Justin Fields has been wowing people since the moment he stepped onto an NFL practice field, leaving many believing that he’ll swiftly be taking over for Andy Dalton as the Chicago Bears starting quarterback.
After all, the Bears traded up in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft to acquire Fields, and Dalton is only signed through the upcoming season. General logic suggests that getting Fields out there as soon as he’s ready is best for the organization long-term.
Logic that everyone in the Bears’ locker room likely subscribes to…outside of Dalton.
Andy Dalton made some problematic comments when talking about Justin Fields and the Bears’ QB1 job
Upon being questioned about his role on the Bears this upcoming season, Dalton did his best to give a diplomatic answer. Still, his true feelings about the situation managed to bleed through.
He joined Chicago to be their starting quarterback and doesn’t view that as having changed despite the addition of Fields during the draft.
This dilemma dates back to earlier in the offseason when the Bears didn’t have a concrete plan at quarterback. There was no guarantee that they would land Fields come draft night — they needed to add some insurance.
Dalton was coming off an injury-riddled 2020 with the Dallas Cowboys but obviously has plenty of starting experience from his nine-year career with the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bears were desperate, and Dalton was looking for a new starting gig; it was a perfect match.
Most Bears fans weren’t jumping with joy at the idea of Dalton being their starting quarterback in 2021, but it was indeed the team’s plan before draft night.
Between Andy Dalton and Justin Fields, the Bears run the risk of a divided locker room
The 2021 Draft ended up being a lifeline for the Bears’ front office, as Fields plummeted out of the top-10, allowing Chicago to jump up a few spots, snagging their future franchise QB. After one preseason game, Fields very much looks the part of a long-term starter in the NFL.
With Fields progressing faster than the Bears were likely expecting, the move to replace Dalton with their first-rounder is an easy one. However, if Dalton is pushing back against the idea (as he suggested during his media session), the Bears risk creating a divided locker room.
Players who’ve been working out with Dalton all offseason may be favoring the veteran, whereas rookies and recently added talent might be favoring Fields. This isn’t a situation the Bears want to be dealing with, especially during the developmental stages of Fields’ career.
The Bears need to make a firm decision sooner rather than later
Once the Bears reach a final decision on naming Fields the starter, whether that comes before Week 1 or later in the season, they need to be very firm about it.
Fields is the future, not Dalton.
If any veterans or pro-Dalton players object to such a move, Chicago should be willing to trade them as a way to keep the locker room united around their young QB.
Dalton may settle down as we inch closer to the start of the season and accept his role as Fields’ mentor. In the meantime, the Bears need to tread forward cautiously, making sure a rift doesn’t emerge.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference.