The Bears are wrapping up the exhibition portion of their calendar, and their plans at quarterback, at least for the early goings, have been crystallized.
On Tuesday, head coach Matt Nagy revealed that Justin Fields will receive the start for Chicago in their final preseason game against the Titans this Saturday. The reasonable implication is that while Fields is not expected to throw to the Bears’ best weapons like Allen Robinson or Darnell Mooney, he will still receive the protection of their starting offensive line. No doubt a welcome and needed development for everyone given, well, recent events.
The flip side of Fields starting against Tennessee is that it all but certainly locks in the Bears’ starting quarterback for Week 1 of the regular season; when they travel to play the Rams on Sunday Night Football, Andy Dalton will be under center. If Fields was going to get the opportunity to face down Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey, among others, Chicago would not be risking his health in what is otherwise a meaningless game for the Bears in the standings.
In what is definitely an honest answer concerning a 10-year veteran, the Bears still want to see what Dalton can bring to the table rather than give the franchise’s new face the keys to the city from the get-go. When asked if Fields’ first shot at the starting role when the games count will be predicated on Dalton’s performance, Nagy offered a firm confirmation of that very thought process.
“I would say yeah, big picture. When we talked about this from the very start, we said whoever is going to be best for the Chicago Bears, and that’s going to deal with production and wins, obviously,” Nagy said in his usual pre-practice press conference on Tuesday.
I’m not sure what else the Bears need to see from Dalton, who has experienced a progressive dip in performance in every season since 2016 and was unceremoniously dumped by, of all teams, the Bengals (another organization notorious for its consistent success) the moment they could get their hands on his replacement, Joe Burrow. But more power to Nagy and his offensive staff, I suppose. Evaluate away or something!
According to the Bears’ grand design, Fields will get valuable repetitions as the No. 1 on the road in Nashville, while the Bears unleash the aptly-named “Red Rifle” at SoFi Stadium a couple of weeks later. And in the meantime, what seems like an entire football city will be gripped in exasperation, waiting, hoping they can see the Bears’ real future unleashing lasers downfield sometime very soon.