By most measures, the 2020 season was a success for the Chicago Bears. The team started out hot, waned in the middle, and surged at the finish. The team went 8-8 and earned a playoff berth, where the Bears lost to the New Orleans Saints. Mitch Trubisky, once the second overall pick, went 6-3 as a starter, guiding the Bears to that playoff berth.
Trubisky’s future was far from certain, even as the Bears qualified for the post-season. Trubisky threw for 10,609 yards and 64 TDs in four seasons, going 29-21 as a starter and making the post-season twice. But he never felt like a great fit with the Bears, especially with coach Matt Nagy. So, the Bears let Trubisky walk this off-season, and he signed a one-year deal with the Buffalo Bills to back up Josh Allen.
The Bears, meanwhile, were left with what to do at quarterback. Enter Andy Dalton.
The Red Rifle
Dalton was no stranger to being let go by the team that drafted him. He had a long career in Cincinnati, but ultimately the Bengals opted to take Joe Burrow with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 draft. That ended Dalton’s career in Cincinnati. Dalton played for nine years with the Bengals, going 70-61-2 as a starter, including posting a winning record and leading his team to the playoffs his first five seasons. He finished with 31,594 yards and 204 TDs.
Then Dalton found his own soft spot to land, signing a one-year deal with the Dallas Cowboys to serve as backup quarterback to Dak Prescott. Dak got hurt, and Dalton started nine games for the Cowboys, going 4-5 in that span. He threw for 2,170 yards and 14 TDs, but the Cowboys missed the playoffs. At the end of the season, it was time to move on again.
Dalton landed in Chicago, signing a one-year deal worth $10 million. Despite the presence of veteran Nick Foles on the roster, optimism was high with Dalton walking into a starting position. Even Bears’ Twitter was bullish on the signing, posting a picture of Dalton with the caption QB1 on March 24. It seemed Dalton would be the one to try and guide Nagy’s offense back to the playoffs in 2021. Then came the 2021 NFL Draft.
Draft Day Trade
The first round of the NFL Draft, which aired on April 29, featured plenty of twists. One of the biggest was seeing Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields slide. When he dropped to pick No. 11, the Bears made a trade to move up and snagged the signal-caller. Fields instantly became the future franchise quarterback for the Chicago Bears, and for a good reason.
Fields began his college career at Georgia, transferring to Ohio State for the 2019 season. During that season, he threw for 3,723 yards and 41 TDs. In 2020, in just eight games, he threw for 2,100 yards and 22 TDs. That included a great National Semi-Final game against Clemson, where Fields threw for 385 yards and six TDs with only one INT in a duel with Trevor Lawrence. Fields vaulted up the ranks in the run-up to the draft, with many analysts listing him as the No. 2 quarterback prospect, I included. Now, the Bears have a logjam at quarterback in 2021.
Who is the QB1?
Despite the early optimism of Bears’ Twitter, Dalton is no longer the clear-cut QB1. The team has three high-profile quarterbacks on the roster, including two with starting and playoff experience. The Bears are rumored to be shopping Foles, but it’s no lock they find a taker at this point. The Bears may head into camp with Foles, Dalton, and Fields all on the roster. So, who ends up as the starting quarterback?
It won’t be Foles. While the Bears brought him in as veteran competition in 2020 and turned the team over to him early on when Trubisky appeared to struggle, Foles wasn’t the answer. He went just 2-5 in seven starts, throwing for 1,852 yards and 10 TDs. The team brought in Dalton and drafted Fields indicating they weren’t happy with what they saw last season.
So, it comes down to Fields and Dalton. If you’re a dynasty player, Fields is the guy you want. He’s going in the first half of the first round in Superflex drafts for a reason. But if you’re looking at the 2021 season alone, Dalton can’t be ruled out. He’s a veteran with experience that has been successful before.
Nagy is on the hot seat and needs to show some improvement with the Bears, and Dalton could well give the team the best stability to start the season. Nagy will certainly want to win with his guy, especially now that he has one in Fields. Fields is a great talent, and a first-round pick isn’t likely to be kept off the field. I expect to see him in 2021.
A month ago, Dalton was a trendy pick-up, a veteran that looked like he’d be a starter in 2021. Now, that outlook is murky. The most likely scenario is that even if Dalton starts at the outset of 2021, Fields becomes the guy at some point. In other words, if you’re counting on Dalton to fill a hole in your lineup in 2021, I’d start making alternate plans.
Matthew Fox is a die-hard NFL fan and a Broncos homer. You can find more from him on the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast or on Twitter @knighthawk7734.