Plenty of Bears fans had hoped rookie quarterback Justin Fields would leapfrog veteran Andy Dalton before Week One of the regular season. On Saturday, Bears coach Matt Nagy made the season-opening plan unequivocally clear, if it wasn’t already.
Dalton will start, Nagy told reporters after a preseason drubbing at home against the Bills.
“We need to see him in the regular season,” Nagy said.
PFT consistently has reported that Dalton was promised the Week One starting gig when he signed with the team in the offseason, before the draft. Although many promises are made to be broken, and no verbal assurances are ever binding, Nagy remains intent to resist the temptation to go with Fields.
Nagy surely is influenced by his 2017 experience in Kansas City, where he worked as offensive coordinator. That year, the Chiefs traded up to draft quarterback Patrick Mahomes. That year, Alex Smith started every game of the regular season with one exception; Mahomes started a meaningless Week 17 game against the Broncos.
The circumstances are very different in Chicago, however. The Bears haven’t had a high-end quarterback since at least Jay Cutler. Some would say not since Jim McMahon. Many would say not since Sid Luckman.
Also, Dalton has no equity with his new team. Smith had played for the Chiefs for four season before Mahomes arrived, and the Chiefs consistently contended. Dalton spent the first nine years of his career in Cincinnati and last year in Dallas.
On Saturday, Dalton completed 11 of 17 passes for 146 yards, one touchdown, and one interception; that equates to a passer rating of 86.9. The Bears trailed during the Dalton vs. Mitch Trubisky duel 28-0 before Dalton connected with receiver Rodney Adams for a 73-yard catch and run, which following the blocked extra point cut the margin to 28-6.
Fields completed nine of 19 passes for 80 yards, a passer rating of 59.1. Field added 46 yards on four carries. He had a great long throw from deep in the pocket. He also took a brutal (and illegal) hit from linebacker Andre Smith.
The Bears open the season in 22 days on NBC, with a primetime game against the Rams in L.A. Even if (as it appears) Nagy will start, it’s possible that Nagy will have a package of plays for the rookie.