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Bears’ Justin Fields must remain starter over Andy Dalton vs Raiders

Hoge: Why Justin Fields needs to remain Bears’ starter originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

You know what you need to do, Matt Nagy.

This might not be the plan you had in mind, but it’s the best plan that has unfolded: Justin Fields needs to remain the Chicago Bears’ starting quarterback. 

Yes, the test will be tougher than it was in Sunday’s 24-14 win over the Detroit Lions, but there were enough good things to come out of the offense that changing anything big — like the new play caller or the rookie quarterback — would be silly. 

The Bears drafted Justin Fields to be the franchise quarterback and now they need to let him develop into one. He’s proven not to be overwhelmed on the field, so as long as the Bears’ coaching staff puts him in a good enough position to succeed, the best place for the rookie to be is on the field getting experience. 

“We’ll work (through) it,” Nagy said when asked about the quarterback situation next week in Las Vegas. “All we wanted to do, quite honestly, today, was, win the game, go to 2-2, and be able to talk about everything else as we go.”

As of this past week, Andy Dalton was the declared starter when healthy, but he wasn’t healthy enough to play against the Lions. 

“You guys know in regards to Andy, we’re working through what he went through this past week, so we’ll see where he’s at,” Nagy said. “Justin had to focus on today and winning this football game and getting better and I think he did both those things.”

He did do both of those things, which is why he deserves another start, regardless of Dalton’s health. 

“I can’t state enough, with Justin bouncing back from last week, what a great job for him to be able to respond to what happened, to learn, to get better,” Nagy said. “That’s what this game is all about, right? You’re a rookie quarterback in a tough environment your first start, you come back at home and you bounce back and he did that. He made great plays. He made great throws, great decision-making.”

Couple that with his immense talent, and it’s pretty obvious that starting Justin Fields is in the best interest of the franchise, both short- and long-term. He gives the Bears the best chance to beat the Raiders next week and playing him gives the Bears the best opportunity to develop the most important player in the organization.

That’s not to say it will be sunshine and rainbows in the coming weeks. The Bears play the Raiders, Packers and Buccaneers in their next three games. The Lions couldn’t have landed on the schedule at a better time, but the tests are about to get much, much tougher.

And on top of that, the Bears might not have star running back David Montgomery, who suffered a knee injury in the fourth quarter Sunday. That will only put more pressure on Fields to make plays with his arm and legs. 

The good news? Fields is built for the challenge.

“I saw Russell Wilson posted a tweet this past week saying, ‘I love adversity,’ and I truly do love that because it just brings a whole different person out of me, and in some ways I’m glad last week happened,” Fields said. 

The rookie didn’t blow anyone away with his numbers Sunday (10/17, 209 yards, 0 TD, 1INT), but they hardly told the story. Fields made good decisions and was on point with his deep passes throughout the game. And the interception came on a tipped ball.

Overall, the Bears put him in a better position to have success, installing offensive coordinator Bill Lazor as the play caller, using heavier protections to help the offensive line, and establishing the run with Montgomery first.

“You know, Bill, he’s up in the box, so his voice is always calm. That’s the one thing I like,” Fields said. “Coach (Nagy), it’s hard for him to be calm if he has to focus on the defense, focus on special teams. (Lazor’s) voice is calm. He’s up there in the box seeing the field well and he did a great job calling plays today.”

While Fields wasn’t trying to criticize Nagy as the play caller, you can at least consider that an endorsement of Lazor. 

And that’s OK. As hard as it was for Nagy to even admit after the game that he didn’t call the plays, he made a good head coaching decision in handing the duties over to Lazor. His job is to be the head coach and put the Bears in the best position to win. Sunday, he did exactly that. 

And there’s no reason to mess with success next week in Las Vegas.

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