If Matt Nagy had his way, Andy Dalton would’ve remained the Bears’ starting quarterback earlier this season, according to a new report. Per Hub Arkush, the call to name Justin Fields the starter for Week 5 and beyond came from team chairman George McCaskey, and the order went against Nagy’s wishes as head coach.
There’s a lot to unpack from Arkush’s story. First, there’s the obvious revelation that Nagy believed either Dalton still gave the Bears the best chance to win, having Fields sit was best for his development, or both. Then there’s the assertion that McCaskey had inserted himself into football operations, despite him publicly saying he leaves football decisions up to his football staff. Making Fields the permanent starter appears to have been the right decision in retrospect. He’s shown growth and has clearly worked through rookie mistakes. The idea is it’s better to get all of that out of the way now, in a lost season, so that he can hit the ground running in 2022. But the way in which the Bears reached that decision doesn’t look great from an outsiders’ perspective.
It’s also the second report involving McCaskey to surface on Wednesday. Dan Pompei reported that McCaskey met with Bears players and coaches to deny Tuesday’s report that Nagy would be fired after their Thanksgiving game against the Lions.
Nagy infamously named Dalton the team’s starter before the draft, then doubled down on that at the outset of training camp. He ruled out any chance of Fields winning the job over the summer, drawing criticism from media and fans alike.
Dalton started the first two games of the season, but exited midway through Week 2 with an injury, forcing Fields into the starting lineup. But Nagy maintained that when healthy, Dalton was the starter.
Here was Nagy on the Monday before Week 5’s game against the Raiders:
“Like we said this whole time, when Andy’s healthy, when he’s healthy, he’s our starter. He’s the 1. Justin’s the 2. Nick’s the 3.”
But on Wednesday of that week Dalton came off the injury report and returned to practice. And Nagy changed his tune:
“We’ve had some good conversations internally. It’s helped us in the last couple weeks. Continuing that process this week it’s led to making the decision to move with Justin as the starter. You know we’ve been patient with this. We’ve grown with him. We’re proud of Justin.”
From that moment forward, it was Fields’ team. But a ribs injury knocked him out of Week 11’s game against the Ravens. Now it will be Dalton leading the team again, on Thanksgiving.