Coach Nagy announced that Justin Fields will be our starter going forward.— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) October 6, 2021
For months fans of the Chicago Bears were force-fed an agenda that included Andy Dalton remaining as the Bears’ starting QB. That would come regardless of what could have ever happened. No competition. Hardly any reps shared with the ones at practice, if at all. Complete delegation to being the Scout Team QB. That was all of which was previously planned for the young Justin Fields.
This plan lasted all of one and one quarter games into the 2021 regular season.
The offense was stale against the Rams. The passing game was limited between the Rams and Bengals games. Passes kept being thrown to or short of the sticks instead of past the sticks. Andy Dalton, a seasoned veteran of (11) years, was playing his game at QB. Safe, efficient, and unspectacular.
Then, he suffered a knee injury (bone bruise), and his status was immediately placed in doubt moving forward. Justin Fields took over as the full-time QB during the 2nd quarter of their week two game against the Bengals. The Bears will never look back from that point forward.
Not once did Andy Dalton complain. The Red Rifle knew ever since he signed his one-year deal that the plans could change at any moment. In the NFL, the acronym has another meaning - Not For Long. It’s extremely unfortunate that an injury has ended Andy Dalton’s time as the starting QB prematurely.
Alas, that is how life can be in the pros. And behind him, was one Justin Fields. A generational talent at the QB position Chicago placed their faith in once the deal with the New York Giants was finalized to move up nine (9) spots and draft their franchise QB1. It was only a matter of time before any transition at QB would happen on a permanent basis.
That moment has arrived. Even though the transition wasn’t planned this early, nor was it seamless.
The game against the Cleveland Browns happened. A historic display of ineptitude on offense. A catastrophic debut for any rookie QB making their first career start. One that would break most Chicago-drafted QBs.
Except Justin Fields. When Matt Nagy saw the light to just how bad his own play-calling endangered his own football team, particularly his future at QB, he (quietly) handed those responsibilities to Bill Lazor. Not withstanding, that transition was unofficial and remains behind closed doors.
The wheels were set in motion. Sparked by a new and much more patient approach towards calling plays, the Bears and Justin Fields made his second consecutive start against the Lions a historic moment in it’s own right. A historic moment… for all the right reasons.
Suddenly, a truly balanced offense was born. Bill Lazor crafted a game plan to feature Justin Fields and his complete player profile at the QB position. A tough, multi-faceted running game was coupled with play-action passes designed for deep, well-timed strikes. The Bears’ offense executed that plan well, with only a few minor hiccups. Most importantly, Justin Fields looked and played like a legit starting QB.
I mean, look at this throw!
And this one!
Can’t forget about this one... perhaps his best throw of the day. Right in the damn bucket.
The difference in production was evident on the field. It was even more evident with the statistics and data.
Per Next Gen Stats, in one and one quarter games with Andy Dalton as the starting QB, he had two (2) completions of 10 or more yards. Justin Fields, on the other hand, has nine (9) such completions in two and three quarters games. Granted, the sample sizes are considerably small when glancing over the numbers. It also showed that Justin Fields was much more willing and capable to go deep past the sticks.
In that very same game against the Lions we saw Justin Fields average over 12 yards per attempt. That is the single highest per attempt average we’ve seen from any QB in Chicago since 2016. Here’s some more stats to consider, from Quinton Krzysko.
Fields Watch:— Butkus Stats On Tap - Quinten Krzysko (@ButkusStats) October 4, 2021
Justin Fields now has NFL ranks as follows:
Completed Air Yds: 2nd
Aggressive Throw %: 1st
His EPA/Play and CPOE are still last in the NFL due to the CLE game. But in week 4, he ranked:
As he would later correct, the first stat is “Completed Air Yards per Pass Attempt.”
Under a more critical analysis, the Bears are still virtually dead last in the league in most offensive categories passing-wise. That’ll happen when you net just one freakin’ yard against the Cleveland Browns in that ill-fated week three game. The amount of improvement from week three to week four was clear and present, regardless of who the Bears faced.
You can say “it’s just the Detroit Lions, though.” And I’ll simply tell you, “it’s also the team lined up across the field from Fields.” You can’t control how good or bad your opponents will be. Just go out there and beat whomever you’re playing.
This is not the end of this story. Oh, far from it. There is still a long season of football to watch these Chicago Bears play in. They now enter their toughest stretch of the season.
Their next handful of games are:
- At Las Vegas Raiders
- Home vs. Green Bay Packers
- At Tampa Bay Buccaneers (defending Super Bowl Champs)
- Home vs. San Francisco 49ers
- At Pittsburgh Steelers
With the likely exception of one — the 49ers with Trey Lance set to make his first start soon — these teams have veteran starters at QB in place. They all have scary weapons to consider, both on offense and defense. However... what if I told you only one of those teams rank in the top ten on DVOA - the Buccaneers.
It’s never a guarantee that an offense will magically ascend to an adequate level once a change at QB is made permanent. It’s never a guarantee that any highly drafted will ever meet the expectations set for them to begin with. It’s a chance with a risk always worth taking.
Bottom-line is this - the Chicago Bears are Justin Fields’s team. Until the end of his days in a Bears uniform. Matt Nagy has seen enough to where he (finally) realizes Justin can be better than Andy Dalton is already, and long past 2021.
It is here where we circle back one last time to Andy Dalton. The sheer amount of professionalism, toughness, and respect he displayed for everyone is worthy of recognition and praise. He fully acknowledged he was never the QB the Bears fans wanted. Or, really, the Bears themselves - their original plan was swinging for a grand slam with the Seattle Seahawks and land Russell Wilson. He suited up in the orange and navy regardless.
It is unknown what will happen from here on out. What I will say, is contrary to popular belief, the Bears are in that much better of a position to win now. Yes, I firmly believe this season will go beyond development. They’ll win more games than previously expected.
Let’s not forget this defense can still wreck havoc and features perhaps the most consistently productive tandem of pass rushers between Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn. The secondary is figuring itself out along the way, and Jaylon Johnson has entered early discussions as an All-Pro player. As their offense gels and scores more points, the defense will get more chances at taking the rock away. Complimentary football has returned to Chicago.
Speaking about their offense. Darnell Mooney finally has a QB who can make moon shots on a regular basis. Allen Robinson is getting a QB who matches his pedigree of talent. The O-line... remains to be seen. Despite not having David Montgomery for a few weeks, possibly a month, the RB corps is deep and explosive. All that was needed was... a QB. And that’s who Justin Fields is.
The scene in Chicago right now can be summarized in this last video.
CHICAGO RIGHT NOW— Bears Talk (@NBCSBears) October 6, 2021
Justin Fields is QB1! pic.twitter.com/mD0Iw21gZc
Justin Fields is QB1. That, is something we all should marvel. For a long, long time.