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Despite Andy Dalton injury, Justin Fields is not ready for the spotlight

When Chicago Bears quarterback Andy Dalton left Week 2 with a knee injury, anticipation built for the Justin Fields era to begin. Dalton’s injury is relatively minor, with the veteran quarterback only ruled out for Week 3, seemingly giving Fields an opportunity to give Chicago’s fans everything they desire.

On the surface, it would be apropos to allocate Fields the starting slot. But there are valid reasons why Matt Nagy isn’t backing down from Dalton as the starter when healthy.

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Destined for failure again in Chicago?

NFL: Chicago Bears at New York Giants
Nov 20, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (90) and defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins (95) sack Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (6) in the fourth quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

A quarterback controversy has swirled over Chicago’s historic football franchise for decades. Unequivocal potential from Kordell Stewart to Jay Cutler has spoiled much sooner than expected. For the first time in ages, Chicago seemingly made an intuitive draft choice by moving up for Fields.

From the get-go, Chicago has lauded the rookie’s NFL potential and covets him to start over Dalton and Nick Foles.

Fields arrived from a very pass-happy offense at Ohio State which made his career easy. Fields’ college success isn’t being deemed fortuitous. He has major upside thanks to his arm strength, mobility, and decision-making. On the other hand, college football, Big Ten football for that matter, is not the pros.

Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers, and Tom Brady all sat their first seasons in the league. It’s fair to acknowledge Rodgers learned under Brett Favre, but it still took him to digest the game on his own account.

All rookie quarterbacks who start are not destined for failure. There have been plenty of examples of rookies who hit the ground running (Russell Wilson, Matt Ryan, and Andrew Luck).

Keeping Justin Fields confident

Justin Fields NFL: Chicago Bears at Los Angeles Rams
Sep 12, 2021; Inglewood, California, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields (1) is defended by Los Angeles Rams outside linebacker Leonard Floyd (54) on a 3-yard touchdown run in the second half at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

In NFL history, 98 rookie quarterbacks have started at least 10 games:

  • Only eight have won 10 or more of those games. In that same sample, there were 22 quarterbacks with 10 or more defeats.
  • To tie this up, there are only 14 rookie quarterbacks in league history to win eight or more games.

Confidence is one of the most underrated traits when it comes to quarterback development. Winning under pressure, decision-making and building tangibles are all rooted in resiliency and confidence.

If the Windy City wants to see Fields under center for an illustrious, championship-caliber career, the franchise has got to handle the rookie with care. However long Fields is starting in Dalton’s absence, this is an abbreviated way for him to become familiar with the pace of the NFL.

To be clear, all quarterbacks have to learn at some point. Furthermore, experience is predicated on playing time during games with real stakes, not just preseason and practice.

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Reserved and measured, not ludicrous

Syndication: Journal Sentinel
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers nurses a sore arm after the game, walking off the field following the Packers’ 30-21 loss to Tampa Bay on Sunday, Sept. 28, 2008, at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. Pack29 21 Ofx Wood

At some point, this will be Justin Fields’ team. Fields received the nod at Cleveland – to unfavorable results – and perhaps will be starting in Week 4 against NFC North rival Detroit.

The Lions are not world-beaters by any stretch of the imagination, but they will help gauge Fields’ ability to play on the road against a division opponent.

Chicago entered the 2021 season with the third-toughest schedule:

  • Road games include at Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Las Vegas and Seattle.
  • The tests do not ease up at home with Chicago playing host to Arizona, San Francisco and Baltimore.
  • Keep in mind, the Bears still play Green Bay and Minnesota twice. Also, Detroit may be winless, but anything is possible with Jared Goff under center surrounded with a solid running game and reputable receivers.

All in all, the Bears should sprinkle playing time for Fields throughout 2021, including running special packages and plays attuned to his capabilities. But to have him play the next 16 weeks against some of the NFL’s best is plain ludicrous.