Where’s the upgrade? ‘Andy really fits our style of offense’

General manager Ryan Pace said quarterback Andy Dalton’s experience, leadership, decision-making and durability were key factors in signing him to replace Mitch Trubisky and Nick Foles as the Bears’ starter.

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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.

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.

Gary Landers/AP

Barring the long-shot acquisition of disgruntled quarterbacks Deshaun Watson or Russell Wilson, Bears general manager Ryan Pace was unlikely to get a sure-fire upgrade from Mitch Trubisky and Nick Foles in free agency this offseason.

So why Andy Dalton? The former Bengals quarterback has been a starter for nine seasons in the NFL, but he has been below average in four seasons since last making the Pro Bowl as an alternate in 2016, ranking 18th in passer rating in 2017 (86.6), 26th in 2018 (89.6) and 32nd in 2019 (78.3) with the Bengals and 25th last season with the Cowboys (87.3).

‘‘Obviously, his experience,’’ Pace said. ‘‘He’s a nine-year starter. He’s been to three Pro Bowls. A lot of leadership with Andy Dalton, decision-making. He’s won a lot of games in this league. Andy’s been a durable player. I think that’s something that’s understated.’’

Pace also pointed to Dalton’s 64.9 completion percentage in 2020 with the Cowboys, his best since he completed a career-high 66.1% of his passes in 2015, when he was second in the NFL in passer rating.

Other than that, however, Dalton is long removed from that career year. What it seems to have come down to was Dalton’s fit for coach Matt Nagy’s offense.

‘‘Andy really fits our style of offense,’’ Pace said. ‘‘When you go through it with our scouts and coaches, he can handle the drop-back game, he can handle the [run-pass options], the play-actions, the movements. And we just felt, as we went through those free-agent quarterbacks, he’s one of the more complete quarterbacks we evaluated in free agency. And we’re excited to have him.’’

Pace confirmed Dalton will go into the 2021 season as the Bears’ starter, regardless of whether he selects a quarterback in the draft. And Nagy said he will take over play-calling duties after giving them to offensive coordinator Bill Lazor in Week 10 last season, even though Dalton has previous experience with Lazor calling plays for him with the Bengals.

The signing of Dalton — especially considering his recent mediocrity — is a tacit rebuke not only of the drafting of Trubisky but also of the acquisition of Foles as a potential starter last season.

Foles struggled in nine games (seven starts) last season, finishing with an 80.8 passer rating (10 touchdowns, eight interceptions). He endured difficult circumstances, facing four top-10 defenses as the Bears’ offensive line was crumbling, but that wasn’t enough of a mitigating factor to dissuade the team from looking for an upgrade.

Coming off misses with Mike Glennon in free agency and Trubisky in the draft before Nagy’s arrival, Foles’ failure as an acquisition with Nagy in place is particularly dubious for Pace. But neither Pace nor Nagy was interested in discussing that in detail.

‘‘I think every year is a little bit different, and there [are] different whys behind all of it,’’ Nagy said. ‘‘When you look at the way things went last year, it took us a little bit with the change that we made of starting Nick [in Week 4] and then going back to Mitch. And within there, there were some things that went on.

‘‘We feel like this is the best for us as an organization right now. . . . This is where we’re at right now, and we’re excited about it. Nick understands where we’re at. Andy understands where we’re at. Our coaches know — Ryan, myself — and that’s kind of where we’re at. There’s just a process to it.’’

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