Matt Nagy surprised a lot of people on Wednesday when he made the announcement that Justin Fields would be the starting quarterback moving forward. This after saying just a couple of days before that when Andy Dalton was healthy, he was still the starter. So something must have changed in that time span to cause the head coach to change course so drastically like that.
While part of it was how good Fields looked against Detroit and how much better he’s getting in practice, there may have been another reason. Pressure from the top brass. According to a source, team chairman George McCaskey insisted Nagy move forward with Fields. It wasn’t for the reasons people might think though. It wasn’t merely about wanting to see the shiny new QB play. There was another reason driving the decision.
A desire to evaluate Nagy.
Lost in all of this is that the head coach himself will be entering a contract year in 2022. While some may believe the conspiracy that both he and Ryan Pace were secretly extended, there is no evidence to support it. That means next season will be Nagy’s last contract-wise. There is no way the Bears are going to employ a lame-duck coach. That leaves one of two options. Either they extend him or they fire him.
In order to reach that decision, McCaskey believes he needs to know the answer to one vital question. Is Nagy the best man to oversee the development of Fields? There is no way to know with the kid sitting on the bench. So he insisted the coaches move forward with the rookie. It wasn’t just him of course. Others supported the decision as well. Still, having the owner throw his weight behind it made the decision all but a foregone conclusion. Nagy even admitted to such a meeting during his press conference.
Matt Nagy talked to his bosses and assistant coaches in the last 36 hours, but he was clear that Justin Fields starting was his decision.
— Patrick Finley (@patrickfinley) October 6, 2021
Justin Fields was always the one to decide Nagy’s fate
The decision to sit him early was driven by a desire to not rush him onto the field before he was ready. It might also have been a desire to have him look as prepared as possible when the time finally did come. All of that went out the window when Dalton injured his knee. This forced Nagy into his worst-case scenario. Starting Fields for the first time on the road against one of the best pass rushes in the NFL.
Everything went wrong. Fields was sacked nine times, the offense finished under 100 yards total and Nagy’s game plan was torn to pieces by the media. It was the latest evidence that he might not be the guy to run this ship long-term. No doubt he began to sense that, which explains why he handed the call sheet to Bill Lazor and even spoke to the players, asking opinions on what they want to do offensively.
Improvements were seen immediately against the Lions.
Even so, Nagy kept trying to avoid the Fields scenario. It appears McCaskey grew tired of the back-and-forth. It was a distraction and angering the fans. More importantly, it didn’t offer ownership a proper chance to evaluate the coaching staff. Justin Fields is the future. If these guys can’t make him a success, then they need to know. These next 13 games will be used to determine the answer to that question.