There is no quarterback controversy in Chicago. Bears coach Matt Nagy recently made that clear when he said that — barring an injury or an unforeseen circumstance — Andy Dalton will be his starter when the Bears face the Rams in Week 1.
That means that rookie Justin Fields will begin his career as a backup. And while he surely wants to play, Fields said he will embrace whatever role he is asked to execute.
“If I don’t believe in it, it’s not going to work out,” Fields said on Thursday, via ESPN’s Jeff Dickerson. “My job is strictly [to] get better and be the best quarterback I can be and hope my team wins. That’s what I’m going to do whether it’s starting, whether it’s sitting, I’m going to do whatever is going to help us win.”
Upon signing with the Bears in free agency, Dalton said that one of the main reasons why he signed with Chicago was the assurance that he would be the team’s starting quarterback. After signing on to be Dak Prescott’s backup for the 2021 season, Dalton was determined to land a starting job after leading the Bengals to five consecutive postseason berths from 2011-15.
Instead of being standoffish toward his young teammate, Dalton has become a mentor for Fields, who was 12 years old when Dalton made his NFL debut.
“He’s talked to me a lot,” Fields said of Dalton, who played well in relief of Prescott during his only season with the Cowboys. “I actually went to dinner with him and his wife. I mean, Andy and Nick, they’ve been awesome, probably bigger than you guys even know. Andy has just completely taken me under his wing. Any question that I have for him, he’s going to answer, even when I’m throwing. I think there was one day after OTAs, I was throwing extra after practice and he stayed out there specifically to see maybe what I was doing wrong. He was just trying to help me out.
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“I’ve been in a situation like this before, and all I did was get better. So I feel like you can control what you can control and come to work every day with a positive attitude and a want to get better, then there’s no stopping you. I think when that time comes, when I do get my opportunity, then I just would like to be ready for that moment.”
Dalton being named the starter does not appear to be any type of indictment on Fields, as Nagy has offered glowing reviews of his young quarterback during the Bears’ spring practices. Specifically, Nagy has touted Fields’ deep throws and his competitiveness.
“(Fields) has that mentality of rip your heart out,” Nagy said, via Adam Jahns of The Athletic. “And so there were a couple of plays in there — and not just (one specific day) but other days — where these quarterbacks are staying aggressive.”
Fields has also shown the ability to make the necessary — and correct — pre-snap adjustments. Nagy praised Fields’ quick understanding of the Bears’ personnel and offensive formations.
“What he does is he sits back there with (QB coach John DeFilippo) when Andy is running the show,” Nagy said. “He’s back there repeating every word and he’s flipping it and he’s going through in his mind how to call the play — like he’s in the huddle.”
Fields’ competitive spirit was on full display during his final season in Columbus. After the Big Ten initially ruled to cancel the season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Fields started a petition that played a significant role in the conference ultimately having a season. Fields then helped lead Ohio State to an undefeated regular season, a Big Ten title, and a Sugar Bowl victory over rival Clemson. Despite suffering an injury to his midsection, Fields stayed in the game and threw six touchdown passes, an Ohio State bowl game record. All told, Fields went 22 of 28 for 385 yards while leading the Buckeyes to a 49-28 win.
“Justin is a great quarterback,” former Buckeye and current 49ers rookie Trey Sermon recently told CBS Sports. “He is versatile. He is accurate. He can make things out of nothing. He is a great leader as well. I don’t know why people are down on him. He is just a great player. He has battled through adversity as well; getting hurt, coming back, completing passes, throwing touchdowns and making plays to help the team succeed.”
After having to wait his turn in college (Fields started his college career at Georgia before transferring to Ohio State), Fields will begin his NFL career as a backup. That being said, there’s there’s no telling when Chicago fans will get their first glimpse of Fields under center in a regular-season game.
“I know that for everybody, the biggest question, is ‘when is that going to happen?'” Nagy said earlier this spring. “When you move up to draft a quarterback like Justin, everyone’s very excited and they want to know when, when, when, and trust me, we all understand that, but we need to make sure that whatever that plan is that we put together, that it’s the best thing for the Chicago Bears.”