The answer has been hiding in plain sight. And we’ve confirmed that the thing hiding in plain sight is true.
Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the Bears already have promised quarterback Andy Dalton that he will start the season as the starting quarterback.
The clue comes from this statement from Dalton: “I knew the situation I was going into, regardless of if they drafted somebody or they didn’t. I was on a one-year deal, and I was going to be the starter.”
He stopped short of saying that’s what he was told by the team. But we’re told that’s what he was told by the team.
So he really is, as the team’s Twitter account declared on March 24, QB1. Thus, in Week One against the Rams on Sunday Night Football, the Chicago quarterback won’t be the QB who wears No. 1 — rookie Justin Fields.
That meshes with coach Matt Nagy’s personal experience. Prior to his final season in Kansas City, the Chiefs traded up to select quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes sat and learned the game for all of his first season, eventually playing in a meaningless Week 17 game against the Broncos.
The same approach is likely for Fields, sitting and watching and learning before being thrust into action. The fans may clamor for the rookie, but the team’s long-term best interests arguably are best served by waiting.
Regardless, Dalton’s status for Week One was set when he signed. He was told he’ll be the starter to start the season. It’s no guarantee he’ll be the starter at the end of the season. The bye week comes in Week 10, after a tough four-game stretch against the Packers, Buccaneers, 49ers, and Steelers. That could be the time to make the change, if the change is going to be made in 2021.
Or maybe Nagy really is committed to playing Dalton all year long. Although Alex Smith had far more equity with the Chiefs (and the 2017 Chiefs started fast), Nagy and G.M. Ryan Pace have tied their careers to Fields. Given that Nagy served as offensive coordinator for the team that drafted Mahomes and sat him for most of a season, it could be that Dalton is the starter not only for Week One of the 2021 season, but for a lot longer than that.