By: Alex Patt
Happy 4th of July weekend! You know what that means? We are a few weeks away from Bears Training Camp! It felt like just yesterday when the Chicago Bears traded up to take Justin Fields in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Now that we have had OTAs and mandatory minicamp, the players will be preparing to report to Training Camp on July 27.
Since the dawn of time, man has asked the same question every year:
“How will the Chicago Bears QB situation shape up this season?”
This year, that question comes with a bit more excitement from Bears fans knowing Fields is on the team. However there is also some frustration among fans, as Fields is not seen as “QB1” yet in the eyes of coaches and management. That honor currently belongs to veteran Andy Dalton, whom the Bears brought in via free agency this offseason. The Bears also have Nick Foles on the team, at least for now, and will make a guaranteed $4 million this year and is a $6,666,666 cap hit.
Here is a breakdown of each quarterback on the team and their current projected position on the depth chart:
QB1: Andy Dalton
2020 with the Cowboys: 11 games – 64.9% completion, 2,170 yards, 197 Y/G, 14 TD, 8 INT, 87.3 Passer Rating, 5 AV (Approximate Value)
Career: 144 games – 62.2% completion, 33,764 yards, 234.5 Y/G, 126 TD, 86 INT, 87.5 Passer Rating, 104 AV
Overview and highlights:
Dalton was the longtime starter for the Cincinnati Bengals from 2011 – 2019, while spending 2020 as the backup in Dallas. He started nine games in Dallas after Dak Prescott got hurt. Dalton is a three-time Pro Bowler (2011, 2014, 2016), has eclipsed the 4,000 yard mark twice (2013, 2016) and threw over 30 touchdown passes in 2013. In terms of regular season, the guy has had a good career overall. The big dark spot on his resume is his 0-4 playoff record. While he has helped carry his team to the playoffs five times (2015 he was injured and did not start the playoff game against Pittsburgh), the numbers in January are pretty ugly. It includes 1 touchdown vs. 6 picks and a 57.8 Passer Rating.
Right now the Bears are looking at him as QB1 for week one against the Rams. Dalton has not played at a Pro Bowl level in several years now and the 33-year old is probably not going to play at that level again. When it looked like he was the solution for 2021, Bears fans rioted. Now that Fields is in the picture, the situation feels better. Having Andy Dalton in the room while grooming Fields could be a good thing, just not sure Dalton will contribute much in terms of wins in 2021. Tough schedule and an older quarterback past his prime? Eh…. But, hope for the best because right now I do not think Pace or Nagy will budge with their QB1 decision.
QB2: Justin Fields
2020 at Ohio State: 8 games – 70.2% completion, 2,100 yards, 22 TD, 6 INT, 175.6 Rating
College Career: 68.4% completion, 5,701 yards, 67 TD, 9 INT, 178.8 Rating
Overview and highlights:
One of the big prospects to come out of the draft, a lot of people are high on Fields. His skill-set, athleticism and work-ethic have impressed scouts and coaches throughout his college career. The scouting report from ninetynineyards.com says he has, “All the tools”. He has a strong arm that is very accurate, has speed, and is a “natural playmaker”. His abilities help allow him to be a “duel threat” quarterback, using mobility and athleticism to use his legs and keep defenders second guessing. Fields has also been praised for his composure under presser, something that sounds like a breath of fresh air to Bears fans.
All is this sounds good, right? Look further into his college accomplishments.
In 2019, after transferring from Georgia to Ohio State, he helped lead his team to a Big Ten Championship victory, was named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year and named on the All-Big Ten Conference Team. He finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting. In 2020 he brought another Big Ten Championship trophy back to Ohio State, defeated Clemson with a six-touchdown, 385 yard performance before making it to the National Championship game. Fields and Ohio State ended up losing to Alabama in the Championship, but it was still another great run for Fields and the Buckeyes. He was once again named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year and to the All-Big Ten Conference Team.
Fields is the future of the Chicago Bears. The sky is the limit. Can the “QB Curse” FINALLY be broken? Let us hope. Even if he is not QB1, if I was a betting man I would absolutely bet we will at least see him play at some point in 2021. Be smart with developing him, but also let him get his feet wet.
QB3: Nick Foles
2020 with the Bears: 9 games – 64.7% completion, 1,852 yards, 10 TD, 8 INT, 205.8 Y/G, 80.8 Passer Rating, 3 AV.
Career: 67 games – 62.3% completion, 13,753 yards, 81 TD, 43 INT, 205.3 Y/G, 87.1 Passer Rating, 35 AV.
Overview and highlights:
This man has had one of the oddest careers of any NFL quarterback in recent history. Foles has seen both massive struggles, and epic triumphs. In 2013 with the Eagles he was named to the Pro Bowl. That year he threw for 27 touchdowns and only two picks in 13 games and was league leader in Passer Rating (119.2) among qualifiers. His greatest accomplishment to date includes taking over for starter Carson Wentz in Philly in 2017 and leading the team to a Super Bowl victory. Foles was named Super Bowl MVP for his 373 yard, three touchdown pass and touchdown catch on the “Philly Special”, effort. The man has more playoff wins since 2017 than the Bears do over the past 20 years.
Foles has also had major struggles in his career. He was benched in Jacksonville after signing a multi-year deal prior to the 2018 season, the year after he won his Super Bowl. After Mitch Trubisky struggled in 2019, Ryan Pace went out and traded for Foles in a desperate attempt to find a solution. Foles did not repeat any 2013 or 2017 Philly magic, nor did he click with Matt Nagy (who had prior connections together under Andy Reid) as some had hoped in 2020. He came in for Trubisky in Week 3, and then got benched again after Week 10.
Question remains, will he be here much longer? The Bears have reportedly tried unloading him, but so far they have not been able to. He is making a lot of money and is currently a very expensive third-string quarterback. Can he help the room as a leader/mentor? Sure I guess, but that is one expensive leader/mentor. Nothing personal against Foles but the Bears should try everyway possible to unload that contract onto some rebuilding team that needs a veteran quarterback. If not, then he will be their third option behind center.
Looking to Training Camp.
OTAs were impressive for Justin Fields, and there is a possibility that he can outshine both Dalton and Foles by a lot in camp. So if that is indeed the case, does/should that change how the QB1 spot is filled out before Week 1?
There are so many different things to consider when thinking about this. What is best for Justin Fields and his development? How can the Bears both develop Fields and try to win with what time is left with their current defense? Should Fields just play if he wants to learn? So many questions to ask. I, like most Bears fans, want to see the team win this year, as well as make sure Fields can develop successfully.
As it stands right now, a few weeks before camp, I see both perspectives on what to do with Fields. If letting him play and learning while on the field is best for him, so be it it. Let him play. If sitting behind Dalton to start feels like the best approach, I will not be overly upset with that either. Not sure if starting Dalton is best for the team winning, but more than anything I want to see Fields develop properly to set up years of winning with a good quarterback.
I am of the opinion that management cannot 100% declare Dalton QB1 before seeing what happens in camp first. Want to lean towards him being QB1? Fine. Just wait to see how camp plays out before making that final decision. If Dalton plays well and Fields plays well, then Dalton is probably Week 1 starter. This is a situation where the veteran is going to get the upper hand if the results are close. If Fields plays well, but shows signs of needing to learn, then make a decision based off that. If Fields plays great and Dalton struggles mightily…then Bears brass might just have to tell the kid he is the starter.
Preseason is going to be exciting. In Training Camp and preseason games at Soldier Field, the fans are going to stand and cheer when Fields puts on a helmet and lines up under center. Every throw is going to see bulbs and phones flashing all around him, followed by loud cheers for every completion. Preseason is what it is…preseason…but the hope is that it shows us what could possibly be coming in the near future.