People just can’t seem to grasp what in the world Matt Nagy is thinking with his ongoing insistence that Andy Dalton remains the Chicago Bears‘ starting quarterback. The only argument the head coach has offered to this point is the belief that Dalton’s experience makes him the better option to run this offense right now. Justin Fields will be the guy eventually, but Nagy wants to give him as much time as possible to learn things from the sideline. Just like Patrick Mahomes in Kansas City.

That reasoning would’ve made sense if Dalton were an established player for the Bears. He is not. This isn’t an Alex Smith situation where he’d spent several successful years with the team, taking them to the playoffs and making Pro Bowls. Dalton was signed as a free agent after backing up Dak Prescott last season. Combine that with Fields playing so well in the preseason? Nagy’s stubbornness really rubbed people the wrong way.

Now we may finally have a deeper explanation.

Jeff Hughes of Da Bears Blog has proven a number of times in the past that he has strong connections inside that building. During an enlightening Twitter thread on Sunday, he revealed there is actually another reason the Bears have remained steadfast in this approach. A desire to ensure their relationship with Dalton remains strong. Why? A hope that he might return in 2022. As Fields’ backup.

Now this is something that makes sense. While Dalton is questionable as a starter at this point in his career, he’s already proven that he can be a more than able backup. With the Cowboys, he went 4-5 coming off the bench and played pretty well. They almost managed to win the division. Having him with intelligence, experience, and leadership would make for an ideal backup.

Not burning a bridge with Andy Dalton makes sense now

By keeping their word to let him start, the Bears did nothing to sour the relationship. His getting injured, while unfortunate, now gives them the necessary window to get Fields into action. Presuming the rookie plays well enough in the next couple of games, Nagy will have a justifiable excuse to keep playing him. While that may disappoint Dalton, he can’t accuse the team of not keeping their word. It isn’t their fault he got hurt.

From there, it becomes a question of what happens next offseason. Andy Dalton has made it clear he still wants to start. Yet many feel his last opportunity was this year in Chicago. He may gauge the market to see if another team is willing to give him a shot. If not? The Bears will be able to make it clear they’d love to bring him back as a long-term backup. Remember he is only 33.

He could fill that void for several years to come.

Much of what happens next may depend on Fields’ performance in Cleveland. If he struggles a lot, Nagy may decide to put Dalton back in for a while. If he plays well? There is almost no way the head coach will be able to justify doing that to the locker room. Everybody wants the rookie to play. A decent game against a good team would seal it.

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