LAKE FOREST – Perhaps the shortest odds, but best bet you can find in sports right now is that Justin Fields will be the Bears’ opening day starter a year from now in 2022.
I don’t know if it’s the second-best wager out there, but you will get similarly short odds betting that Fields won’t be the Week 1 starter this year. He probably will earn his first start or be on the field at some point this year, but as we’ve already discussed, debated and litigated at nauseam, when that will occur remains a mystery.
If Andy Dalton or Nick Foles are just shuffling along, but the team is winning – or if one or both of them is playing lights out – the Bears will take their time with Fields. But if the club is already out of the chase by Week 4 or 5, and the vet QBs are showing nothing, we may see Fields relatively early.
So this Bears season is, in many respects, all about the quarterbacks. Right now, that means it’s all about Dalton and Foles, not Fields. That reality raises an interesting question.
Since there is nothing in either of the veterans’ resumes that makes one a clear choice over the other, why was the starting job – which looks so crucial to the job security of the general manager, head coach and so many veterans – just handed to Dalton? Why not have a competition, much like Foles and Mitch Trubisky did last season?
It’s not a question Matt Nagy seems anxious to answer.
“Nick has his story here with us and what he’s done,” Nagy said Saturday. “Andy has his story being at different teams. He [Dalton] has a prior relationship with [offensive coordinator Bill Lazor], obviously. When you go through your discussions in free agency, you go through your discussions with Nick on how last year went, and then all the sudden you go into drafting a quarterback like Justin, the dynamics of the situation in the room are fluid, they change.
“The only answer I can say to you is that things are always fluid, things are moving, and it just is what it is.”
While their careers have followed different paths, Foles’ league-leading passing campaign in 2013 and his Super Bowl LII MVP after the 2017 season certainly land him in Dalton’s category, if not a notch above.
I asked Nagy if the disappointment of last season put a thumb on the scale against Foles?
“Well, I think yeah, I would say, just overall [Foles’ performance] the whole year,” Nagy said. “And then when you bring a guy in like Andy, as coaches, we’ve got to go back, and you’ve got to watch all the film, and you’ve got to see where you’re at at that position, which we did, right?
“We were up front with Nick even before Justin came into the picture, so he understood that and it didn’t mean that Nick wasn’t going to compete and do everything he could to beat out Andy, and vice versa. So that’s just kind of how it goes, and that’s what we’re rolling with.”
Could it be as simple as they just thought Foles would make the fewest waves?
“I would say probably 95% of people in his situation would handle it completely opposite of the way he’s handled it from the time I told him that he was the third-string quarterback,” Nagy said. “He told me that right now, he’s in the best shape physically and mentally that he’s been in his career. Honestly, that was shocking to me, because you never know where a guy’s going to come into the summer or after the summer, and he’s done everything in his power. It’s been really neat, and he’s been great for Justin and Andy.”
Or could it be that all of the highlights on Foles’ resume have occurred after he came off the bench as a backup?
One thing we haven’t gotten from Nagy yet is if Dalton were to struggle or suffer an injury early in the season, but the team is still contending, who will ride in on the white horse?
Will it be the No. 2 Fields? Or Foles, who already has parlayed that situation into a Super Bowl?