When the Chicago Bears traded up in the first round of the NFL Draft and selected quarterback Justin Fields out of The Ohio State University, Chicagoland felt cautiously optimistic that maybe they finally found the franchise quarterback that has long eluded them.
While General Manager Ryan Pace may have staved off the swirling rumors of his job being on the hot seat with the selection, head coach Matt Nagy still has every opportunity to mess things up. It’s entirely possible that he does.
Nagy was the offensive coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs in 2017, the year the Chiefs drafted Patrick Mahomes, which is notable. Mahomes sat behind incumbent starter Alex Smith for nearly the entirety of his rookie year, not seeing the field until the final game of the season. The Chiefs then decided to hand the keys to the kingdom over to their young signal-caller heading into his second year, trading Smith to Washington in the process. Mahomes burst onto the scene and became, well, Mahomes.
Fields has been nothing short of excellent in camp so far. Players and coaches have been raving about his abilities and his demeanor.
Still, Nagy is insistent on taking the patient approach with Fields, or at the very least, maintaining the illusion that patience is the plan.
Nagy was asked about Fields in an interview with Cris Collinsworth for PFF.
“And so the million-dollar question is, well, when is it gonna be? Is it gonna be in training camp? Is it gonna be in the first game of the year? Is it going to be the seventh game, the end of the year, is it next year — for us, we put together this plan, and the plan is that Andy [Dalton] is the starter,” Nagy said.
“I do have to ask this one question. Is there a possible scenario where Justin Fields plays on opening night?” Collinsworth asked.
“No. I mean, Andy is our starter. And again, I can’t predict anything — you know how it goes. There are so many things that can happen between today and that week one, but Andy is our starter, and Justin’s our number two, and we’re going to stick to this plan.”
This is what the Bears do. In fact, they’ve already tried it with a tall red-headed incumbent quarterback who stood in the way of an incoming rookie they’d just traded up to acquire. During the summer of 2017, Pace made it known that the rookie would sit.
“Glennon’s here for a reason. We evaluated him over the years. We’re very confident in him. Glennon’s our starter, and we’re confident with that,” Pace said in 2017. “This thing is going to have to play out. But Mike Glennon is our starting quarterback, and I don’t think now is the time to deal in hypotheticals going forward.”
They stuck to their guns on that one. Glennon was the starting quarterback for the first four games of the 2017 season, until they felt Trubisky was “ready” or whatever. He got his first start against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 5, completing 48 percent of his passes for 128 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. They lost 17-20.
The difference between Trubisky and Fields is that Fields is actually good. He’s been an elite prospect since high school. He’s played at the highest level of competition, and has elevated his game in the biggest moments. I can, and will, wax poetically about my adoration for Fields. What the league has shown us in recent history, however, is that rookie quarterbacks that go on to become good NFL quarterbacks have been given the opportunity to start early.
- Joe Burrow — Week 1
- Justin Herbert — Week 2
- Kyler Murray — Week 1
- Daniel Jones — Week 3
- Baker Mayfield — Week 3
- Sam Darnold — Week 1
- Josh Rosen — Week 3
- Josh Allen — Week 1
- Deshaun Watson — Week 1
Those quarterbacks have been pretty damn good — aside from Darnold, but I’m willing to give him a pass because #Jets and #AdamGase. Rosen…. Yeah, Rosen didn’t work out.
First-round quarterbacks in the last four years to not start in the first three weeks:
- Lamar Jackson — Week 10
- Dwayne Haskins — Week 9
- Tua Tagovailoa — Week 7
- Jordan Love — has not played
- Mitchell Trubisky — Week 5
- Patrick Mahomes — Week 16
Mahomes is the prime example. It also worked out well for Lamar Jackson, but he was waiting behind long-time franchise pillar and Super Bowl-winning quarterback Joe Flacco. Tagovailoa remains to be seen. Haskins and Trubisky didn’t work out, and it’s a long shot that Love hits.
It’s still early in the process. Bears fans should not be panicking about these statements quite yet. However, good quarterbacks take the starting job early. If this “patience experiment” lasts halfway through the regular season, then Chicagoland should be calling for Nagy’s head. Why drive the Honda when you have a Ferrari in the garage? There’s nothing to worry about — yet.