Chicago Bears coach Matt Nagy met with reporters Monday and tried his best to be elusive about the team’s quarterback situation. You know the one: veteran Andy Dalton suffered a bone bruise in Week 2’s win over the Cincinnati Bengals, opening the door for rookie first-round pick Justin Fields to enter the game and secure the Bears’ 20-17 victory.
The debate over Chicago’s quarterback depth chart has been a headline-grabber since training camp, and it feels like it’s reaching its crescendo.
Nagy, in response to a question from the Chicago Tribune’s Brad Biggs about whether Andy Dalton will be Chicago’s starter if healthy, said that he wasn’t going to provide an answer because of “scheme.”
You read that right. Nagy told reporters that providing insight into who the Bears’ starter will be—if Dalton is healthy—is a scheme issue. A member of Chicago’s PR staff later provided clarity, stating that the coach misunderstood the question and that, yes, Dalton is the team’s starter if healthy.
Let’s be honest, here. Nagy’s answer wasn’t much of one at all. He used the “if healthy” parachute to rid himself of commitment to either player. If Nagy’s intent is to be noncommittal he was successful. But for a team—and a fan base—that’s so desperate for an answer at quarterback, being vague isn’t an option. At least, it isn’t a good one.
Here’s what we do know. Dalton’s injury was described as a bone bruise, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. A bone bruise can take several weeks to heal, per multiple Twitter doctors (take that for what it’s worth), including former Los Angeles Chargers team physician, David Chao, who proclaimed it’s "Justin Fields time."
Assuming everyone not named Nagy is correct in their assessment that Fields will make his first NFL start in Week 3 against the Browns, there will be at least a small competitive advantage for him and the Bears. Fields starred in Ohio for the Buckeyes and certainly has some crossover Browns fans who will secretly (or overtly) be rooting for him.
Fields entered Week 2’s victory over the Bengals late in the second quarter and played the entire second half, finishing 6-of-13 for 60 yards and an interception. He added 31 yards rushing to his stats and had several would-be big plays that slipped through receivers’ hands.
Unlike Sunday, Fields will (or should) begin Week 3 as the starter in practice. He’ll get reps with the first team. He’ll have a starter’s mentality—for real—all week. As a result, his results will be different. And better.
But for this Bears team to progress, it has to start with the head coach. Nagy has to stop holding onto offseason promises that, while honorable, are going to begin hurting the team at the game’s most important position.