October 19, 2021

Hub Arkush: Will Justin Fields’ first NFL start be beginning of new era?

From the moment the Bears drafted Justin Fields there has never been a question of whether or not he would be the starting quarterback. Just when and why.

Even that tiny bit of drama was excised Wednesday when head coach Matt Nagy made an unexpected appearance in the media room at Halas Hall to reiterate that when healthy Andy Dalton is his starting quarterback, but Dalton will not be healthy by this weekend and Fields will get his first start Sunday in Cleveland.

It has been clear from the jump that Dalton’s veteran experience, along with an ill-advised promise, more than his talent was how he held Fields off until now.

Based on that logic it remains a mystery how Dalton can be such a strong choice over Fields, but Nick Foles, the other veteran QB on the roster, isn’t even a consideration?

That, however, says more about the multiple curiosities surrounding Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace than anything else.

While Nagy is only doing this now because Dalton is hurt, does he think the rookie’s ready?

“Well, we’ll see. We’ll see how ready he is and I think that’s part of the evaluation process,” Nagy said Wednesday. “But I will say this to his credit: he’s gone above and beyond to show us what he’s about—about his preparation, about his work ethic, about his care, about his ability on the football field.

“He’s past where I thought he was going to be. He knows it’s not going to be perfect, but he wants to try to make it as close to perfect as he can.”

Even more importantly, does Fields think he’s ready?

“I think I’m ready, I’ve been preparing for this moment for a long time,” Fields said Wednesday.

The most impressive things about Fields obviously are his special arm talent and unique athleticism and speed for the position.

But a close second is his maturity, poise and the way the rookie has fit in and commanded respect from the veterans around him.

Consider how he feels about getting the job due to Dalton’s injury.

“Of course it sucks for it to happen like this,” Fields said. “But I believe everything happens for reason, so we might not know what that reason is now, but I guess we’ll find out as time goes on.”

Beyond giving him the right plays at the right time, what will Nagy do to help Fields with his first major test?

“I think the biggest thing we can help him with is the distraction part, making sure you take care of what you need to take care of, keep him insulated and that’s what we’ll do and then go out and learn,” Nagy said. “In Cleveland, loud crowd, great football team, really good defense, on the road, it’s gonna be a great challenge for all of us.”

What does Nagy think are the most important things for Fields to accomplish to make it a real challenge giving the job back to Dalton?

“The speed of the game slowing down so that he can see what’s going on at that second level,” Nagy said. “With the front seven, your eyes can start going down to the defensive line, the linebackers and not to the wide receivers.

“But the biggest thing is for him, really, just to be able to get in and out of that huddle, be able to try to see the different coverages and (the) defense’s third level as much as he can.”

As calm and stoic as Fields almost always appears, deep down what does this moment mean to him?

“Of course, if you told me seven, eight years ago that I’d be in this position, I probably wouldn’t believe you, but I think, as time went along, I got more comfortable,” he said. “I guess my goals kind of got bigger and bigger.

“Around this time last year, I had an idea that I could be in this position right now, so actually seeing myself in this position, being able to get the start on Sunday, it’s amazing.”

No matter how firmly Nagy states his position that Dalton is still the starter, many believe he’s started his last game for the Bears.

But the way this tale has unwound to date, I’d say it’s wiser to wait and see what happens in Cleveland before being forced to make that bet.

Hub Arkush

Hub Arkush

Hub Arkush is a Bears/NFL Insider for Shaw Media