After dazzling debut, it’ll be an excruciating wait for Bears rookie QB Justin Fields
Matt Nagy decided months ago that Andy Dalton was his starting quarterback. Fields continues to give him reasons to reconsider.
Good thing for Bears coach Matt Nagy that he already declared his Week 1 starting quarterback months ago. Otherwise, it’d be awfully stressful trying to figure out what to do with rookie Justin Fields after a sensational preseason debut in which he ran and threw all over the place.
And, more impressively, he made football fun again in Chicago.
But Nagy will stick with Andy Dalton despite Fields completing 14 of 20 passes for 142 yards and a touchdown and racing for an eight-yard score in a 20-13 win over the Dolphins. He stumbled by being a little too loose with ball security on a scramble and firing a near-interception over the middle, but he rebounded nicely.
If he keeps going like this, he’s going to force Nagy into a decision.
“Keep stacking days like he had today,” Nagy said when asked what it would take to move off his insistence on Dalton. “Keep getting first downs, keep getting touchdowns. … The more times that you have something happen because of that player, meaning Justin or Andy or whoever — we see that and it makes it hard on us.
“We’re always gonna do what’s best for the Chicago Bears. We all understand it was a great first day at that position for Justin. He did awesome. We love that. Now let’s keep working and improve it and stay consistent with it.”
As he swoons over Fields, there has to be a trace of regret for needlessly entrenching himself on Dalton being his starter without allowing time to get a clearer idea of what Fields can do. Nagy could’ve comfortably waited until after the preseason games to make that call.
And Saturday made you wonder what call he’d make in that case.
Everything about Fields’ work — not just Saturday, but the entirety of his four months with the Bears — suggests he’s capable of being ready by Sept. 12 against the Rams.
The truth is, the Bears need him to be. Given their offensive line problems, escaping from a crumbling pocket is a critical part of the job. Fields has that ability. It’s hard to see how Dalton can function in that setting.
Fields’ touchdown run with 9:45 left in the third quarter was the materialization of everything the Bears imagined when they traded up to draft him No. 11 overall. As the blocking faltered on his blind side, Fields scanned the secondary right to left, sensed the pressure and maneuvered through it for a clear path to the end zone.
“They were in man coverage, and nobody really had me,” Fields said. “I went to the left and saw everybody [blocked], so I started to run to the end zone, and of course it was a touchdown.”
Of course. He says it so confidently. And with his gifts, he’s right to be that confident.
“You don’t feel the panic,” Nagy said. “He’s calm in the pocket, and part of that is because he trusts his speed. He knows he’s pretty fast. If there’s a guy that’s going to try to make a play, he understands that he can outrun them.”
Getting a glimpse of that and then waiting indefinitely to see it in a real game is going to be torturous. How many losses might Nagy cost himself by waiting just for waiting’s sake, or because he thinks he owes something to Dalton?
The Bears flat-lined offensively over the last two seasons, and Dalton can’t give them the jolt they need. He’s steady, but his high end is nowhere near Fields’. There will be speed bumps, certainly, but it’d be senseless to rule out Fields’ potential to light it up as a rookie as Dak Prescott, Russell Wilson and Justin Herbert did.
Fields brings something new and different to the table, and the Bears are craving new and different at quarterback.