Bears’ HC Matt Nagy reiterated today that Bears’ QB Andy Dalton will start Week 1 at Los Angeles against the Rams, saying: “We need to see him in the regular season.”
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 21, 2021
What do the Bears think they are?
That’s the question that kept rolling through my brain as I watched Andy Dalton play quarterback on Saturday.
Do the Bears think they were this close to contending for a title a year ago and slightly better quarterback play will put them over the top?
Do the Bears think this roster is good enough now to run through Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and a Matt Stafford-led Rams in the tournament?
Do the Bears think Vegas has them all wrong? That they should have better odds than 65-1 to win it all? 35-1 to win the NFC? 6-1 to win the NFC North? 2-1 to make the playoffs? An over/under win total of 7.5?
The truth is, they must. Matt Nagy saying the team needs to see Andy Dalton in the regular season is so misguided, so out of touch with the reality of where this franchise currently resides, that no other explanation is possible. The Bears don’t need to evaluate a quarterback who has been in the league for a decade and consistently underwhelmed for the duration of that time. Andy Dalton is Andy Dalton. He’s perfectly capable of being capable. The Bears, with Dalton under center, have a ceiling of about nine wins and a wildcard weekend exit. (And even that would be an achievement.)
This season, the point of the entire enterprise, is Justin Fields. And it is abundantly obvious that no matter what Nagy saw from the young quarterback, he was never going to be given an opportunity to be the starting quarterback. Now, over these next three weeks of pivotal practices, Fields will be relegated to the second teamers and scout squad. If he gets his shot to take over the starting gig during the season, it’ll likely be that week he throws his first passes to Allen Robinson, Cole Kmet and Darnell Mooney in any structured kind of way.
It is malpractice, plain and simple.
The Bears have played two preseason games. In the first, Justin Fields thoroughly outplayed Dalton. After that game, many expected Fields to be given increased exposure to the starters in practice. He was not. Why?
In the second game, with the exception of one bad throw that a Buffalo first, second or third-team corner easily knocks to the ground, Dalton was brutal. You want to blame the absence of Robinson, Kmet, Mooney and Montgomery? Go right ahead. But Fields came onto the field with a worse collection of skill guys and an offensive line of future real estate salesmen, and moved the team down the field. He used his athleticism. He used his mobility. He used his rocket for an arm. If any of the scrub receivers he was paired with could catch the football, he might have had a stat sheet similar to his first performance. Did Nagy see this performance and say, “It’s time to get Fields some reps with the starters”? Nope. He used the postgame press conference to name Dalton his official Week One starter.
He watched what we all watched. That was his conclusion. How?
The game was rigged. From the beginning. Was Fields perfect? Of course not. He’s a rookie quarterback and rookie quarterbacks make mistakes. But the top quarterbacks don’t let those mistakes bother them. The top quarterbacks learn from the unnecessary throw into traffic; learn from taking the unnecessary hit in the open field; learn from misreading a defense and lining up blockers incorrectly. The quarterbacks that don’t are worth a damn. In this league, a franchise needs to find out as soon as possible which kind of quarterback they have. The early signs on Fields are positive. But without even seeing him play with professional-caliber players, that’s all they are. Signs.
Don’t try selling me on Nagy’s master plan, either. This is not a coach with the courage of his convictions.
Can anybody explain what the preseason strategy has been? Why did David Montgomery play the first preseason game but not the second? Why are the starting inside linebackers (a position of depth) not playing but the best corner (a position of no depth) is out there for more than a quarter? Why were Eddie Jackson and Tashaun Gipson still on the field Saturday with nine backups around them? What purpose does it serve playing Andy Dalton for a half without any of the receivers he’ll be throwing to in the regular season?
When Nagy played no one in the preseason, it was praise worthy. He had an approach he believed in and he executed that approach. Nagy said he would be taking preseason more seriously this summer but he hasn’t done that. You either play your starters or you don’t. Why would you play a third of them? Not playing Allen Robinson but playing Khalil Mack is nonsensical.
There’s no method to the madness from Nagy. It’s just madness.
Nothing the Bears do with Andy Dalton at quarterback is relevant. It simply doesn’t matter. Every national analyst, every objective set of eyes, has called for the Bears to move Fields into the starting lineup and start his clock. The objective eyes know what the 2021 Chicago Bears are. Matt Nagy doesn’t, or he’s deliberately deluding himself.
Now, instead of letting Fields make his mistakes on the field, instead of letting him learn on the job, instead of letting us all see his development, Nagy is insisting we trust him. Because remember, he was there when Mahomes got drafted! (So was a fella called Andy Reid, the best offensive mind in football, but we’ll ignore that.) Nagy tell us when Fields is ready. Nagy will know when the time is right.
In the meantime, enjoy the irrelevance.