When the Bears drafted Justin Fields, it became immediately clear that he would not start Week 1. The team set goals for Fields to work on, like learning how to call plays in the huddle, and he achieved those goals. Then, the team wanted to see him string impressive practices together, and he managed to string impressive practices together. They wanted to see Fields succeed in live game settings, and he did that too. Practically everything the team has laid in front of Fields, he’s cleared. Beyond that, there have been things that the Bears brass have continued to learn about Fields now that they have him in the building and are working with him day in and day out.
“We obviously knew about the arm talent, the athleticism, the work ethic, all of those things,” Ryan Pace said. “But when you get him out there in an NFL environment, he stays calm in the moment. I think his heart rate stays low, he processes fast. He goes through progressions. I think you feel like you see a lot of young quarterbacks who kind of stare down an intended target— you see him working through his progressions, which I think is really good to see from a young quarterback.”
But given all of that, nothing has changed with how the Bears are approaching the quarterback non-competition.
“For us to move up and take him where we did, you know how we feel about him,” Pace said. “I think he's exactly what we thought he was gonna be. He's exactly what we hoped he would be. And I don't think it changes our plan at all. I know the fans are excited and we're excited, too.”
In case you’re just tuning in this summer and are unfamiliar with the Bears’ plan for the quarterback position, Pace laid it out pretty clearly on Wednesday.
“Our plan is Andy’s our starter and we’re rolling with that,” Pace said. “I don’t think anything’s deviated from that as we’ve gone forward.”
You may ask, “Why not deviate from the plan? After all, Fields has looked great this preseason, and certainly appears capable of running an NFL offense. Pace, you yourself just said he has been exactly what you hoped he’d be when you drafted him? So why not unleash him?”
According to Pace, that is because Fields’ play isn’t the only factor in the plan.
“It starts with how we feel about Andy, and we’re very confident in him and where he’s at,” Pace said. “So there’s no need for us to rush Justin.
“It’d be different if we didn’t feel that way. We feel like Andy’s in a good spot, too. We’re confident in Andy. There’s a lot of things with Andy— I know we’ve talked about it before— but his experience, he’s won a lot of games in this league, his decision-making, his intangibles, his leadership, all the things that he’s doing, there’s so many veteran players that have come up to me and have made comments about Andy Dalton and what he’s doing— in practices, in the locker room, in the huddle. All those little things that I think we’re gonna see pay off as we get into the season.
“It’s more about Andy right now. We’re excited about Justin. I’m more excited than anybody. But we’re just gonna let this thing play out.”
Further, Pace says there are still things for Fields to learn— things that he hasn’t encountered yet, simply because the team is only now transitioning from training camp to a regular season routine.
“The weekly preparation, seeing NFL defenses in the regular season, and all those things,” Pace said. “I just think the more time he has to learn that and observe that, the better off for him.”
This has always been the plan, and clearly the Bears don’t believe they should speed up the process, regardless of Fields’ development.
“Our goal all along guys has been to win games with Andy and look over on that other field and see, 'Hey look at this guy right here, look at the future of the franchise we have right here.' That's the goal and we haven't changed from that.
“We believe we can win games with Andy, and then grow Justin at the right rate.”