The Chicago Bears quarterback saga took another bizarre turn Friday when rookie first-round pick Justin Fields told reporters that he still doesn’t know if he’s starting Sunday against the Detroit Lions.
Fields, who said he’s preparing for the Lions in the same way he prepared when he was Andy Dalton’s backup—i.e., he’ll be ready if his number is called—admitted he wants to be back on the field after Week 3’s letdown against the Cleveland Browns.
“I feel like everybody wants to be out there,” Fields said Friday. “If you’re on the team you want to be playing. If you’re a competitor, you’re going to want to be playing.”
But there’s a chance Fields won’t be playing. According to coach Matt Nagy, Dalton remains the starter if and when he’s healthy.
“Just do it,” Fields said of how he’d process going back to the bench. “It’s not hard. It’s not complicated. You just gotta do it. Things happen in life where they might not go your way, they might not happen the way you want it to but you can’t control that. So you control the things you can control, face the facts and deal with it.”
It’s unfortunate that Fields is forced to answer questions like these only four weeks into his career, but here we are. Nagy’s handling of the Bears’ quarterback situation has been unique, to say the least, and he’s cloaked the secrecy under the guise of competitive advantage.
But at some point, this charade will impact the development of Fields, who agreed that his reps with starters last Sunday and throughout the week have been important for him.
“They were very valuable,” Fields said. “This week’s practice compared to last week’s practice, I felt much more comfortable at practice just kind of getting that under my belt... Last week, you can’t get any worse than that, at least I hope not. But I’ve felt comfortable this week.”
We saw in Week 4’s Thursday night’s game between the Cincinnati Bengals and Jacksonville Jaguars what can happen for rookie quarterbacks as they continue getting comfortable with the NFL game. Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence has had a rocky start over the first three weeks this year but he looked like a more composed, in-control player against Cincinnati. He looked every bit like the guy Jacksonville thought they were getting with the first overall pick. And an argument can be made that his improved play is the result of experiencing NFL speed and NFL defenses for four games now.
The same can’t be said for Fields, who’s only attempted 35 passes this season. After last night’s game, Lawrence has attempted 142. The gap is even wider when comparing on-field reps. Lawrence has lined up for 253 snaps this year; Fields’ snap total entering Week 4 is 92.
Fields will probably get the start on Sunday considering he’s fully healthy while Dalton remains questionable with a bum knee. Nagy says health will decide, and with kickoff right around the corner, Fields is clearly ahead in the medicals.
Fields can put an end to the quarterback drama with a big performance against a Lions team that should provide him with opportunities to make plays. If he does, Bears fans will breathe a sigh of relief. They’ll be able to move on from Nagy’s migraine-inducing quarterback strategy—and move forward with Fields as the face of the franchise.