Head coach Matt Nagy has remained immovable throughout the process since Justin Fields was drafted. He understands Chicago Bears are anxious. They want to see their shiny new quarterback in action. Yet his job is to do what is best for both the player and the team. In his mind, the best course of action is to buy Fields time. Let him absorb the NFL from the safety of the sideline while Andy Dalton keeps the seat warm. Then when it is clear the 11th overall pick is ready, get him out there.
Fields himself has said he fully respects Nagy’s plan. He will abide by the wishes of the head coach if that is what Nagy wants. However, that doesn’t mean he is okay with it. The quarterback made it clear in his first press conference before rookie minicamps that his mission is simple. Win the starting job. Beat Dalton out and be the guy jogging onto that field Sunday night of Week 1 in Los Angeles.
Is this something he’ll be able to pull off?
Former Pro Bowl wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson thinks so. He made his stance clear on the Keyshaw, JWill & Zubin show. When asked about the comments Jay Cutler made about sitting Fields for the time being, Johnson didn’t agree. In his mind, if Fields demonstrates the mental capacity to handle the offense well in camp and the preseason, then he is going to be the one who starts opening night and it won’t even be a question.
Johnson’s stance here is simple. From a physical perspective? Fields and Dalton aren’t even in the same league. The rookie is bigger, stronger, and faster. A true specimen. The one advantage Dalton has at this point is his experience and vast knowledge of how to dissect and process NFL defenses. Combine that with his connection to offensive coordinator Bill Lazor and it’s easy to see why the coaches are more comfortable with him.
At the same time, Justin Fields isn’t short on intelligence
He reportedly had the highest score ever recorded on a test by a renowned sports psychologist. His immediate success at Ohio State demonstrated his ability to absorb complicated offenses quicker than normal. Combine that with his well-documented work ethic? Yeah, it isn’t too difficult to see him come out firing in training camp looking to make a statement.
The Bears have made it clear that starting Dalton is the plan. However, they also made it clear that the entire roster will be one massive competition. The best players will be the ones who play. Justin Fields understands this basic logic. If he outperforms Dalton at every turn in camp and the preseason, it will force Nagy’s hand.
Is that fair to the veteran QB?
That isn’t the point. Chicago may have promised him the job back in March, but they can’t be expected to hold their word if he’s clearly being outplayed by the rookie. That wouldn’t be the responsible thing to do. Their job is to put the best product on the field as possible. If Fields makes that evident in August, then Dalton will have to live with it.