The Justin Fields era will begin for real in Sunday’s Week 5 game against the Las Vegas Raiders despite the 2021 first-round pick starting each of the last two games in relief of an injured Andy Dalton. While it was fun to watch Fields the last two weeks, there was a sense of insecurity around his role moving forward. Matt Nagy squashed those concerns by naming Fields the starter for the rest of the season on Wednesday.
Fields will kick off his time as the official starting quarterback of the Bears with the benefit of those two games against polar opposite opponents. In Week 3, Fields was abused by the Cleveland Browns defense. In Week 4, he took advantage of the holes in the Lions’. And that’s likely to be a recurring theme for Fields, who will go through his ups and downs over the next 13 games of his rookie season.
The Bears’ quarterback room, which has long been the butt of many jokes, has suddenly become one of Chicago’s greatest strengths. No, Andy Dalton and Nick Foles, the No. 2 and No. 3 quarterbacks respectively, aren’t quality NFL starters. But they are seasoned veterans who will mentor and assist Fields through those highs and lows.
Fields gave us a look inside the quarterback room and the relationship he has with Dalton during his press conference on Wednesday. It’s obvious the two respect each other and Dalton will be one of the more critical variables in Fields’ success this season.
“He just told me it was a great opportunity for me and that’d he be here for it all, for everything I needed, and he just didn’t want it to be awkward,” Fields said. “He didn’t want our relationship to change because of the situation. So I told him that was very comforting to hear from him.”
There have been many instances around the league where veteran incumbents become threatened by the arrival of a prized rookie. Remember when former Broncos quarterback Joe Flacco said it wasn’t his job to groom then-rookie Drew Lock?
"As far as a time constraint and all of that stuff, I'm not worried about developing guys or any of that,” Flacco said after Lock was drafted. “That is what it is. I hope he does it well. I don't look at that as my job. My job is to go win football games for this football team."
Not every veteran approaches these situations with the class Dalton has shown.
“Our relationship has just grown over the past few months,” Fields said of Dalton. “And it’s going to continue to grow each and every day. Nick (Foles) and Andy, they’ve both been great to me. They’ve taught me a lot and of course, I’m going to be leaning on those guys for the rest of the season, to just learn as much as I can from them.”
The last time the Bears turned to a rookie first-round pick was, ironically, in Week 5 of the 2017 season. Mitch Trubisky, the second-overall pick of the 2017 NFL Draft, replaced Mike Glennon, who general manager Ryan Pace signed as a moderately priced free agent with the vision he’d be the starting quarterback. Like Dalton, Glennon’s days as the Bears’ starter were numbered the moment Trubisky was picked. But this is where the similarities end.
Trubisky didn’t have the benefit of two veterans—one of them a Super Bowl MVP—in the quarterback meetings with him. Instead, he was replacing a career backup in Glennon. There was nothing Glennon could do to prepare Trubisky for life as a starter. Even in 2018, Trubisky was joined by Chase Daniel in the quarterback room. Sure, Daniel is a smart guy and was very familiar with Nagy’s system, but there’s more to mentoring a quarterback than just Xs and Os. That’s what Fields will get from Dalton (and Foles). Real, true veteran mentorship from two guys who’ve been there, done that.
Nagy best summarized the goals for Fields when he ended his press conference on Wednesday.
“Let him grow,” he said.
Fields, with and because of the guidance from Dalton and Foles, has a great chance of checking that box.
- Feb 07, 2023
- Feb 07, 2023