A baffling decision to most on the outside looking in, especially when reflecting on the impressive preseason that Fields had. The Ohio State product looked rhythmic and comfortable running the Chicago Bears offense. He had little issue hitting deep passes down the field, connecting with receivers on short-to-intermediate routes over the middle, and escaping the pocket with his legs when required to do so.
Up to this point, Nagy’s reasoning behind sticking Fields on the bench is that the organization promised Andy Dalton he would be the starter when he first signed during the offseason. However, even that excuse is beginning to ring hollow.
New England cutting Cam Newton should serve as an example for Matt Nagy and Justin Fields
In a surprising turn of events, Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots released Cam Newton before the regular season. Newton was signed back to the Patriots at the beginning of the offseason to be their starter and took most of the first-team reps during preseason and training camp.
Mac Jones landing with New England during the 2021 NFL Draft made it clear that the Patriots would be pivoting off Newton eventually. Still, the general expectation was that said transition period wouldn’t happen until later in the regular season.
Belichick had essentially promised Newton he would be the short-term starter when he agreed to re-sign in New England. Sound familiar?
The Chicago Bears should feel no sense of loyalty to Dalton
Dalton isn’t nearly as bad as some NFL fans like to make him out to be. Still, the reality of the situation is that he’s nowhere close to being productive enough to warrant keeping a first-round pick in Fields on the bench.
For example, the San Francisco 49ers have a veteran quarterback (Jimmy Garoppolo) who’s proven capable of making it to the Super Bowl. Keeping rookie Trey Lance on the sidelines for a few games while Garoppolo begins the season makes sense from that point of view. For the Bears, Dalton is not that caliber of player.
As awkward as Nagy may be feeling about his QB situation, New England blatantly proved there’s nothing wrong with sacrificing a veteran to prioritize one’s next franchise QB. The Patriots know Jones is the future of their organization and want him out there winning games as soon as possible — Nagy and the Bears should view Fields in the same light.
Matt Nagy needs to bench Andy Dalton and start Justin Fields, for his own sake
Now that Belichick — one of the greatest football minds in league history — has set the precedent that there’s nothing wrong with handing the keys of the franchise over to a rookie QB, Nagy needs to do the same.
Not just for the sake of the Bears but his own sake. Nagy’s seat is warm following last year’s early postseason exit. His job status very well may rest on the arm of Fields.
Fields finished the preseason 30-for-49 with 276 yards, three touchdowns, and zero interceptions. The first-round pick also ran for an additional 96 yards and one touchdown. Good (not great) numbers, but easily enough for Nagy to justify naming him the Week 1 starter. The Bears don’t have to outright release Dalton as the Patriots did with Newton, but they should feel little remorse about informing the 33-year-old he’ll be QB2 for the remainder of the year.
If Dalton didn’t envision that happening following the Bears’ decision to trade up for Fields during the draft — that’s on him.
All stats courtesy of sportsmockery.com.