Word salad has been the cuisine of choice for Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy this offseason.
While Nagy has been clear about a few things — he declared Andy Dalton the starter immediately after the team signed him in March, for example — he has also been partaking in verbal gymnastics whenever he discusses his team’s current situation at quarterback.
After moving up to draft rookie Justin Fields in the draft, the Bears coach has said from the beginning that the plan for Fields is to sit him behind Dalton and follow the model Kansas City used with Patrick Mahomes and Alex Smith back in 2017. Nagy has yet to acknowledge that Dalton is nowhere near as good now as Smith was that year, and the Bears aren’t as capable overall as a team, though — both of which seem like glaring omissions by the coach.
His recent comments about his team’s quarterbacks are the latest in a series of verbal dances that ultimately, we can’t fault him for. Let’s break it all down.
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Dalton is Our Starter…I Can’t Predict Anything
Nagy spoke to Cris Collinsworth on the analyst’s June 15 podcast about the Bears’ current quarterback situation, and he declared Dalton the starter over Fields immediately before kinda-sorta walking that back. But not really.
“Andy is our starter,” Nagy said, adding: “I can’t predict anything. You know how it goes, there’s so many things that could happen between today and that Week 1. But Andy is our starter and Justin’s our No. 2, and we’re going to stick to this plan.”
Gotcha. Then, when Marc Silverman of ESPN Chicago’s Waddle & Silvy referenced Collinsworth’s podcast asked Nagy if any promises were made to Dalton about the quarterback job, Nagy had some revealing comments.
“Promises can get pretty crazy,” Nagy said.
“What we told Andy is that he’s our starter,” the Bears coach continued. “There were no promises but we told him and I specifically told him, ‘You’re our starter.’ You know? … They know their roles and now it’s their job to be able to be the best quarterback they can be. … That being said, does that mean that these guys aren’t competing? Absolutely not. They’re competing. They wanna be the best and they wouldn’t want each other to be any different. That’s the answer.”
Nagy has already declared Dalton the starter, and he can’t go back on that publicly — at least not until Fields has had some time to show without a doubt he’s ready to take the reins. Thus, we shouldn’t focus too much on what Nagy says, because time is a factor. If Fields is ready, he’ll get his opportunity.
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Nagy Says Fields Can’t Win Starting Job…Or Can He?
Silverstein also asked Nagy if it was 100% assured that Justin Fields couldn’t win the starting position this fall
“Clarification that he can’t win it? Yes, correct. Andy Dalton is our starter,” Nagy said. “Justin is our No. 2 and Nick is our No. 3 and we’re gonna play that out and make sure that they’re all competing and that’s as simple as that.”
It seems key Nagy keeps bringing things back to the importance of competition. Fields should see a ton of action in the team’s three preseason games, and how well he performs in them seems key to how soon we see him.
The bottom line here is that it’s probably a waste of time getting bent out of shape worrying about when Justin Fields is going to play. Sure, Nagy is being mind-numbingly old school in his refusal to conduct an open competition, but he’s also being extremely political and all over the place verbally because he’s already made up his mind publicly. But he has also admitted his mind could be changed.
In May on The Rich Eisen Show, Nagy also acknowledged Fields could start if the rookie ultimately outshines the Red Rifle. “Whoever that quarterback is — if they’re better for the Bears and that’s Justin, then we’ll do that,” Nagy said just last month.
Right now, it’s looking like Fields will sit behind Dalton until he is 100% comfortable running Nagy’s offense — and whenever that happens, Nagy says he’ll be ready to make the move. Time will tell if he means it.