Without Justin Fields, is there anything to watch?

“From the outside, we’re not making the playoffs, so it’s kind of like, ‘What’s the point?’” Bears tight end Cole Kmet said. “[But] these games mean a lot. I’m a young player in the league. This is two more games that I get to play and see more stuff and build on some things, and try some things.”

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Andy Dalton (14) has a 79.9 passer rating in six games (four starts) for the Bears this season. He will make his fifth start Sunday against the Giants.

David Banks/AP Photos

Bears fans won’t even have Justin Fields to root for Sunday — that’s how much this dreary Bears season has deteriorated. 

When the Bears took Fields with the 11th overall pick in the draft, the chance to watch his development in the final weeks figured to be a redeeming value to a bad season. In fact, many, if not most, Bears fans would rather see Fields grow into the job in 2021 than see the Bears go to the playoffs with Andy Dalton. After the Bears went 8-8 with an uninspiring loss to the Saints in a wild-card playoff game last season, Bears fans had already had enough of that. 

Instead, the worst-case scenario has ensued. The Bears (5-10) are out of the playoffs and Fields still isn’t playing. With Fields recovering from an ankle injury he suffered against the Vikings, coach Matt Nagy said Dalton will start Sunday’s home finale against the Giants at Soldier Field. 

It’s the fourth starting quarterback change the Bears have made in the last six games. Dalton replaced Fields (broken ribs) against the Lions in Week 12. Fields returned against the Packers in Week 14. And Nick Foles started for Fields (bum ankle) against the Seahawks in Week 16. Now a healed Dalton is replacing Foles against the Giants. 

But Fields is the quarterback Bears fans want to see and it won’t happen Sunday. Meaningless? Maybe to the fans, but not to the players.

“Obviously from the outside, we’re not making the playoffs, so it’s kind of like, ‘What’s the point?’” said tight end Cole Kmet, who grew up a Bears fan in Barrington Hills and at St. Viator in Arlington Heights. “[But] these games mean a lot. I’m a young player in the league and this is two more games that I get to play and see more stuff and build on some things, and try some things.

Bears linebacker Robert Quinn pushed back on the notion that the next two games are meaningless — and not because he is a half-sack shy of breaking the franchise record for sacks in a season held by Hall of Fame defensive end Richard Dent (17.5 in 1984). 

“If you do what I do, these two games aren’t meaningless,” Quinn said. “If you show up and don’t play well, I might not be on the team next year. So regardless of [personal] records, the games aren’t meaningless to the players because we’ve got to prove to everyone else why we should be here.” 

In reality, Quinn could twiddle his thumbs on the field for the next two weeks and he’ll be back next season. But that’s the mentality NFL players grow up with.

“Everyone’s playing for a job here,” Kmet said. “Guys are not just going to settle down here at the end. What you put on tape matters. That’s big, and that’s why you’re always going to see players fight ’til the end, because this means a lot to us and guys want to keep playing [in the NFL] and the way to do that is putting good film out there.” 

And there’s always the chance that what happens in these next two weeks can lead to success in 2022. In 2000, the Bears finished a 5-11 season under Dick Jauron with a flourish, making big plays they rarely made all season to beat the Lions 23-20 on a last-second field goal. 

It seemed inconsequential — too little, too late. But it ended up being a harbinger of better things to come. Virtually the same cast went 13-3 and won the NFC Central the following season. So things they do today can impact tomorrow. 

“Definitely you can,” running back David Montgomery said. “[Winning] means a lot going into next season — just to show what we’re capable of, being able to do that. So it means a lot to me.” 

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