Justin Fields' Work Ethic Defended by Ohio State Coach After Predraft Criticism

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistApril 1, 2021

Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields throws during an NFL Pro Day at Ohio State University Tuesday, March 30, 2021 in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Paul Vernon)
Paul Vernon/Associated Press

An offensive coach for Ohio State said concerns about Justin Fields' work ethic are "absolutely not true" ahead of the 2021 NFL draft.

ESPN's Dan Orlovsky said he reached out to a coach on the OSU staff who said Fields' work ethic is "spectacular" and that he's "always studying tape."

Dan Orlovsky @danorlovsky7

In regards to Fields....👇🏼 https://t.co/9VgIRyShrB

Orlovsky raised eyebrows Wednesday when he said on the Pat McAfee Show that people he had spoken with described Fields as a "last-guy-in, first-guy-out-type of quarterback":

Pat McAfee @PatMcAfeeShow

I love a good @danorlovsky7 roast sesh as much as anybody BUT.. I think folks are missing that he was answering my question about “Why the narrative has changed about Fields so much?” He very assertively said “These are not my opinions” He then went on to give a potential why https://t.co/Wud0ve4tcI

As some on social media noted, these conversations have historically tilted against Black quarterbacks at a disproportionate level:

Bucky Brooks @BuckyBrooks

These media narratives created from anonymous sources impact the perception of Black QBs. Fair or not, these labels stick & impact how fan bases view QB prospects beyond the pre-draft process. It’s all good to offer critiques but it would be nice to see non-stereotypical analysis

Richard🇬🇾Johnson @RJ_Writes

Justin Fields became vegan while still in college because he started valuing nutrition wanted to stop eating "kids meals" but yeah he definitely has a bad work ethic.

quincy_avery @Quincy_Avery

I think that the conversation that comes up so often with black quarterbacks and their "work ethic" is that they don't work like they want them to work. So if it isn't who they would do it it doesn't count. That's why representation is so important especially at the QB position.

NFL.com's Bucky Brooks spoke to colleague Jim Trotter to explain how he thought Fields and North Dakota State star Trey Lance were already becoming victims of the same tired stereotypes:

"If you listen to the critiques of Black quarterbacks vs. white quarterbacks, there's a different standard applied to Blacks. Justin Fields and Trey Lance (both underclassmen) have been advised by draft experts to go back to school to gain more experience, yet we never hear those suggestions lobbed at their white counterparts. That observation is important because media narratives also shape how scouts and evaluators perceive prospects."

In one of the more famous examples in recent years, former NFL general manager Bill Polian questioned whether 2016 Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson should move to wide receiver in the pros.

After Polian described Jackson as "clearly not the thrower that the other guys are," the Baltimore Ravens star proceeded to throw for an NFL-best 36 touchdowns and complete 66.1 percent of his passes as he won MVP in 2019.

In two years as Ohio State's starting quarterback, Fields finished with 5,373 yards, 63 touchdowns and nine interceptions over 22 games.

His performance in the Buckeyes' Sugar Bowl victory over Clemson should almost single-handedly answer any doubts about his desire to compete. Fields absorbed a big hit from Clemson linebacker James Skalski and returned to the game.

ESPN @espn

James Skalski was called for targeting and ejected after this hit on Justin Fields. https://t.co/0oqTQCTEDi

He went 22-of-28 for 385 yards, six touchdowns and one interception in a 49-28 victory.

The OSU signal-caller is the No. 2 overall player on the B/R Big Board 2.0, sitting behind only Clemson star Trevor Lawrence.