Justin Fields Hasn’t Yet Learned The Peyton Manning Lesson

Evaluating Justin Fields through the first three games of 2022 isn’t easy. Most of his 12 quarters of football have n’t looked great. Some were downright dreadful. Sunday against the Houston Texans was another low point with 106 yards passing and two interceptions. It was painfully clear how indecisive he’s been. Too many times, he’s holding the ball and double-clutching rather than cutting it loose. People are trying to determine why this is.

An interesting stat surfaced after the game via Zebra Sports. According to the metrics, Fields has yet to throw the ball into what is considered a tight window. That is where receivers don’t have much separation from defenders. It means the quarterback either throws to a wide open target or doesn’t throw it at all. That is why he is often taking a sack or forced to use his legs as a runner. He isn’t willing to chance high-risk throws.

Fields isn’t the first young quarterback to encounter this problem.

Several came up from college thinking they knew what open looked like. Then the NFL disabused them of that fantasy. Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning is one example. When he arrived in 1998, he had problems turning the ball loose when he felt guys weren’t open. Quarterbacks coach Bruce Arians confronted him about it during practice one day. When Manning explained why, Arians gave him a vital lesson.

Justin Fields hasn’t come to that realization yet.

He isn’t grasping that seeing wide open receivers in the NFL is far rarer than in college. The days of waiting for his ultra-athletes from Ohio State to outrun guys are gone. Everybody in this league is fast. His job is to identify the right matchups and throw accurate passes even when the coverage might be good. Yes, there is a risk of throwing interceptions in those situations but fearing such risks makes a player worse, not better.

That is why Justin Fields looks so off when he actually does throw the ball. He doesn’t trust himself. He doesn’t trust what he’s seeing. It can take time for a young quarterback to embrace that reality. Some never do. That is why this entire situation is impossible to predict. Fields has more than enough talent to make the NFL throws. It’s not about arm strength or touch. It is about no longer second-guessing every read he makes. Find the best matchups and get the ball out. That is what the Chicago Bears want from him.

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