Bears coach Matt Nagy finally finds QB bliss with Andy Dalton, Justin Fields
Nagy is often overly optimistic when discussing where the Bears stand, but he might be right to feel joyful about whom they have at quarterback.
Coach Matt Nagy is happy.
It isn’t that manufactured happiness that came from forcing himself to look on the bright side as he tried to make chicken salad out of whatever you’d call Mitch Trubisky’s and Nick Foles’ interpretation of quarterback play the last three seasons. Instead, to borrow one of Nagy’s favorite phrases, it’s real.
For the first time in his stint with the Bears, his quarterback situation is pretty much ideal. He has steady veteran Andy Dalton in line to start this season and limitless rookie Justin Fields in training to replace him as soon as possible. And while that’s not as good as trading for Russell Wilson would’ve been, it’s the best Nagy has had it.
Nagy isn’t going to publicly take a blowtorch to Trubisky, but it couldn’t be clearer that his praise for Dalton on Wednesday — after only two practices — illustrated why it was so frustrating to be stuck with Trubisky and Foles last season.
“[Dalton] is doing a great job of making anticipatory throws,” Nagy said. “If there’s one thing that these wide receivers are going to come [away with] out of these OTAs, they’re going to see that when that ball is supposed to be there, that ball is gonna be there.
“So they better get ready to put their hands up to catch it; you better be at the right spot. It really is impressive with how much he’s digested this playbook already.”
Dalton’s career numbers are remarkably similar to Trubisky’s, but trust makes all the difference for Nagy. He became exasperated with Trubisky’s less-than-masterful grasp of the offense, his struggles reading defenses and his inaccurate throws that wasted opportunities.
Nagy knows what he’s getting from Dalton, who has played in 144 games and taken more than 8,000 snaps. He’s not mobile, his deep ball is average and the Bears view him as a one-year rental, but they can tailor the playbook to his limitations and expect consistency.
That changes everything when Nagy calls plays.
“When the quarterback already knows what the defense is doing, he can play faster than others,” Nagy said. “I hope we all understand what that means for a vet vs. a young guy.
“He’s gonna throw the football, and if you’re not there and it’s an incompletion and it’s your fault, then are we going to keep letting that happen or are we going to get somebody else [at receiver]?”
Adding to Nagy’s bliss at quarterback, Dalton is on board with his request that he tutor Fields along the way.
Dalton wasn’t blindsided by the Bears drafting Fields No. 11 overall a month after he signed. While they assured him their pursuit of Wilson or any other veteran was over, he assumed quarterback was high on their list going into the draft.
“I knew the situation I was going into regardless of whether they drafted somebody,” Dalton said. “I was on a one-year deal, and I was going to be the starter. . . . Whatever happens after this year happens.”
What Nagy hopes happens is that Dalton is good enough to keep the Bears in the playoff race while Fields treats this season like grad school before taking over in 2022. He believes that will happen seamlessly and harmoniously — and, of course, that rings of Nagy’s trademark over-the-top optimism. He always thinks everything is going to work out perfectly.
He might be right this time.