In your faith: ‘Game-time decision’ shows a lack of confidence in Justin Fields
Bears coach Matt Nagy says that’s not so. But with Andy Dalton still not 100%, Fields should have been the designated starting quarterback against the Lions if Nagy had more faith in him.
Matt Nagy doesn’t trust Justin Fields to face even the Lions.
It would seem like a pretty easy call for the Bears coach to start his prized rookie Sunday at Soldier Field after quarterback Andy Dalton was limited all week with a bone bruise in his knee.
It would give Fields a winnable game at home against one of the worst defenses in the NFL — a very playable opportunity for him to respond after last week’s nine-sack debacle in Cleveland. And it would give the 33-year-old Dalton another week to get back to 100%.
All good, right?
But no. Or not yet, anyway. Nagy said Friday the quarterback determination for Sunday’s game would be a game-time decision.
“Andy is getting better each day,” Nagy said. “We’re just gonna see where he is at on Sunday.”
It would have been more under-standable had Nagy gone back to a healthy Dalton who had practiced fully all week — although even that would have drawn some grumbling from Bears fans. But to have Dalton questionable Friday after being limited all week and still hold out hope he could play against the Lions seems like a clear lack of confidence in Fields.
“I get all that, and that’s not the case,” Nagy said firmly.
Fields, who hurt the thumb on his throwing hand against the Browns but practiced fully this week and is not on the injury report, still could start against the Lions. But the uncertainty two days before kickoff seems to confirm the worst fears of cynical Bears fans — that when Nagy says he’ll “do what’s best for the Chicago Bears” in managing Fields this season, he’s actually doing what’s best for Matt Nagy.
Almost by definition, Nagy is prioritizing winning games over the development of the team’s quarterback of the future. If he doesn’t trust Fields against the Lions, when will he ever trust the rookie to play again this season?
Oh, the irony. The Lions are the one team against whom Nagy’s offense has consistently lived up to expectations. Nagy is 5-1 against the Lions in three seasons. His offense is averaging 26.3 points and 343.8 yards against them. The Bears’ average quarterback rating against the Lions under Nagy is 118.4, with 15 touchdowns and one interception.
Chase Daniel beat the Lions in Nagy’s offense in 2018. Mitch Trubisky was 4-1 against the Lions in Nagy’s offense, with a 121.0 passer rating (13 touchdowns, one interception). But the best quarterback prospect the Bears have had in decades can’t be trusted to start against them. Wow.
Why is it so important that Dalton starts, even with a bum knee? Nagy didn’t have an answer. Well, he did, but he didn’t.
“When there are injuries involved, it’s really a lot different than anything else,” Nagy said. “When you have injuries involved, there is health, your strengths and weaknesses within the game, and that’s all stuff that internally we talk about.
“Whatever it is that you’re worried about what people are saying about making a decision Friday, Saturday or Sunday, we know what we are doing, and that’s what we are believing in and going with.”
With all due respect to Nagy’s earnestness, “We know what we are doing” has no credibility outside of Halas Hall these days. All anyone can do at this point is wait and hope it somehow works out for the best for Nagy and the Bears.
“The good part about both of those guys is that they’re both progressing in the right way,” Nagy said. “What we’ve got to do is be able to see where Andy’s at and really, up until Sunday. That’s why it’s a game-time decision.’’