(In the voice of Bill Swerski)
Alright, my frents. So Da Moment has (potentially) arrived for Justin to take Da Field(s) as Da QB for Daaaa Bears.
As a disclaimer, I did include the word “potentially” on purpose, because I still feel Matt Nagy is fighting internally on the decision to hand the reins over from Andy Dalton to Justin Fields. I also hate knowing this transition is happening almost exclusively for the reason Andy Dalton is out with a knee injury (bone bruise). Alas, the time has come.
Earlier this week I decided to ask the crew about their collective thoughts on what’s going on at QB for the Chicago Bears. After all, what looks like a straight-forward situation on paper, is still murky due to Matt Nagy’s apparent insistence of keeping Andy Dalton as his starter if healthy. There’s plenty of layers to peel back with this onion.
In summary, what are your thoughts on how the Bears are handling this transition at QB?
ECD - The situation, from beginning to end, certainly could have been handled better.
Andy Dalton was anointed the title as undisputed week one starter at QB despite just signing with the Bears *this* offseason on a one-year deal. Historically, QBs on a one-year deal with a new team never finish a full season as said starter. To not consider competition once selecting Justin Fields was as archaic and obsolete of a concept as any coach could propose. Especially when you spend future assets to trade up from 20th to 11th in that very draft to land Justin Fields in the first place.
Much has been made and mentioned about how Matt Nagy wanted to duplicate the situation he experienced first-hand at Kansas City. That was a fantasy, plain and simple. The script was already busted once Justin Fields saw playing time in certain packages against the Rams in week one. And now, Andy Dalton is (likely) out for close to a month due to his injury.
There shouldn’t be any question from this week onward that Justin Fields is the guy at QB. Why copy what the Dolphins did in 2020 and sit Tua on random occasions? Why even think about going back to Andy Dalton? This is the moment, unplanned or otherwise, that Matt Nagy should have been prepared for. The transition at QB was going to happen eventually. There’s no need to delay this passing of the torch any further.
Josh - Regarding how the Bears are handling things...I have disliked every decision Pace has made at quarterback except his decision to trade up to draft Justin Fields. I don’t think Andy Dalton should even be on the team (especially not with Nick Foles on the team, too), but I guess as Ryan Pace quarterback decisions go, the move to sit Fields behind Dalton is only a little ridiculous. There is no evidence that one approach is better than another, and I have no reason to hope that Nagy is about to be shown the door, so this is just a lot of meh.
Lester - I have no problem with how the whole thing has transpired. Dalton is a vet and he was brought in to give them some stability, but as soon as Fields was drafted it was just a matter of time before Fields would win the QB1 job. I’m guessing the pass protection was the only hurdle he had to overcome, so I hope he has enough of a grasp on that with the Bears timetable being moved up a bit.
Rob Z - I haven’t liked any step of it.
The Bears, to me, treated Justin Fields like he was a fifth-round rookie rather than the bright first-round prospect on which everyone’s jobs are relying. And c’mon now. Where are the adults in the room? Where are the Smart Football Men the Bears somehow never have employed?
There should have been an actual quarterback competition, with Fields at least getting first-team repetitions. There should have been a discard of this antiquated line of thinking that quarterbacks must sit at first, which is how they learn and grow, rather than playing in live games. There shouldn’t have been pretending he can’t hit embarrassing five-to-seven-yard check-downs, three yards short of the sticks, like Andy Dalton, as if he didn’t come out of Ohio State as one of the more polished young quarterbacks in recent memory.
(I’m looking at you Cris Collinsworth, for one. I hope your back still doesn’t hurt from carrying Nagy’s water for three hours on national television about just how Fields isn’t ready because he somehow can’t do something he did hundreds of time in college)
The last six weeks have been mind-boggling and are all very reminiscent of Matt Nagy’s incessant, neurotic overthinking in every aspect of his coaching — from play-calling to overcomplicating simple situations, to obfuscating His Plan at every turn. If Fields was more flappable and a lesser overall player, I might be worried that it caused some sort of irreversible damage. But he has nerves of steel and the aura of a man who will soon hold the most power in the Bears organization, bar none.
This is funny, because this is the quarterback he wanted, and yet, after this charade, I may not be capable of trusting a singular human being less to not screw up the Bears’ first real Big Boy signal-caller in decades. In fact, I want Nagy away from Fields more than ever specifically because of the last six weeks.
A true leader of men, blah, blah, blah.
Sam - I am used to this franchise mucking up quarterbacks, but usually it’s the other way around; typically they draft or sign someone and put entirely too much faith in that player to carry the load and be The Guy.
This time, they mucked it up the other way. They have a guy who clearly looks like he’s the Ice Man and actually has the shoulders to carry the collective weight of Chicago Football Fans’ expectations, hopes and dreams and the ego to not let it all go to his head and now they decide to exercise the same caution as a 68-year-old first-time Corvette owner who won’t back it into the driveway if there’s a cloud in the sky.
Maybe they handled it OK, but it seems like just about everyone has been able to see that Fields has been the best quarterback on the roster since maybe the second week of training camp.
I don’t understand why Dalton was made the unquestioned starter, why is there this “Plan” as if Matt Nagy has accomplished anything in this league on his own? It never really made sense, that Fields never saw number one reps, that he was essentially held back in his development as some sort of slow-going process that would help him develop?
Look, I didn’t hate the way Dalton played, the offense has functioned better with him than it did with Nick Foles and Mitch Trubisky but that’s literally a hurdle laying on the ground to hop over. Fewer three and outs, that’s it, that was what was better. Fields is going to take these reigns and never give it back.
Rob S - Given the Bears’ OL issues, I was never opposed to letting Fields sit for a few weeks.
Nagy made me nervous (and still has me nervous) about leaving Fields on the bench for as long as 8-15 weeks, but given Dalton got injured halfway through Week 2 all those feelings are moot.
Whether by “collaboration” or by sheer dumb luck, the Bears gave Fields the overwhelming majority of preseason snaps, let him get his feet wet with a few snaps in Los Angeles, and now look to turn the team over to him for Week 3’s game in Cleveland. That’s.... actually that’s not bad at all!
This wasn’t “the Bears’ plan”, in fact I worry their plan was much worse than this, but by what feels like the will of the football gods Justin Fields is starting for the Chicago Bears. I’ll take it.
Ken - Insert clown car .gif here. (ECD’s note - too easy)
Bill - I really don’t have a problem with how they’ve handled this on the field.
Personally, I would have started Fields week one, but Dalton is a veteran QB and if Matt Nagy felt a few extra weeks of seasoning to experience how the team operates week to week in the regular season, have some extra time to work on protections and also master a few more plays on offense, that’s fine with me.
The truth is plenty of first round QBs don’t start week one, Mahomes aside, Justin Herbert didn’t, Baker Mayfield didn’t, Josh Allen didn’t, Lamar Jackson didn’t, the list goes on and on.
I don’t love how Matt Nagy has handled this situation with the press. Enough with the secrecy and misdirection. I’m not asking Matt Nagy to show up at the podium with charts and graphs and explain what they are doing but a little honesty and not so many veiled, non-answers would be appreciated.
For more from Bill on Fields, check out his latest podcast with WSCR’s Danny Parkins.
Jack Salo - I always come back to what-ifs, which are admittedly some of the most dangerous mind games you can play with yourself.
I just wonder: If Andy Dalton played lights-out football and stayed healthy the entire season, and never gave you reason to bench him? Then having Fields watch how fast the NFL game goes and learn the stuff in between the lines would always be a good personnel plan, on paper.
If Dalton struggled, and you moved to Fields after a month, then you’re giving the rookie a chance to be the hero in relief. Obviously neither of those things happened and you’re staring right in the face of the risk in your plan: what do you do when Dalton is healthy? If it’s even a question, then you should have held a quarterback competition before the season to answer it then.
Aaron - I think that at some point, Matt Nagy needs to be his own head coach and do things his own way. While I’m aware of how Andy Reid handled Donovan McNabb and Patrick Mahomes, that line of thinking is quickly becoming an outdated thought process. Teams should always play the better quarterback, regardless of age or experience.
With that all being said, you can’t damage a quarterback’s development by sitting him but you can damage his development by playing him too soon. So I’d rather the Bears play it too safe than do anything too risky. All in all, things are happening like they usually do. If Dalton wasn’t hurt, his leash would likely still be short and a change would be coming soon.