Commanders-Bears Game a Prime Example of Bad QB Play Throughout the NFL | News, Scores, Highlights, Stats, and Rumors
Carson Wentz (Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
We finally saw a touchdown on Thursday Night Football, but the 12-7 game between the Washington Commanders and Chicago Bears was yet another example of how far some teams are from the world of elite quarterback play.
In the NFL there are haves and have-nots at the quarterback position, and the disparity is glaring. This is precisely why the Bears were willing to trade up to get Fields in the 2021 draft. It’s why the Commanders were willing to take a chance on Wentz following his disappointing campaign with the Indianapolis Colts.
The desired results didn’t show up often on Thursday night.
Wentz finished the game with a paltry line of 12-of-22 for 99 yards. Washington managed to win, but it isn’t going to win many games with that sort of performance.
On the other side, it’s fair to give Fields a bit of a pass for his inconsistent performance. Fields went 14-of-27 for 190 yards with a touchdown and an interception, showing moments of brilliance and plays that he’ll want back. The 23-year-old has just 16 starts on his resume, and he’s playing on a team that isn’t exactly loaded with offensive talent.
Chicago’s line isn’t good, and Fields lacks reliable receiving targets outside of perhaps Darnell Mooney. Even Mooney, who was a 1,000-yard receiver last season, came up short on Thursday night. He double-clutched Fields’ final pass and fell out of the end zone before gaining possession on what would have been a go-ahead touchdown.
Play-calling by offensive coordinator Luke Getsy has also been problematic. Fields can be dangerous—both as a runner and a passer—when he’s out in space. Chicago has far too often asked him to win from the pocket.
Still, his numbers this season leave plenty to be desired.
Poor quarterback play isn’t always the quarterback’s fault, but that’s what Chicago is getting out of Fields right now.
Wentz, meanwhile, has been around for a while. Drafted in 2016, he was a Pro Bowler with the Philadelphia Eagles a year later, was traded to Indianapolis last offseason and dealt to Washington this season.
Fields has untapped potential—as evidenced by his 88 rushing yards and a 40-yard touchdown strike to Dante Pettis.
At this point, Wentz is who he’s going to be, an average signal-caller who won’t carry an offense.
Arguably Wentz’s biggest contribution on Thursday was laying out Roquan Smith with a block for running back Brian Robinson.
Wentz came into Thursday’s game with a passer rating of only 86.0. Washington knows that this isn’t good enough, which is precisely why head coach Ron Rivera was willing to point to his team’s quarterback struggles earlier this week.
Naturally, not everyone was thrilled with Rivera’s blunt take on the situation. Former Washington quarterback and Monday Night Football analyst Alex Smith—who played for Rivera in 2020—was vocal about his displeasure.
“I had a really hard time watching that,” Smith said on ESPN (h/t Yahoo Sports’ Jason Owens). “When I heard it, I couldn’t believe it. I’m not here to defend Carson Wentz. He’s had—you know—a career of ups and downs. But this is a defensive head coach that is absolutely driving the bus over his quarterback.”
Rivera later noted that he had apologized to Wentz for making the comment. However, disagreement from former players and a public apology don’t make Rivera wrong. Bad quarterback play has plagued Washington and Chicago, and these are far from the only teams affected.
The reality is that while we’ve seen a surge in young star quarterbacks—from Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes to Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert—and still have guys like Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers doing their thing, there is a lot of bad quarterback play going on in the NFL.
This was on full display last Thursday night too, as Matt Ryan and the Colts stumbled to a 12-9 victory over Russell Wilson and the Denver Broncos.
Before Chicago’s third-quarter touchdown, we saw six Thursday night quarters plus an overtime without a touchdown. The quarterback play during that stretch was largely unwatchable.
According to The Athletic, the stretch involved 41 drives, 20 punts, eight field goals, five turnovers and more than 102 minutes of game time.
And a lot of bad quarterback play hasn’t been nationally televised. Fourteen quarterbacks have started at least three games this season and posted a quarterback rating below the 86.0 Wentz had coming in. Eight quarterbacks—Matt Ryan, Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, Joe Flacco, Mac Jones, Mitch Trubisky, Baker Mayfield and Fields—posted ratings below 80.0 through the first five weeks.
This means that close to half of the NFL is seeing subpar quarterback play. That leads directly to the sort of ugly games we’ve seen over the past two Thursdays.
As we examined last week, trading for a quarterback is rarely a quick fix. However, teams will continue to trade for a signal-caller (or trade up for one in the draft) because there just aren’t enough quality quarterbacks to fill all 32 starting jobs.
This isn’t a new problem in the NFL, but it’s an issue the league has to find a way to rectify, especially if it wants to continue expanding its slate of standalone games. Fans won’t be racing to stream games on Amazon when turnovers and field goals are a game’s biggest selling point.
Unfortunately, there is no easy solution short of further skewing the rules to favor the offense. We have what appears to be a good 2023 quarterback class—headlined by C.J. Stroud and Bryce Young—on the horizon, but players like Brady and Rodgers will eventually age out.
Players like Wilson and Ryan will continue to decline, and young quarterbacks on bad teams—like Fields—will continue to struggle. There may never be enough true franchise signal-callers to go around, and a large portion of the league will always be left finding ways to win without one.
For Washington, that means taking the ball out of Wentz’s hands by running the ball and also playing good defense. For Chicago, that should mean allowing Fields to do what he does best—taking deep shots, throwing on the move and scrambling.
More often than not, though, finding sustained success without good quarterback play isn’t going to happen. That’s why quarterbacks will be such a hot topic as draft season approaches and why games like Thursday’s aren’t going away.