Time To Talk About How Matt Nagy Sabotaged Justin Fields Months Ago

justin fields
Jul 29, 2021; Lake Forest, IL, USA; Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy and quarterback Justin Fields (1) look on during a Chicago Bears training camp session at Halas Hall. Mandatory Credit: Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports

The 2021 season is moving fast. The Chicago Bears are about to play their seventh game. This one against the defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Everybody is focused on whether or not this team is capable of pulling off the upset or if they’re destined to get crushed because their defense is banged up and the offense still can’t score. That second part has fans rankled more than ever. It’s Year 4 and Matt Nagy still hasn’t figured this problem out. Even now that he has his hand-picked quarterback in Justin Fields.

The young rookie has looked predictably uneven so far this year. It started terrible in Cleveland, including nine sacks and one net passing yard. Since then there has been improvement even though the stats haven’t quite set the world on fire. Some people are surprised Fields has taken this long to acclimate. The truth is they shouldn’t be. Not because he’s a rookie but because he was at a disadvantage the moment he stepped on the field.

All of it thanks to his head coach.

Not enough people talk about this. The fact that Nagy willingly chose to not give Fields any reps in training camp with the first-team offense. All of them went to Andy Dalton instead. The Bears coach was certain the veteran was going to play the full season. That he was going to mimic Alex Smith from 2017 and there was no possible way that he would, say, get injured. Then in Week 2 against the Bengals, that is exactly what happened.

Suddenly the Bears needed Fields to become the starter. This despite having almost zero chemistry with all the players he was supposed to execute and win games with. He’d thrown few passes to Allen Robinson, Darnell Mooney, or Cole Kmet. He’d take few snaps from Sam Mustipher. Yet everybody acted surprised that he looked so out of sync in the early going.

Matt Nagy failed to prepare for this eventuality

How could the head coach of a football team not envision the possibility that his plan for the quarterback position might not be foolproof? That the NFL is a physical game and players can get hurt. Wouldn’t it have been wise to take the precaution of giving Fields some work with the 1s during training camp? Let the players get to know each other in case there was the possibility the rookie might have to start at some point?

Nope. All meaningful reps go to Dalton. No compromises. Then the guy injures his knee in the second game and that’s it. The plan Matt Nagy insisted would make Fields a better quarterback lasted less than two weeks and might’ve actually done more harm than good. This is another sign that Nagy, for all his leadership qualities, might be out of his depth as a head coach. The man seems so unable at times to consider contingencies. It’s either this approach will work or he’s basically stymied.

That isn’t how it goes with top head coaches.

Every other team that boasted a rookie quarterback either gave them most of the first-team reps or split them with the projected starter. Particularly Mac Jones in New England. Now he looks like he is coming along well. Like he’s more comfortable. Fields isn’t there yet and it isn’t his fault. He was never given the chance.

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