If there’s one phrase to describe the NFL, it’s copycat. One successful method ends up being used by other NFL franchises in hopes of emulating any sort of success. Such is the case for the Chicago Bears this offseason after overhauling the quarterback room with the additions of Andy Dalton and Justin Fields.
Head coach Matt Nagy, who was with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2017, will be responsible for overseeing the development of Fields. Nagy did the exact same five years ago with Alex Smith and Patrick Mahomes, leading to speculation that Chicago could implement the same method for Fields development in 2021.
Before we get into actually examining if the Bears will be successful with the Mahomes model, there are few points to note. First, Mahomes started the final game of his rookie season, sitting on the bench for 15 games. Smith had 26 touchdowns to just five interceptions that year. Second, the Chiefs 2017 roster was more stable compared to the Bears. There may have been holes but the Chiefs boasted the sixth-best scoring offense and the 15th best defense that year.
The hope for Chicago is that Dalton plays well enough as a rookie quarterback to hold off Fields long enough. With a 17 game schedule coming up, Dalton has a tough task ahead, especially since any sort of slip up could entice Nagy to immediately play Fields.
“At that point in time, in 17, Alex was, there was a lot of reps he was getting,” Nagy said via the Bears official Youtube channel. “So a lot of times right now for these players, in particular Justin, there’s a lot of mental reps. Really what happens is this: You get the mental side down in the offseason, you’re able to come out here on the grass and see what the timings like.”
Fans may call for Fields to be the week one starter but Nagy and the Bears have continued to persist that it’ll be Dalton. The goal for Fields in year one isn’t just to get physical reps but also mental reps. Nagy knows the benefit of mental reps for a young quarterback, especially considering Mahomes spent 15 games on the bench as a rookie, continuing to watch, getting mental reps each week.
Chicago may not be able to emulate the Mahomes model entirely to its specificity but similarities will exist. The last time Chicago had a rookie quarterback, the franchise rushed Mitchell Trubisky into action out of desperation but with Fields, the plan is to bring him along slowly, emulating the Mahomes model.