Justin Fields will start his first game for the Chicago Bears this week. Not because Matt Nagy decided it would be smart to let the future franchise quarterback get his feet wet as a rookie, nor because the No. 11 pick in the draft outplayed the starter. No, this is a circumstance borne from chance. Andy Dalton, Nagy's guy, somehow suffered a bone bruise while running out of bounds last Sunday and will miss at least this week while healing. That leaves Fields as the next man up.
The end result is what Bears fans and most of the general public wanted, but the path to get there is ripe for criticism. As Nagy has hammered home over the course of the week, it's not a permanent arrangement, either. He told reporters both himself and via Bears PR that Dalton is the starter when he's healthy. Taking Nagy at his word, it doesn't matter if Fields throws for hundreds of yards and multiple touchdowns on Sunday. The job is only his until Dalton is ready to go.
It is a matter of much frustration for those who believe in Fields and/or believe in getting young quarterbacks snaps early and often. Damien Woody expressed his utter frustration and bafflement to the Get Up analysts this morning and made salient points.
Perhaps the most salient is Woody's exclamations about the presence of Nick Foles, who has become an entirely forgotten man in the quarterback room. If Fields really isn't ready, as Nagy continually preaches, why is he starting on Sunday and not Foles? Nagy has never said out loud that Dalton is performing better than Fields, merely that Fields needs time to acclimate and Dalton gives them the best chance to win every week.
Of course, Nagy is never going to just say the prized rookie isn't as good as Andy Dalton. That wouldn't do wonders for his confidence and such candidness is not status quo for NFL coaches. But the whole thing makes you wonder about Nagy and his handling of quarterbacks. Whether it's throwing Mitchell Trubisky under the bus or getting Foles upset after the signing of Dalton or the Fields situation, there's always something going on with Nagy and Bears QBs. So far, whatever that something tends to be has been detrimental to the pursuit of winning.
I'm sure Nagy would re-evaluate everything if Fields played out of his mind. But if Fields leaves any sliver of doubt about his candidacy for the starting spot, Nagy's track record suggests he is not going to make the right decision.