Justin Fields is the center of all conversations regarding the Chicago Bears quarterback position. Hardly a surprise. He’s the flashy 1st round pick. The high-caliber talent they traded up to get in April. Somebody they clearly view as the future centerpiece of the franchise. However, the top brass has insisted for months that Andy Dalton will be the starter in 2021. Not out of some misguided stubbornness.

It is more out of a true belief that the 33-year old can be a capable quarterback for them. Somebody Fields can learn behind and understand what it takes to have success in the NFL. A lot of people are skeptical of this. They don’t buy Dalton as anything special. From a physical perspective? That is fair. Yet it also once again shortchanges one of the key aspects that made him productive for almost a decade. His leadership.

Ryan Pace provided a key example on the Hoge & Jahns podcast.

A number of players on the Bears offense have mentioned how refreshing Dalton has been. Not just his leadership in the huddle but his command. He is in control of everything. What routes he wants the receivers and tight ends to run and how. The protection sets on every play. Every detail is covered. Something that wasn’t often the case with Mitch Trubisky, who tended to delegate those responsibilities to others.

This is how professional quarterbacks are supposed to operate. This is what head coach Matt Nagy referenced when he said he wanted Trubisky to “make the offense his.” Run the scheme as designed but do so in a way that takes maximum advantage of what you do best. Tom Brady does it. Aaron Rodgers does it. Peyton Manning did it. Dalton does it too. Love him or hate him, that is why he went to three Pro Bowls.

Andy Dalton has looked the part thus far

He may not blow people away with his pure physical skill, but the guy makes things happen. His ability to throw on time with anticipation and accuracy is an early standout in practices. That may sound trivial but rest assured it isn’t. Nagy’s offense has deep roots in the West Coast system. It relies heavily on the quarterback being able to throw to spots on the field. All of it based on the timing between drop and route by the receivers.

This is something the Bears aren’t used to. Trubisky and Nick Foles were never known as quarterbacks with that skill. Both were more of the see-it-throw-it QB type. They needed to see the receivers open before unloading it. This is why the passing game looks so off-kilter at times the past three years. Dalton should be able to run it far more efficiently.

It may not make the offense great but should make it better.

That is the first goal for this team. Nagy has yet to see a top 20 finish since he arrived back in 2018. That should be a reasonable hurdle to clear given the talent they now have. Dalton finished 20th or better five times during his run in Cincinnati and again last year with Dallas. Combine something like that with a still-good Bears defense? This team should be competitive.

Erik Lambert
Educated to be a writer at the prestigious Columbia College in Chicago, Erik has spent the past 10 years covering the Bears.