When the season began, Bears coach Matt Nagy wanted rookie quarterback Justin Fields on the bench.
As the Bears prepare for their season finale Sunday at the Vikings, Nagy is going to do everything he can to have Fields play.
It has been that kind of season.
Nagy said Monday he is planning for Fields to start the finale, provided he’s healthy. Fields has missed the last two games with an ankle injury.
After Nick Foles beat the Seahawks and Andy Dalton beat the Giants in the Bears’ previous two games, Fields starting the finale would be a fitting conclusion to an uneven quarterback process that has marked Nagy’s make-or-break season. It would be the fifth time in the last eight games that the Bears have started a different quarterback than they did the previous game and their NFL-high sixth time overall.
‘‘He’s put a lot of time and effort into developing and becoming better as a quarterback this year,’’ Nagy said of Fields. ‘‘This will enable him to finish on a high note and do everything he can to have a great week of practice — mentally, physically — [and] be there for his teammates, which I think says a lot for these guys.
‘‘Regardless of our record [6-10], you’re seeing players [who] want to play, [who] care about their job, [who] care about their teammates, [who] care about winning. And Justin’s a part of that.
‘‘To get him healthy to where he can help us win a game, I think it would be great for him to do that. That’s all we can ask for from him.’’
Fields’ rookie season has been about as disjointed as possible. First he was going to sit all season, then he was playing situationally in Weeks 1 and 2. Then he replaced Dalton, but Dalton was still the starter when he was healthy. And then, suddenly, Fields was the starter no matter what.
Then Fields got hurt. Then he returned and got hurt again. Now he’s 2-8 as a starter, has missed four games with two injuries and has a 73.2 passer rating. From a developmental standpoint, it’s hard to tell where he’s at. It probably would have been better if Fields had played from the start — or maybe not played at all. But Nagy said he didn’t think all or nothing would have been preferable.
‘‘No, I think everything happens for a reason,’’ Nagy said. ‘‘We went into it with a plan of Andy being the starter for the entire season, and it didn’t go that route. We had to make sure that if Andy was injured, Justin was prepared enough to be the starter and did he grow — and he’s done that. You’ve got to give Justin a lot of credit.’’
Nagy said he doesn’t regret anything he has done in managing the quarterback situation, but even he couldn’t say whether Fields is better for having played this season. Not really, anyway.
‘‘We will see,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s obviously supposed to be that way, and he’s done a great job attacking it mentally, physically. Everybody can have their own opinion. Justin can have his own opinion. But in the end, getting reps for him I think is definitely going to help him out.’’
While Fields hasn’t blossomed as a rookie, he hasn’t been destroyed by the experience, either. Nagy said even the dreadful game against the Browns — when Fields was sacked nine times and had one net passing yard — was a learning experience.
‘‘I think for him to be able to understand the speed of the game and what it’s like against these defenses — these guys are so fast, so when you get to the edge, you’ve got to protect yourself,’’ Nagy said. ‘‘[And] just how to be a pro from Monday to Saturday. That part has been really, really good for him. I think he’s going to have a really, really bright future.’’