Emma's Tailgater: It's time for Bears to unveil a Justin Fields offense


(670 The Score) Finally, Bears coach Matt Nagy seems to get it.

After five months of preaching patience for rookie quarterback Justin Fields and more recently standing behind the team's intention for Fields to develop as a second-stringer, Nagy could no longer ignore the obvious. It was time.

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In naming Fields the Bears’ permanent starting quarterback Wednesday, Nagy pointed to how he proved his readiness at every step along the way. Until Wednesday, the Bears had stood by veteran Andy Dalton as their starting quarterback – through every question from reporters, through every cheer and jeer from fans at Soldier Field. Now as the Bears have committed to Fields, it's crucial that they build their offense around him.

Nagy's biggest fault during his Chicago tenure has been his failure to scheme around his quarterback's strengths, whether that was Mitchell Trubisky, Nick Foles or even Fields in his first NFL start on Sept. 26.

The reality is that Nagy won’t be the Bears’ head coach in 2022 if this team doesn’t showcase significant progress with Fields this season. That should be plenty of incentive for Nagy to cater the entire offense around Fields' dynamic talents – and to set aside his own stubbornness, which has been a weakness too often.

Nagy took a step in the right direction by relinquishing play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Bill Lazor in the Bears' 24-14 win against the Lions on Sunday, when they posted 373 yards of offense, including 188 on the ground. In his first game as the play-caller in 2021, Lazor dialed up 39 registered runs and 18 passes. He intended to use the running game to set up opportunities in the air, and the Bears succeeded while believing they took a step toward establishing an offensive identity.

With Fields set as the starter, the Bears can fully design their offense around his dual-threat abilities. That means more frequently incorporating moving pockets, run-pass options (RPOs) and designed runs to unleash Fields’ 4.4 speed on opposing defenses. A complementary backfield – with or without top running back David Montgomery, who's expected to miss at least four weeks with a knee sprain – and creative receiving routes will create chances for Fields.

Nagy previously worked alongside Chiefs coach Andy Reid, who built a scheme that helped Patrick Mahomes become the best quarterback in the NFL. Nagy can also look toward Baltimore and see how the Ravens and offensive coordinator Greg Roman adjusted their offense to take advantage of quarterback Lamar Jackson's running talents, a move that helped pave the way for him to win the MVP award in 2019. The most successful coaches know how to build around what their players -- and quarterbacks in particular -- do best.

Whatever the Bears plan to do offensively, it needs to center around what best suits the 22-year-old Fields. They've committed to him with words and now his starting role.

The last step for Nagy and the Bears is to finally support their quarterback with their game plan as well instead of just talk.

4-down territory

1) 'Freaking stud'
Nagy understands the excitement in Chicago for the start of the Fields era, but he also noted the difficulty of the situation for Dalton.

As Nagy announced Fields' promotion Wednesday, it was also clear that he struggled with informing Dalton of his demotion. Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace had backed Dalton as their starter when the Bears signed him to a one-year deal in March, after they drafted Fields at No. 11 overall in late April and again throughout training camp and early on in the regular season.

It’s hard to say whether Nagy’s admiration of Dalton played a part in him opening the season as the starter. But Nagy shared his appreciation for Dalton and made it clear the decision was more challenging than it seemed.

“One thing that he has earned from me and our coaches is a hell of a lot of respect, because that guy is a freaking stud,” Nagy said of Dalton. “I’m so glad he is on our team and I appreciate the way he understood it and the way he handled it, but he also cares immensely about this team and I appreciate that.”

2) Return of the Mack
Bears star edge rusher Khalil Mack isn't the type of person to wear his emotions on his sleeve. He takes pride in expressing himself with his play on the field rather than in a press conference.

But fellow edge rusher Robert Quinn can understand if Mack feels extra motivation in facing the Raiders, who traded him to the Bears in a blockbuster deal in September 2018.

"You get drafted somewhere, we all expect we'll be there forever, then reality sets in,” Quinn said. “It's probably more of a pride thing. I don't know who would ever trade him, but..."

3) Found the whys
As Nagy explained how the Bears reached their decision to start Fields, his mind wandered a bit and he shared a revealing comment regarding his decision to step aside as the team's offensive play-caller. After Nagy called the plays in the first three games, Lazor did so in Chicago's win against Detroit on Sunday, when the Bears amassed 373 yards of offense.

“During the game, for me it was the most connected that I’ve been to all three phases,” Nagy said. “That felt good. And then Bill (Lazor) just going out there, I must have told him like five times on the headset, ‘Just keep doing it, man. You’re rocking and rolling.’ And it was awesome.”

4) ‘Big shoes to fill'
The Bears acquired receiver and return specialist Jakeem Grant in a trade with the Dolphins this week, and upon his arrival to Halas Hall, he acknowledged that he didn’t know much about the organization.

“Honestly, nothing besides Devin Hester,” Grant said. “Just knowing that he left an absolutely great mark here being a great returner. So, I know I have some big shoes to fill.”

Quote to note
“I don’t even know if we’re going to be on this earth in the next 10-15 years. I’m just worried about today and tomorrow. Just taking it day by day.”
-- Fields responding to a question about the hopes of him becoming a franchise quarterback.

Injury report
RB David Montgomery (knee) -- The good news is that Montgomery avoided a season-ending injury, but the Bears expect their workhorse in the backfield to miss at least the next four weeks.

DL Akiem Hicks (groin) -- For the first time since 2019, Hicks and nose tackle Eddie Goldman were on the field together Sunday. That development lasted all of one play, as Hicks immediately suffered his groin injury. It’s unclear whether Hicks' timeline for a return should be measured in days or weeks.

OLB Khalil Mack (foot/ribs) -- Mack's foot injury occurred Sept. 26. News of his ribs injury just popped up earlier this week. Mack has missed only two games in eight seasons and will do everything he can to be ready for this one.

QB Andy Dalton (left knee) -- Now that he’s healthy, Dalton will serve as the Bears’ backup quarterback behind Fields.

S Tashaun Gipson (hamstring) -- After missing the last two games, Gipson is practicing in full again and in line to return Sunday.

LB Joel Iyiegbuniwe (hamstring) -- Iyiegbuniwe will likely be out another week, leaving the Bears without a key presence on special teams.

TE J.P. Holtz (quad) -- Another important special teams player is down with Holtz suffering his injury last Sunday.

Prediction (4-0): Raiders 20, Bears 17
This one will come down to the wire and could go either way, but the Raiders pull through with a win at the Death Star.

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.

Featured Image Photo Credit: Quinn Harris/USA Today Sports