Matt Nagy understands the decision he is making. What he is about to do is not the norm in today’s NFL. Aiming to sit a 1st round quarterback for as long as possible. Teams don’t do that much anymore. Rookies almost always start immediately. Let them learn on the fly. The Chicago Bears head coach thinks differently. He believes Justin Fields would benefit from learning on the sideline. Absorbing the speed of the league without taking the hits. Especially if the team has a reliable veteran alternative like Andy Dalton.
The Bears signed Dalton in March because he was capable insurance in case bigger plans didn’t work out. At least that was the narrative. Details since then suggest the team is higher on him than many believe. Nagy has made it crystal clear there is no competition moving forward. Dalton is QB1 and Fields is QB2. Barring a colossal meltdown or an injury? The 33-year old will be the one trotting onto the field in Los Angeles opening night.
How long will he last after that?
Everybody has their assessment. Few are probably anywhere close to Brad Gagnon of Bleacher Report. He is convinced Dalton isn’t going to last long at all. In fact, he won’t even make it as far as Mike Glennon did back in 2017. A span of four games. Nagy will get one look at him against the reigning #1 ranked defense in primetime and immediately decide to go with the rookie.
“I don’t believe they’ll want to throw Fields to those wolves, so they’ll likely hold off for early September, let Dalton bomb against the Rams in Week 1 and then finally succumb to the pressure and start Fields in a low-pressure spot in Week 2 at home against the Cincinnati Bengals.”
One game. That is how long Dalton will last. A single game. That feels a bit unfair. Then again, Nagy is the guy who benched Mitch Trubisky in Week 3 despite a 2-0 start to the season. Then again, that decision had been building for a long time. Dalton has a clean slate compared to him. One would imagine the Bears would at least give him a few more weeks to see if he comes around.
Andy Dalton has the backing of his coaches
Yes, Fields is going to be the guy at some point. That is inevitable. Dalton himself knows that. It’s why he is working to help the rookie prepare himself. At the same time, he also knows the job belongs to him for the time being. Everything else depends on what he does with it. If he performs well, then he won’t get benched. It is really that simple. His play, not some sort of imagined timeline, will determine when Fields steps in.
Nagy himself said it. The perfect scenario is Andy Dalton plays well, starts the entire year, and then the Bears hand off the job next season. By that point, the kid will have had plenty of time to prepare himself. Dalton conversely will have a chance to seek out a starting job elsewhere. One with a little more long-term security.
As always, there is no predicting the final outcome of this. So many variables are in play. Dalton could start the entire year. He could also get injured on the very first snap in Los Angeles and be done for the season. All the Bears can do is work to prepare both quarterbacks for every eventuality. This team will be relying on them to pick up the slack for an aging defense this season. It is a good plan. Whether it works? Time will tell.