Hoge: Nagy declared Dalton starter when healthy — So what?

Matt Nagy
USA Today

Yes, Matt Nagy said Andy Dalton is still the Bears’ starting quarterback when he’s healthy.

So what? There’s no reason to worry about that right now.

Justin Fields is the starter this week. He’s the most important player in the organization. And if he goes out and plays well against the Cleveland Browns Sunday, then he is going to continue to start football games. It’s really as simple as that.

Also, if you listened closely, you heard plenty of wiggle room from the head coach.

“When that time comes, there’s a lot of stuff that can happen between now and then,” Nagy said. “I don’t really want to go there other than just saying when Andy is healthy, he’s our starter.”

That’s the easy — and probably smart — thing to say right now, even if it isn’t what fans want to hear. What’s the benefit to publicly naming Fields the starter for the rest of the season right now? There’s really nothing to gain by making declarations about Fields beyond this week, and here are three reasons why:

1. If Fields struggles, going back to Dalton will be easier.

I don’t think this is going to happen, but if it does, it won’t look like Fields was benched. The Bears can always say this was part of the plan and the only thing that changed was that Dalton got hurt.

Honestly, this is more important for the rookie’s mentality as no one wants to see Fields’ confidence take a hit. The good news is that confidence does not appear to be an issue for him at all.


2. Dalton hasn’t done anything to lose the job.

I completely understand the Bears being fragile about this with Dalton. He’s been in an awkward spot since the team drafted Fields and handled everything with class. The Bears owe him that same class in return. That’s not to say he can’t lose his starting job to a highly prized rookie due to injury, but that rookie should at least have to earn it on the field first.

“There’s a human element when you play sports and these relationships that we all build,” Nagy said. “When you deal with these guys every single day — not just in this building here, but outside of the building — and you get to meet their families and you get to know who they are as a person and you build that trust, it’s not just Andy. There are other guys too. But his situation, that’s real. You feel for him. But you also know how he’s going to react, which is what he’s doing, which is being a true pro and being very supportive. Andy understands our situation. He knows about the plan. And now we’ll just see where it goes moving forward.”

You hear that? Another indication that the plan could change.

3. Coaches really do operate day-to-day and sometimes even hour-to-hour.

It sounds cliché, but Nagy is honed in on beating the Browns this week and making sure he puts Fields in the best position to succeed. He doesn’t need to worry about anything beyond that.

You show some empathy towards Dalton and then you start to prepare for this week’s opponent. And then Monday, after the Browns game, you regroup and reassess the situation based on Dalton’s health and how Fields plays in Cleveland.

Bone bruises can be tricky. No one really knows how Dalton’s knee is going to feel next week. And heck, anyone — including Fields — can get hurt at any time. So again, why make declarations beyond this week?

The bottom line is that Fields is the Bears’ starting quarterback this week. Everyone in the organization can’t wait to see him play and wants him to do well.

And if he does, he’ll most likely be the starter next week against the Lions too.