Matt Nagy has been asked many times in countless different ways by this point. His answer remains steadfast and unchanged. In regards to the quarterback depth chart, the pecking order is set. Andy Dalton is the starter. Justin Fields is the primary backup. There is no competition. Barring something unexpected like an injury, this is how the Chicago Bears will enter the 2021 regular season.
Needless to say, plenty of people aren’t happy about that. Lots of experts think Fields is the better player already. It makes no sense to sit him. Lots of fans are tired of the below-average-to-average type of quarterback Dalton represents. Something they’ve seen for way too long. They don’t want to be subjected to more of it. Just start the rookie now and let him learn on the fly.
One person who agrees with that? Jeff Saturday.
The six-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro center had words about Nagy’s stance during Get Up ESPN. He didn’t understand it at all. In his mind, the responsibility of the head coach isn’t to craft a plan for the regular season in June. It’s to work on elevating all his players in training camp and preseason, then picking the 22 best to play on Sundays. That includes the quarterback position. Making Dalton the guy right now isn’t going to do Nagy any favors in that locker room. Especially if Fields shines.
The comparison Saturday used is a well-known one. Seattle planned to go with Matt Flynn in 2012 as their starter even after drafting Russell Wilson in the 3rd round. Then Wilson clearly outperformed the veteran in training camp and claimed the starting job outright. Seattle went 11-5 that season. Now it’s an easy comparison, but also not the same thing. With all due respect to Flynn, he was a career backup prior to joining the Seahawks. Dalton has started many games across nine years, even making three Pro Bowls. It’s a different situation.
Matt Nagy is doing what he believes is best for the Bears
While his goal remains to win in 2021, he also has a responsibility for the long-term outlook of the franchise as well. That is where Fields comes in. Nagy has to do everything in his power to ensure the 11th overall pick is a success for the next 10-15 years. If that means sacrificing games this year? Then so be it. The head coach has made his stance clear. Dalton is good enough to hold down the fort. Chicago won’t put the rookie out there until they’re sure he’s ready.
If nothing else, Matt Nagy deserves credit for having conviction on this. He believes it is the right approach. He saw it work to perfection in Kansas City. He knows it has worked elsewhere too. The question is does he have the fortitude to handle the outside pressure long enough to see this plan through?
That remains to be seen.
Nagy certainly had a quick hook on Mitch Trubisky last year, pulling him after just six quarters in favor of Nick Foles. If Dalton struggles a bit early this season, will he feel there is no choice but to go with Fields? Or will he let the process play out? He is certainly hoping it won’t come to that.