Editor’s note (Feb. 3, 12 pm): After agreeing to accept the position, Kliff Kingsbury withdrew from consideration for the Raiders’ OC role on Saturday, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter
The clock is ticking on the Bears' quarterback decision.
General manager Ryan Poles said he'd planned to take it to April, but it might be in the Bears' best interest for him to act sooner, depending on the route he takes.
If the Bears decide to move on from quarterback Justin Fields, trading him before the start of the new league year would give Poles the best chance to create leverage and maximize value. If Poles waits for the offseason quarterback carousel to start and stop before dealing Fields, he could find himself with limited suitors or none at all.
In fact, the number of teams who might be interested in acquiring Fields already could be shrinking based on two recent offensive coordinator hires.
The Steelers still don't know what they have in Kenny Pickett, but the early returns haven't been good. Despite lackluster quarterback play, the Steelers have made the playoffs in three of the last four seasons. However, Pittsburgh has not won a playoff game since 2016.
The Fields-Steelers fit seemed obvious.
Then, the Steelers hired former Atlanta Falcons head coach Arthur Smith as their offensive coordinator.
The fit has evaporated.
On the surface, Fields running a Smith power-run offense with heavy play-action makes sense and could be the ingredients to rejuvenate a Steelers offense that has been dormant for the last handful of seasons.
But it's understood around the league that Smith wasn't a fan of Fields coming out of Ohio State, and the Falcons were interested in drafting Trey Lance in 2021, but the San Francisco 49ers took the North Dakota State quarterback at No. 3. Smith could have drafted Fields at No. 4, but the Falcons instead took tight end Kyle Pitts and Fields fell to the Bears.
It's possible that Smith has had a change of heart, especially after Fields authored one of the best games of his career against Atlanta this past season.
But at the moment, the Fields-to-Pittsburgh scenario is on hold.
That brings us to the Silver and Black.
The Raiders have the best receiver in football in Davante Adams, a run game led by Josh Jacobs, and a young defensive head coach in Antonio Pierce. In a division with Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert, the Raiders need more than Aidan O'Connell to keep up.
Once again, Fields seemed like a nice fit in Las Vegas. A second-round pick plus another Day 2 or early Day 3 pick might get the deal done.
On Thursday, the Raiders reportedly agreed to hire former Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury as their offensive coordinator.
Kingsbury's Air Raid system wouldn't be a good fit with Fields' skillset, and his hire could signal that the Raiders are planning to try to vault up the draft board for one of the top three quarterbacks, each of whom would seem to fit what Kingsbury covets in a quarterback. Kingsbury coached Caleb Williams last season at USC. The 2022 Heisman Trophy winner would be a seamless fit, but LSU's Jayden Daniels also feels like a great quarterback option for Kingsbury's system.
Suppose neither the Raiders nor Steelers enter the Fields sweepstakes. That leaves only a few teams as realistic options, with the Atlanta Falcons likely leading the way. The New England Patriots could be a dark horse depending on how new head coach Jerod Mayo and new offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt evaluate the quarterback class. If the Patriots only like one or two of the top three and they are off the board when New England goes on the clock, it's easy to see a scenario where the Patriots draft Marvin Harrison Jr. at No. 3 and then trade for Fields.
Perhaps Smith's feelings on Fields have changed, or Tomlin is a fan and pushes for the deal. Maybe Kingsbury and Pierce see Fields' fit in the Air Raid differently or believe they can tweak the scheme to fit what he does well.
Neither team is off the board, but both seem less likely as potential Fields landing spots now than they did a week ago.
That only increases the pressure on Poles and the Bears' brain trust to make a decision within the next month and execute their plan. Waiting until April is no longer an option.