On the morning after the Bears’ first win of the 2021 season, the only questions and debate Bears fans seem interested in raged on.
Who should be the Bears’ starting quarterback right now? Does playing Justin Fields now give him the best chance to eventually succeed? And should the Bears’ main focus through the process be developing their young prodigy or winning football games?
Because when playing young QBs, those two issues usually are mutually exclusive.
There is no right or wrong answer to who should be starting right now or whether it is best for young QBs to play immediately or wait their turn.
Looking at the rare young quarterbacks who succeed, the odds overwhelmingly support those who watched first and waited their turns, but there are special exceptions, such as Ben Roethlisberger and Russell Wilson.
So do you choose the urgency of winning now or developing Fields if you can’t have both?
In case you haven’t noticed, after only two weeks of the season there are only seven undefeated teams left, and is anyone picking the Broncos, Raiders or Panthers to win a playoff game?
The NFL race this season looks as wide open as we’ve ever seen, and piling up wins early matters, just as it did for the Bears last year.
It also matters for more than just saving the jobs of coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace.
The Bears’ defense suddenly showed flashes of 2018 against the Bengals.
But that defense also is aging rapidly, and if this year is going to a big hurrah, there is every reason to believe it could be the defense’s last – and then it’s rebuilding time.
Which would you as a fan prefer?
Playing Fields and living with the potential cost in wins and losses, and then going through a rebuild that could take a year or could take 10? Or going all out to win as many games as possible this year while developing the kid but possibly at a little slower pace?
All of this of course assumes Andy Dalton and/or Nick Foles gives you a better chance to win today than Fields, and that is the only part of this pot of hypotheticals that does have a right or wrong answer, and a pretty clear one right now.
Watch the Bengals game!
Off 23 plays in two drives, Dalton produced 137 total yards, one TD, no turnovers, one sack and a 118.2 passer rating, and the offense had four conversions on five third-down attempts and a 3:34 time of possession advantage.
And it felt as if the rout might be on while he was on the field.
With Fields under center for 42 snaps, the Bears had 69 yards of total offense, two field goals, one turnover, two sacks and a 27.7 passer rating, and the offense converted 2 of 10 third downs and had a 52-second time of possession disadvantage.
The two field goal drives Fields led came after a fumble recovery at the Bengals’ 39 when the Bears marched only 29 yards on eight plays, and after the Angelo Blackson interception, where they took over at the Cincinnati 9 and went only 5 yards on four plays.
I know Allen Robinson dropped a touchdown pass.
If he doesn’t, Fields’ passer rating goes up to a paltry 70.9, and without at least three of the defense’s takeaways, including the Roquan Smith pick-six, the Bears lose.
You want to talk about Fields’ third-down scramble to seal the win?
That’s the kind of play and situation that should be in the “Fields package” that you get without him starting and makes him more of an asset while you develop him rather than a potential liability as the starter.
Nobody is arguing the Bears can’t win now with Fields. As you saw Sunday, it’s just a lot tougher putt.
But if you are arguing that Fields gives the Bears a better or even equal chance to win than the veterans today, then you’re either blind or just debating for the sake of the argument.
The problem there is there are 50 other players and an awful lot of fans who care a lot more about winning than who the quarterback is.
• Hub Arkush is a Shaw Media correspondent.