The time has come.
Coach Nagy has announced that Justin Fields will be our starter going forward.
– Chicago Bear (@ChicagoBears) October 6, 2021
For months, Chicago Bears fans were force-fed a schedule in which Andy Dalton remained the Bears’ starting QB. It would come regardless of what might have happened. No competition. Virtually no rep shared with those in the practice, if at all. Full delegation to be the QB Scout team. That was all that was previously planned for young Justin Fields.
This plan lasted every game and a quarter of the 2021 regular season.
The offense was out of date against the Rams. Passing play was limited between games for the Rams and Bengals. Passes continued to be thrown on or short of sticks instead of pass sticks. Andy Dalton, a seasoned (11) year old veteran, was playing his game at QB. Safe, efficient and unspectacular.
Then he suffered a knee injury (bone bruise), and his status was immediately questioned to move forward. Justin Fields became the full-time QB in the 2nd quarter of their Week 2 game against the Bengals. The Bears will never look back from that point on.
Not once has Andy Dalton complained. The Red Rifle knew since signing his one-year contract that plans could change at any time. In the NFL, the acronym has another meaning – Not For Long. It is extremely unfortunate that an injury prematurely ended Andy Dalton’s tenure as starting QB.
Alas, that’s how life can be with the pros. And behind him was a Justin Fields. A generational talent at the post of QB Chicago trusted once the deal with the New York Giants was finalized to earn nine (9) spots and draft their QB1 franchise. It was only a matter of time before a transition at QB permanently happened.
This moment has arrived. While the transition was not planned so early, it was also not transparent.
The game against the Cleveland Browns has taken place. A historic demonstration of incompetence in attack. A catastrophic start for any rookie QB making his first career start. The one that would break most of the QBs drafted by Chicago.
Except Justin Fields. When Matt Nagy saw how his own call to the game endangered his own football team, especially his future at QB, he (quietly) handed those responsibilities over to Bill Lazor. However, this transition was unofficial and remains behind closed doors.
The wheels have been set in motion. Driven by a much more patient new approach to play calls, the Bears and Justin Fields made their second straight start against the Lions a historic moment in its own right. A historic moment… for all the right reasons.
Suddenly a truly balanced attack was born. Bill Lazor put together a game plan to showcase Justin Fields and his full player profile as QB. Challenging, multi-faceted running game has been paired with game passes designed for deep, well-timed strikes. The Bears offensive executed this plan well, with only a few minor hiccups. More importantly, Justin Fields looked and played like a legitimate starting QB.
I mean, watch that throw!
And this one!
I can’t forget this one … maybe his best throw of the day. Right in the fucking bucket.
The difference in production was evident in the field. It was even more evident with statistics and data.
According to Next Generation stats, in a game and a quarter with Andy Dalton as the starting QB, he had two (2) passes from 10 yards or more. Justin Fields, meanwhile, has nine (9) such completions in two and three quarter matches. Granted, the sample sizes are considerably small when you take a look at the numbers. It also showed Justin Fields to be much more willing and able to get past the sticks.
In that same game against the Lions, we saw Justin Fields averaging over 12 yards per attempt. This is the highest per-attempt average we’ve seen from any QB in Chicago since 2016. Here are some more stats to consider, from Quinton Krzysko.
Justin Fields now has the NFL ranks as follows:
Aerial Yds Completed: 2nd
% aggressive throw: 1st
His EPA / Play and CPOE are still the latest in the NFL due to the CLE game. But in week 4, he ranked:
EPA / set: 10th
EPA + CPOE: 8th
– Butkus Stats On Tap – Quinten Krzysko (@ButkusStats) October 4, 2021
As he will correct later, the first statistic is “aerial yards ended by attempted pass”.
On a more critical analysis, the Bears are still practically bottom of the league in most offensive categories when it comes to passing. It will happen when you score just one damn yard against the Cleveland Browns in that ill-fated Week 3 game. The amount of improvement from week three to week four was clear and present no matter who the Bears faced.
You can say “it’s just the Detroit Lions, though.” And I’m just going to tell you, “This is also the team lined up across Fields’ field.” You cannot control how good or how bad your opponents will be. Go ahead and beat whoever you’re playing with.
This is not the end of this story. Ah, far from it. There’s still a long football season to watch these Chicago Bears play. They are now entering their hardest part of the season.
Their next handful of games are:
- At The Las Vegas Raiders
- Home vs Green Bay Packers
- To the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (defending Super Bowl champions)
- Home against the San Francisco 49ers
- At the Pittsburgh Steelers
With the probable exception of one – the 49ers with Trey Lance set to make his first start soon – these teams have veteran QB starters in place. They all have frightening weapons to consider, both on offense and defense. However … what if I told you that only one of these teams makes the top ten on DVOA – the Buccaneers.
This is never a guarantee that an offense will magically rise to an adequate level once a change to QB is made permanent. It is never a guarantee that a highly authored person will one day meet the expectations that were initially set for them. It’s a chance with a risk always worth taking.
In short, the Chicago Bears are Justin Fields’ team. Until the end of his days in the Bears uniform. Matt Nagy has seen enough to realize (finally) that Justin can be better than Andy Dalton already is, and well beyond 2021.
This is where we return one last time to Andy Dalton. The great professionalism, tenacity and respect he has shown towards everyone is worthy of recognition and praise. He fully acknowledged that he had never been the QB that Bears fans wanted. Or, really, the Bears themselves – their original plan was to win a grand slam with the Seattle Seahawks and land Russell Wilson. He dressed in orange and navy anyway.
We don’t know what will happen from now on. What I will say is against popular belief that the Bears are in a much better position to win now. Yes, I firmly believe this season will go beyond development. They will win more matches than expected.
Let’s not forget that this defense can still wreak havoc and present perhaps the most productive tandem of passer between Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn. The secondary is discovered along the way and Jaylon Johnson began the first discussions as an All-Pro player. As their offense freezes and scores more points, the defense will have a higher chance of taking the rock. Free football is back in Chicago.
Speaking of their offense. Darnell Mooney finally has a QB who can hit the moon on a regular basis. Allen Robinson gets a QB that matches his talent pedigree. The O line … remains to be seen. Although he hasn’t had David Montgomery for a few weeks, maybe a month, RB’s body is deep and explosive. All it took was … a QB. And that’s who Justin Fields is.
The scene in Chicago right now can be summed up in this latest video.
Justin Fields is QB1. This is something we should all marvel at. During a very long time.