Chicago Bears’ head coach Matt Nagy announced on Wednesday that Justin Fields will be the team’s starting quarterback moving forward.
“I told you the last couple weeks we’ve had some good conversations internally, and it’s helped us in the last couple weeks. Continuing that process this week it’s led to making the decision to move with Justin as the starter,” Nagy stated. “We’ve been patient with this, we’ve grown with him, and we’re proud of Justin. He’s been a great teammate from the very beginning.”
The announcement came as a surprise to Bears fans given Nagy’s statements earlier in the week. On Monday following the Bears’ 24-14 win over the Lions, Nagy emphasized Dalton would return as starter if healthy.
Obviously conversations have been had since then, leading Nagy to sway his decision over the last 48 hours.
Fields came onto the scene as a starter quicker than expected following Dalton’s injury against the Bengals. The rookie has struggled at times in the early going but has also shown loads of talent and potential. He certainly adds some explosiveness at the position that Dalton doesn’t necessarily offer.
Last week Fields completed a beautiful pass to Darnell Mooney for 64 yards. That’s the longest play by far for the Bears on the season. Montgomery’s 41-yard run in week one being the second.
Through roughly two and a half games, Fields has completed 25 of 52 attempts (48.1%) for 347 yards and two interceptions. He’s also ran for a touchdown and totaled 55 yards on the ground. Those numbers clearly aren’t jumping off the page at anybody right now. However, there’s more to this decision that go beyond the stat sheet for Nagy and his staff.
Thank You Bill Lazor
With offensive coordinator Bill Lazor taking the reigns as play caller, I personally believe he had a pretty big push in this decision.
Throughout Nagy’s press conference Wednesday, he gave credit to Lazor numerous times for helping through this entire procedure. Another emphasis from Nagy was the continuous communication and that no single coach makes any decision without support from the rest of the staff.
“I think Coach Lazor has done an amazing job at really helping to get this process going,” Nagy explained. “Just the whole thing in general, he makes my job as a head coach a heck of a lot easier and that I appreciate. It’s been awesome.”
As much as I believe in Fields’ being the starter, I believe even more strongly in Lazor taking over as the play caller.
Whether you put Fields, Dalton, or even Foles back there – Lazor needs to call plays. Dating back to last year, the offense has been more successful under Lazor given the small sample size. In his first game as play caller this year, the Bears’ offense scored more touchdowns in the first three quarters than they did the three games prior.
What To Expect
With David Montgomery expected to miss the next 4-5 weeks with a sprained knee, Chicago will need to look elsewhere in the run game. Montgomery is currently fifth in the NFL in rushing yards (309) with three touchdowns. Without his production, who knows where the Bears would be entering week five.
Backup Damien Williams who was also banged up last week is still expected to play Sunday in Vegas. Williams has been solid on limited carries (16), averaging 4.6 YPC and finding the end zone once.
Although we haven’t seen Fields use his feet a ton so far with Chicago that could change. He was very efficient in college when running the ball both on designed and broken plays.
Fields ran for 867 yards, averaging 4.0 YPC, and scored 15 touchdowns in his two seasons at Ohio State.
I’d expect him to be utilized more in that area as Lazor begins expanding the playbook and adjusts as the play caller. Fields being a threat with his feet is definitely something the Bears should use to their advantage, especially with Montgomery out.
And lastly, as we saw against Detroit, expect plenty of designed roll outs and deep shots through the air. Fields saw a majority of his success in these two scenarios on his way to his first career win. With Lazor calling plays, that shouldn’t change. Completing 11 passes last Sunday, Fields averaged 19.0 yards per completion and was successful on 64.7% of his attempts.
It’s tough to not feel bad for Dalton in this situation, especially when he didn’t do anything wrong. If Fields is successful this year, Dalton will surely deserve some credit for his adaptiveness and being a mentor. If nothing else, he deserves credit just for how he’s handled this entire situation.
The future is here Bears fans. Hold on to your seats.