Lake Forest, IL.– It’s been just over a week since the 2021 regular season ended for the Chicago Bears and as the 2022 offseason begins, it’s clear that 2021 was filled with ups and downs at the quarterback position. The Bears cycled through three starting quarterbacks–Andy Dalton, Justin Fields, and Nick Foles–in a season where QB play defined the regular season.
As the page turns to 2022, let’s recap what the Bears taught us in 2021 in terms of the QB position.
1) Let’s go all the back to April 29th, the night the Bears drafted Justin Fields. Chicago moved up 11 spots in the first round, sending a 2022 first-rounder to the New York Giants for the opportunity to move up and draft Fields. When Chicago pulled the trigger on Fields, the 2021 season and ensuing three seasons became meaningful all of a sudden. Just four years after missing on Mitchell Trubisky, the Bears had more hope than ever.
2) Ex-HC Matt Nagy wanted to use 2021 as a way to implement the “Mahomes Model,” having veteran Andy Dalton start the entire regular season while Fields watched from the bench. Instead, Dalton was injured in week 2, leading to Fields being thrust into action. Nagy’s plan didn’t succeed and his biggest flaw was shown: While Fields was Nagy’s hand-picked quarterback, Nagy was never ready to be the man in charge of developing Fields.
3) There needs to be some serious credit given to Nick Foles, who started just one game in 2021. Despite being labeled as a third-string quarterback for a majority of the season, Foles’ willingness to be vocal in meetings meant challenging Nagy’s philosophy and approach. This alone showcases why Foles was such a valuable piece for the Bears quarterback room.
4) Chemistry with the wide receiver position is always crucial for the QB position and the Bears did Fields a complete disservice by not giving him extended time to practice with the first team throughout training camp. When looking at the WR position, the goal should’ve been to maximize Fields’ time with Darnell Mooney and Allen Robinson. Instead, the trio that could’ve formed the offensive foundation of the future for the Bears was forced to build chemistry on the fly, leading to below-average results.
5) Throughout the season, there were debates regarding whether or not Justin Fields was the answer for the Bears at QB. It’s too early to get a read on whether or not Fields is the Bears’ true answer at quarterback but the 11th overall pick did showcase enough potential to warrant being labeled the answer.
What does 2022 hold for the Bears at QB?
Chicago needs to make 2022 the offseason of Justin Fields. That starts with hiring the right head coach and general manager who can build around Fields. That means getting Fields a starting-caliber Center to anchor the middle of the offensive line while reinvesting in the starting quarterback position.
For the Bears, making a commitment to investing in Fields while continuing his development means being active in free agency and the NFL Draft, prioritizing the offense at the expense of the defense. However, with just five draft picks but ample cap space, the Bears will need to be smart, figuring out a way to maximize the second year of Fields rookie contract.