Michael Vick is sold on Justin Fields’ potential: ‘You should be looking to build around him’
As Justin Fields ran towards history and strived to become a star quarterback in Chicago, the remarkable standard he has chased was watching closely.
Michael Vick, the superstar whom Fields idolized as a kid in Georgia, saw plenty of potential in the Bears’ 23-year-old quarterback – and also what that untapped potential represents for his future.
Vick believes in the quarterback Fields can become.
“I think he’s a great player,” said Vick, who is now an analyst with FOX Sports. “I think Justin has a lot of room to grow. As a quarterback and in general, but growing in the passing game. Another year in the system, some weapons around you.
“You should be looking to build around him now.”
It’s what the Bears intend to do for Fields as he enters Year 3 in the NFL. The No. 11 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, Fields completed 60.4% of his passes last season for 2,242 yards, 17 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He rushed for 1,143 yards and 8 touchdowns, surpassing Vick’s previous record for single-season rushing yards by a quarterback of 1,039 in 2006 with the Falcons. Fields finished behind Lamar Jackson’s present record of 1,206 rushing yards during his MVP season in 2019.
Fields also broke Vick’s rushing record by a quarterback in a regular-season game with 178 yards on the ground during the Bears’ loss to the Dolphins at Soldier Field in November.
For his part, Fields said he hopes to break passing records in the future instead of rushing records. Vick marveled at Fields’ historic feats but also recognizes his desire to grow as a passer.
“As quarterbacks, we like to sit in the pocket and throw the ball,” Vick said. “We like it. It’s cool. It’s the way the game is supposed to be played.
“We want those passing touchdowns. You ask any quarterback, dual-threat, pocket passer, what he wants to thrive in, it’s that touchdown-to-interception ratio. That column.”
Fields grew up in Kennesaw, Georgia – 27 miles northwest of Atlanta – during Vick’s six years as the Falcons’ young star at quarterback. Fields and Vick stay in touch through text messages and have developed a connection ever since Fields arrived into the NFL.
Fields owned a pair of Vick’s cleats as a child and recognizes the unique parallels of breaking these records he watched years ago back home in Georgia.
“Kind of just full circle,” Fields said in December.
Vick knows the pressure that Fields is facing in his position with the Bears. He was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2001 NFL Draft, this after a fabled career at Virginia Tech.
Vick was suspended by the NFL in 2007 following his admission to a dogfighting scheme. He sat out two seasons and saw his place with the Falcons lost as Atlanta selected quarterback Matt Ryan with the third overall pick a year later.
Vick returned to the NFL with the Eagles in 2009 and was named AP Comeback Player of the Year in 2010. He played five seasons in Philadelphia, then closed his career with the Jets and Steelers before retiring after the 2015 season.
Both on and off the field, Vick faced great scrutiny during his career. He realized the heightened position of being a young, prized quarterback prospect in this league.
“I just didn’t want to be labeled a bust,” Vick said. “So, I just did everything in my power not to be labeled that.
“You get drafted No. 1 in the first round; there’s a lot of expectations. You’re the guy who’s going to change this franchise and the outlook and direction. It’s not like that in college. It doesn’t feel like that. You got two or three years as a starter and then it’s over. In the NFL, you move to a new city, you take your family and you’re looking at a 10-to-15-year process.
“You want everything to go smooth.”
Fields finds himself in that same position for Chicago, a city that is starved to find its own star at quarterback. Jay Cutler is the Bears’ all-time leader in passing yards and Sid Luckman, who played from 1939 through 1950 in an era of running the football, is second on that leaderboard. The Bears have never had a 4,000-yard passer in their long history.
While the rival Packers have enjoyed a run of Hall of Fame play at quarterback with Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers, the Bears have moved from quarterback to quarterback without finding a franchise-altering player. Just as the Bears’ history is synonymous with stars on defense, it’s also known for failure at quarterback.
The Bears own the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, which offers the opportunity to either select a new quarterback or significantly invest around Fields. There’s already a dialogue nationally about whether Chicago will seek to select a quarterback prospect like Bryce Young (Alabama), C.J. Stroud (Ohio State), Will Levis (Kentucky) or Anthony Richardson (Florida), even as second-year general manager Ryan Poles offered his backing to Fields.
Now a national NFL analyst himself, Vick believes the Bears would be wise to build around Fields – and foolish to seek his replacement with the top pick.
“That would be a wasted draft pick,” Vick said. “That would be a waste of a draft pick to go get a quarterback. You got a quarterback.
“In today’s game, all you want to do is win. To not look at bringing in one of the top receivers in the draft or going and getting one of the top offensive linemen in the draft would be a huge mistake. I’ll just say that. Keep it simple. It would be a huge mistake. Catastrophic.
“I just think the ceiling is high.”