games in 2020, so it was truly remarkable that Burrow nearly led the Bengals to their first championship in franchise history.
But now that Burrow had a sophomore season to remember, the expectations for second-year quarterbacks have risen.
And that’s not fair…to anyone.
The Bengals are a legitimately good team. But they kind of got lucky last year. They had a solid defense in place, then they drafted a transcendent quarterback, had a terrible year, and got another top-five draft pick. Cincinnati used that draft pick in 2021 to select LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase, who proceeded to have the greatest rookie season ever by a wide receiver.
Everything fell into place perfectly for the Bengals. It’s something we may never see again.
Unfortunately, Fields’ second year in the NFL will inevitably be compared to Burrow’s second year in the NFL.
That’s not a fair comparison at all.
The Bears have their eye on future success. And I think they have the right people in place — Fields, general manager Ryan Poles, and head coach Matt Eberflus — to reach their ultimate goal of winning a Super Bowl.
But it’s not going to happen in 2022.
Chicago is currently undergoing a massive rebuild, which required shedding some payroll this offseason.
The Bears are essentially hitting the reset button in 2022.
Don’t let the rebuild fool you, though. This team is going to be ready to compete for a championship sooner than I think most expect.
And it’s mostly because of Fields.
The former Ohio State quarterback hasn’t even scratched the surface of what he can be in the NFL. He’s an extremely talented player who has all the physical tools to be a perennial Pro-Bowler. But that’s not the reason I think Fields is the quarterback who is going to get the Bears back to a Super Bowl.
It’s because of his leadership qualities — the same qualities that make Burrow so great for the Bengals.
Chicago offensive coordinator Luke Getsy spoke this week about what he’s seen from Fields so far this offseason.
And he’s been incredibly impressed by the young quarterback’s off-the-field demeanor.
“I’ve been super impressed with him, I really have,” said Getsy this week. “There’s no one in this building that works harder than him. There’s no one that cares more than him. We’re off to a great start. He’s really accepted this challenge.”
The NFL is full of quarterbacks who have the physical tools to be great. It’s the ability to raise the play of those around you that truly makes a quarterback elite.
Fields seems to have that ability.
2022 is going to be a transition year in Chicago. It’ll be full of growing pains (remember, this is a new offense, so it’s like Fields is starting over…unlike what Burrow faced in 2021 in Cincy). But on the other side of 2022 is the 2023 season. And that’s when I think the Bears will be a threat to reach the Super Bowl.
Is that bold? Maybe. But it’s not like rebuilds take a long time in the NFL. Rosters can be flipped in one offseason if the conditions are right. Next offseason will be when Poles can really work his magic and make significant improvements to Chicago’s roster (via trade or free agency).
Poles spent this offseason cleaning up the mess he inherited. Eberflus will spend this season building a championship foundation.
Then in 2023, the Bears’ Super Bowl window will open. Don’t be surprised if Chicago finishes the 2022 season playing better than expected and enters the 2023 season with some hype.
Chicago isn’t that far away. Fans just need to stick through another year of rough times and then success will surely follow.
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