The Bears have made it pretty clear they intend for Andy Dalton to be their starting quarterback this year. That was the story when Ryan Pace announced Dalton’s free agent signing, that was the story before the draft and after the draft, and that’s the story now, with rookie minicamp and Justin Fields’ first professional practices in the rearview mirror.
The idea is to follow a similar blueprint to the one which the Chiefs followed with Patrick Mahomes and Alex Smith. Mahomes sat for most of the year learning behind the veteran QB, then finally made his first start in Week 17, after the Chiefs had already clinched a division title the week before.
The problem is, nobody’s buying it.
“I think in his heart of hearts, he knows he’s lying to you,” said Marcus Spears of Matt Nagy’s insistence that Dalton will start on “Get Up.” “At some point, Justin Fields will take over the starting position in the offseason and be the starter.
“Now that we do have an offseason, and a preseason, (Fields) will make it clear that he should be the starter going into Week 1.”
“Justin Fields will start Week 1 for the Chicago Bears,” tweeted Dan Orlovsky last week. “What’s best for Fields? Sit for some time, surely. What’s best for Matt Nagy & Ryan Pace-young QB is very good and saves your job. Reminder- what’s best for Fields isn’t what’s best for Nagy/Pace— they'll do what’s best for them.”
It’s understandable why people believe Fields will start sooner than the Bears are letting on. Usually, when a team trades up to draft a QB, that QB doesn’t spend very long on the bench. But of course, the one exception is the Chiefs, and well, their method worked out pretty well with Mahomes.
Interestingly, the 2021 Bears and 2017 Chiefs look pretty similar. Each team has enjoyed some success, but has not been able to break through in the playoffs— admittedly the Chiefs had been more successful in their previous three seasons (9-7, 11-5, 12-4; 1-2 in postseason) than the Bears have been (12-4, 8-8, 8-8; 0-2 in postseason). Each team moved up in the draft to pick a QB that slid down the board— although here the Chiefs actually traded up further, moving 17 spots vs. the Bears’ nine spots. And just like the Bears have now, the Chiefs had a reliable veteran to lead the way.
The key for Smith to keep his job, and Mahomes on the bench, however, was that he wasn’t just winning games in Kansas City, he was putting together the best season of his career. That year marked the first and only time Smith crossed 4,000 passing yards. His 26 touchdowns were a career best too, as was his 104.7 QB Rating and 1% interception rate.
So really the question is, will Dalton be able to elevate his game in the same way so that the Bears can follow the Kansas City script?