(670 The Score) A quick confession: Justin Fields is more exciting than Andy Dalton. It's not even really that much of a knock against Dalton, who I think would be better over 17 games than either Mitchell Trubisky or Nick Foles ever was last year. It's just that Fields is, you know, a uniquely dynamic and exciting quarterback prospect. Fields' leadership has already impressed coaches and teammates. He throws a gorgeous deep ball and always seems to have a different, very cool hat for every public appearance. He's the future of the Chicago Bears.
Another quick confession: At 29, I don’t often find myself advocating to rush into the future before I am physically forced to by the "passing" of "time." The future can stay right where it is. It's a mantra that only sort of works for me but definitely shouldn't work the Bears, who have an undeniably more exciting future, ready when they are, ahead of them when Fields takes over at quarterback. For the time being, however, they've seemed plenty comfortable signaling that they're happy right here in the present, running the offense with Dalton. If nothing else, it's relatable.
Unfortunately for Dalton, everybody knows better. It's hard to blame him for believing he'd be the starter back when general manager Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy told him he would be the starter (and offered him $10 million). But the NFL is, as they say, a business, and sometimes in the NFL Justin Fields falls to No. 11. When exactly he'll take over is this summer’s question du jour, and recently Nagy tip-toed around the answer on a podcast with Cris Collinsworth of Pro Football Focus.
“No. I mean Andy is our starter,” Nagy told Collinsworth. “Again, I can't predict anything. You know how it goes. There's so many things that can happen between today and Week 1. But Andy is our starter and Justin is our No. 2 and we're going to stick to this plan."
That quote screams Nagy in the same way that the quote screams every other coach in the NFL, because it doesn’t actually give a real answer about anything. The arrows are always pointing up, the vibes always good, etc. The best part about the quote is that Nagy starts with a clear, definitive answer and then proceeds to immediately walk it back, which seems like the real theme of Dalton's time in Chicago so far. The worst part about the quote is that Twitter got a hold of it. For the first time in Twitter's history, a quote morphed into a story that only vaguely resembled its origin, in the process creating an avalanche of misguided takes born from misunderstood context. It's my most used app. It didn’t take long for the quote tweets to show up, each angrier than the last, all demanding that Nagy be court-martialed for not even entertaining the idea of starting Fields from the top.
Here's where I politely ask you to reconsider getting mad about this. You don’t need to spend the summer with high blood pressure. It was a coach’s non-answer on a podcast in June. “The Plan,” however truthful it may be, has always been sold as something similar to what Nagy and Chiefs coach Andy Reid did with quarterbacks Alex Smith and Pat Mahomes in 2017. But unlike Mahomes, I don’t think anyone expects Fields’ first start to come in Week 16 ... or Week 10 ... or even Week 5. For optics’ sake though, that's still the plan. It’s a sensible, political answer that’s par for the course in June. Mike Glennon and Trubisky were QB1s too, and receiver Allen Robinson’s contract extension was a slam dunk last summer. The funny thing about plans in the NFL is that getting a job depends on having a good one and keeping a job means changing it.
If someone ever called me up and offered $10 million -- if you're out there, don't be shy! -- I’d be willing to bet a decent amount of it on Fields starting more games in 2021 than Dalton. Pace and Nagy didn’t draft their job-saving quarterback of the future just to still end up consulting for Nick Saban, all because they waited until December to play Fields. Bears fans, perhaps more than most, should understand that early summer conversations about quarterbacks don’t often mean a whole lot. There will be plenty of reasons to be mad at the Bears this year -- what do you think two-minute drives are for? -- but the formality of putting a 10-year veteran above a rookie on the depth chart doesn't have to be one of them.
Cam Ellis is a writer for 670 The Score and Audacy Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KingsleyEllis.