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Just-in: Fields named starter, Bears interesting again

The dawn of a new age at Halas Hall.

Cincinnati Bengals v Chicago Bears Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

On Wednesday afternoon, Matt Nagy made the news that had everyone in Chicagoland waiting in bated breath. With Andy Dalton nursing a bone bruise, Justin Fields was named the Bears’ starter. The 2021 No. 11 overall pick will make his first career start in the NFL against the Cleveland Browns this Sunday — his first game in the state of Ohio since becoming a national sensation as an Ohio State Buckeye.

Somewhere, Rafiki is painting Simba’s Fields’ face into a cave wall, as Michael Scott panics and yells out of his office that yes, it is happening.

Oh my God, indeed, Michael. Oh my God, indeed.

In Fields’ first full-time professional action, a road date with the Browns could not be a more challenging opponent. A loaded defense featuring stars like Myles Garrett, Denzel Ward, and Jadeveon Clowney gives fits to even the most established franchise quarterbacks, let alone a rookie like Fields dipping his toes into the water. Cleveland must be chomping at the bit to fluster an inexperienced passer, which, well, I can’t blame them. I would be, too.

But to his credit, Fields did not seem fazed by the task. After all, he’s the Bears’ future, and this is where his fun and learning as a leader begin. These tests come with the territory of expectations to lift an organization on your broad, extremely exciting shoulders.

“Pretty much even keel,” said Fields of his reaction to the news that he would make his first start. “I think I had a good idea I might possibly start. I wasn’t surprised by it, just trying to get prepared for Sunday.”

That’s a calm mentality that seemingly everyone in Lake Forest can’t help but gush over what Fields brings to the table. To Nagy, Fields has “some of the calmest feet” for a quarterback. To tight end Cole Kmet, “there’s the play that’s called ... then there’s backyard football.” The second-year tight end, along with every other Bears pass target, will very much have to be prepared for extra wind sprints when necessary. If Fields never says die on a play, neither can his supporting cast.

Now comes the sticking point. Nagy did reiterate that Dalton is Chicago’s starting quarterback when healthy. But even for a fluent coach-speak expert, there’s little to zero chance Nagy isn’t bluffing. Barring something like an unprecedented, cataclysmic avalanche of turnovers that makes it seems like Fields doesn’t belong at this level of the game, he’s not giving this job back to a 33-year-old stopgap. There might very well be struggles and a lot more valleys than peaks at first, but that’s the entire point of starting him in the first place. Heaven knows the Bears are better off ripping off a frustrating Band-aid. Let him see live bullets now so that he can dodge them later as the focal point of a contender.

The Bears are at the point of no return. It’s Fields’ team for the foreseeable future.

And I, for one, hope the suspense lasts forever.