LAKE FOREST – As cliche as it may sound, you could say the move which Matt Nagy made official on Wednesday was a bit of an “audible.”
All season long, the head coach maintained that Andy Dalton would be the Bears’ starting quarterback if he was healthy, with first round pick Justin Fields remaining the backup.
But even with Dalton returning after missing the last two games with a bone bruise in his knee, Nagy made the announcement at his news conference that Fields would be the Bears’ starting quarterback moving forward.
For many, it was a welcome and perhaps surprising change since the head coach said on Monday that he still was looking at the veteran as the starter if he was healthy. That included the Bears’ new permanent starter.
“I would say I was a little bit surprised but not really crazy surprised but definitely a little bit of surprise,” said Fields of the news he’d be the starter moving forward, which he was told on Tuesday. “But I think he was pretty straight-forward with me and Andy and I think my teammates believe in me so I’m just grateful for the opportunity and just try to get ready to work.”
He’ll do so now without having to look over his shoulder as he’ll take over the duties full time as the Bears visit the Raiders this Sunday. It’s a moment that many have been looking forward to outside of the team since the moment the Bears traded up to draft Fields in April, even though the franchise insisted Dalton would get every opportunity to keep the job.
So did the rookie envision this happening at some point this season?
“I think so, yeah,” said Fields when asked if he believed that he would be named the fulltime starter this season. “I think that was goal before the season started.”
Now that he’s got it, the work begins as he takes full control of the offense after a roller coaster start to the 2021 season. The Bears lost to the Rams then beat the Bengals, then were crushed by the Browns before a rebound against the Lions at home on Sunday.
That contest was enough to convince Nagy that Fields had made enough progress to keep the job fulltime, directing the offense on four scoring drives including two to start the game. He was 11-of-17 through the air for 209 yards with Bill Lazor handling the play calls in easily his best effort of his four games so far.
But getting the job full-time isn’t exactly cause for a major celebration for Fields, who chose a more subdued way of acknowledging the moment on Tuesday.
“My parents were actually at my house last night, I told them, and they wanted to go out to celebrate, and I told them ‘Nah, I’m cool, because I’m trying to win this weekend,'” said Fields. “Of course, there is some reason to celebrate, but I’m not just going to be complacent with where I’m at. I’m going to continue to grow and continue to get better and just try to work hard each and every day to get wins on Sundays.”
So how did he celebrate?
“I was just at home with my dog Uno watching film last night,” said Fields, who will be doing so as they starter from now on in 2021.