Despite all the hope and optimism that came with the Chicago Bears’ selection of quarterback Justin Fields, head coach Matt Nagy has remained steadfast that the team is going into the 2021 season with veteran Andy Dalton as the starting QB.
It’s a situation supported by Bears general manager Ryan Pace, who on Wednesday offered his encouragement for Dalton leading the way and underlined the belief in developing Fields.
“I just feel like we’re just in a good position with Andy,” Pace said, via the team website’s Larry Mayer. “It starts with how we feel about Andy, and we’re very confident in him and where he’s at. So, there’s no need for us to rush Justin.”
On the heels of back-to-back 8-8 campaigns, many believe Nagy and Pace need to be in a rush to produce winning seasons to ensure they’ll be back for the 2022 season. By then, it’s all together likely Dalton, who signed a one-year pact with Chicago, could be on to his fourth team in four seasons and Fields will have taken the reins without question.
“Playing quarterback in the NFL, there’s so much that goes into that and so much different than you’d even see in the preseason — the weekly preparation, seeing NFL defenses in the regular season and all those things,” Pace said. “I just think the more time he has to learn that and observe that, the better off for him.”
In today’s NFL, fans and media alike are ready and raring to see rookie QBs start from the onset, as Fields’ first-round draft mates Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson and Mac Jones are set to do.
For now, though, Dalton, a three-time Pro Bowler with the Bengals, will be the man for the Bears’ season opener against the L.A. Rams, while Fields will continue to impress with all his many attributes and give Bears fans the promise of tomorrow while the Red Rifle leads the charge for today.
“We’re confident in Andy,” Pace said. “There’s a lot of things with Andy: his experience — he’s won a lot of games in this league — his decision-making, his intangibles, his leadership. There’s so many veteran players that have come up to me and made comments about Andy Dalton and what he’s doing in practices, in the locker room, in the huddle; all those little things that I think we’re going to see pay off as we get into the season.”
While Pace praises Dalton’s veteran intangibles, he likewise praised Fields’ similar intangibles, while giving a nod to Fields’ dynamic talents but stating they knew those were part of the package for the Ohio State product.
“We obviously knew about the arm talent, the athleticism, the work ethic, all those things,” Pace said. “But when you get him out there in an NFL environment, he stays calm in the moment. His heart rate stays low, he processes fast. He goes through progressions.
“I think you feel like you see a lot of young quarterbacks who kind of stare down an intended target. [But] you see him working through his progressions which I think is really good to see from a young quarterback.”
More than a week out from the Bears’ opener, there is no rush for Fields to hit the field, by Pace’s account.
Perhaps the Week 1 outcome will determine if Pace and the Bears make more haste with their rookie QB thereafter.
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