Andy Dalton signing marks the end of an error

With Mitch Trubisky’s departure after a disappointing four seasons, Dalton gives the Bears what they were looking for in a quarterback: somebody else.

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Andy Dalton (right, congratulating Mitch Trubisky after the Bears beat the Bengals in 2017) will be the Bears’ starting quarterback heading into the 2021 season, general manager Ryan Pace said Friday.

Mitch Trubisky (left, with Andy Dalton after the Bears’ 33-7 victory over the Bengals in 2017), was 29-21 as a starter with the Bears and is their all-time leader in career passer rating (87.2).

Gary Landers/AP

The Bears’ expected signing of Andy Dalton is a mystery that really doesn’t solve anything. The only thing it indicates for sure is just how done with Mitch Trubisky the Bears were after last season.

Oh, were they done with him.

The Bears were so done with Trubisky that they signed a quarterback who isn’t any better. Dalton is a three-time Pro Bowl quarterback whose 31,594 passing yards and 204 touchdown passes in nine seasons with the Bengals are miles ahead of the Bears’ all-time leader in those categories, Jay Cutler (23,443 yards, 154 touchdowns). But he’s not that quarterback in 2021 at age 33.

In fact, in Trubisky’s four seasons with the Bears after he was drafted No. 2 overall in 2017, his 87.2 passer rating in 51 games (64 touchdowns, 37 interceptions) is better than Dalton’s 84.8 (76 touchdowns, 45 interceptions) during that same span.

Dalton already has been discarded by a team that can’t get over the hump. And, despite some prolific regular seasons, he was a big part of that struggle. In four playoff games, he had a 57.8 passer rating with one touchdown and six interceptions. The Bengals lost all four of those games. And the last one was in 2014.

The Bengals finally decided to drop Dalton and drafted Joe Burrow with the No. 1 overall pick in 2020. The Bears are going in the opposite direction, dumping Trubisky to sign Dalton. So far, anyway. There has to be another move here, right?

Whether there is or not, the Bears are going forward without Trubisky, whose departure typifies their struggle to find a quality quarterback. It’s the right move, but a quick look at the quarterback landscape left a daunting question: Could the Bears find someone better? Outside of the dream scenarios — Deshaun Watson, Russell Wilson or a top-10 quarterback in the draft — the options in free agency were limited.

That’s a tough spot for Bears general manager Ryan Pace. If he doesn’t have another trick up his sleeve, he’ll have to explain how Dalton is an upgrade over Trubisky. What does he give you that Trubisky didn’t?

Maybe Dalton will allow coach Matt Nagy to be himself. Though Nagy gave it a good try with Trubisky over three seasons, he had probably had enough. Trubisky’s failure in 2020 forced Nagy too far out of his element. He made two quarterback changes, gave up play-calling and had to retro-fit his offense to accentuate Trubisky’s strengths and maximize his performance.

In his fourth season, Nagy probably wants to get back to the approach he envisioned when he was hired in 2018 — whatever that was. Whether it’s Dalton, Nick Foles or somebody else, it won’t be Trubisky. That seems to be the point of the Dalton signing.

Trubisky showed a spark after regaining the starting job from Foles last season. He had credible performances against the Lions, Texans, Vikings and Jaguars, a combined 108.5 rating with seven touchdown passes and two interceptions. It came against bottom-10 defenses, but it was better than he was.

But after reality intruded against the Packers in the regular-season finale (81.7 rating) and the Saints in the playoffs (69.4 before garbage-time production boosted it to 96.8), Trubisky’s road to future NFL success led out of Chicago.

Dalton gives the Bears what they were looking for: Somebody else.

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