To wrap up our extensive thoughts, which you can review in Part One and Part Two, we’re coming together and revealing just how soon we expected Justin Fields to take over as the Chicago Bears’ starting QB.
This is also amnesty time, if I do say so myself...
What was your original timeline to start, if any?
ECD - Transparency is my policy. Against all odds, I felt very strongly Justin Fields’s performance during the preseason would lead Matt Nagy into making a logical decision - start him week one. Obviously that didn’t happen.
To my surprise Matt Nagy did decide to play Justin Fields in week one after all. It’s also a pet peeve of mine; I’m a Florida fan, and I can’t stand 2-QB systems on offense. Then the injury to Andy Dalton happened, forcing Matt Nagy to alter whatever timeline he had in mind. Which is unfortunate, but also the latest example of how life goes in the NFL.
So the transition at QB happened a game and a half later than I expected.
Josh - I wanted him to start as soon as he could have a competent play-caller or by Week 4, whichever came first. I want him to continue to play either until he has a competent play-caller who wants him to sit or until it’s obvious he is a danger to himself or others.
Lester - I had week 5 as his first start in Las Vegas, but I thought he’d see his first extended action in week 4’s home game against the Lions. If anyone truly believed the Bears had a Mahomes/Smith plan in mind with this kid, then I have some oceanfront property to sell you in Arizona. Just shoot me some cash to my PayPal (email@example.com) and I’ll get a deed sent out to you for that.
Rob Z - I thought Nagy was going to get in his own way and hold off on Fields making his first start until November, where the Bears would be something like 2-7 or 3-6, and the Dalton offense lifeless. And that was an optimistic thought of common sense eventually winning out the day.
If not for Dalton’s injury, I think there was a genuine possibility we might not have seen Fields at all this year because I never thought they would hold him out of the Rams game. The summer coach-speak seemed like exactly that, coach-speak. I thought it was bullshit. I thought Nagy was bluffing, the way he seemingly always is. He can’t be this moronic. Wrong. He was, indeed, that moronic.
That Dalton, bless his heart — it’s great that he’s healthy and still physically able like a normal human being, instead of an NFL athlete — forced Nagy’s hand early with an injury is still a significant victory.
The Bears are on track, and Fields’ future begins in earnest, regardless of his all-time Galaxy Brain coach. Football Christmas came early this year.
Sam - I always thought it was week four. It seemed to make the most sense to say “Andy gets September and if he isn’t a top 5 statistical QB, then it’s time to hand it over to the kid.” It probably should have been week one, but again, Nagy and Pace seem to have this hubris that they are smarter than everyone else and somehow know better.
Rob S - Originally I wanted Fields to play “whenever he was ready” or by Week 4, whichever came first. In a 17-game season, I thought Fields could benefit from a few weeks of game-planning, protection-setting, and testing the 1st team defense in practice while skipping out on hits from Aaron Donald and Myles Garrett.
That doesn’t matter now — Fields seems “ready enough” to put together the standard, clunky, rollercoaster performances we’re seeing from Lawrence and Wilson (Mac Jones’ more resembles a kiddie coaster with no highs and no lows) and now I just have to ready my heart to see him make more rookie mistakes.
Hopefully this week Allen Robinson catches what’s thrown to him in the endzone. (ECD’s note - oof)
Ken - I didn’t have one, because I have no idea what lurks in the mind of Matt Nagy. He’s kinda weird... Not Marc Trestman odd, but still pretty strange.
Bill - I always said week four made the most sense. I think knocking a couple elite teams off the schedule, giving the offensive line a few weeks to hopefully gel, and giving Fields a little extra time to learn was the ideal spot.
I don’t necessarily love giving a rookie QB their first start in a tough spot (like playing in Cleveland) but sometimes it’s unavoidable.
Ideally though, starting at home with a game against Detroit to build some confidence and follow that up with a game in Las Vegas that while the Raiders look better than I expected, they still don’t have an elite defense. I never saw any reasonable argument as to why Fields should start later than week four, but at this point, it’s all moot.
Jack Salo - Answering this question without seeing the off-camera work that Dalton and Fields show in practice/film study is like taking the test without reading the chapter. Watching the preseason? Justin Fields week 1. Watching the two games we’ve seen thus far in the regular season? Andy Dalton until he loses the locker room. In the back of my mind I remember thinking Week 4 against the Lions, unless Andy Dalton looked like a Pro Bowler in the first few games.
Aaron - I’ve always felt like the “right time” to start Justin Fields was in the Week 4 to Week 5 range. Especially given the schedule and where their record could be. As much as I don’t believe the Bears are a playoff caliber team, this regime is under some sort of pressure to win and show “improvement” from last year.
Andy Dalton is a great guy and has had a nice career. With that being said, he’s still a bottom 10 starting quarterback in this league. The Bears’ roster isn’t good enough to win with that type of quarterback play. Injury or not, Dalton was always highly unlikely to remain the team’s starter through all 17 games this year.
It just so happens that things will be set in motion a week or two earlier than I had anticipated.