Should Justin Fields be the Bears opening day starter at quarterback?

  • Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields throws against Michigan in the first half of an NCAA college football game in Ann Arbor, Mich., Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019.

    Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields throws against Michigan in the first half of an NCAA college football game in Ann Arbor, Mich., Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019.

 
 
Updated 5/10/2021 11:21 AM

We spent months leading up to the draft with many worried that the Bears wouldn't find their franchise quarterback.

And then they did.

 

We'll see if they got it right.

That effort has spawned the next big debate: When should Justin Fields be given the keys to the car?

It is intriguing because so many have apparently forgotten the biggest controversy of all that preceded the chatter about finding a new set of hands under center was should Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy be fired the day after the 2020 season ended?

Once it was clear that wasn't gong to happen, the next mantra became "the only way they can keep their jobs is by winning right now!"

It appears those same folks now propagating the idea Fields should be -- has to be -- the Week 1 starter. Consequences be damned.

The problem is those two ideas -- Pace and Nagy have to win right now and Fields has to start immediately -- could be mutually exclusive.

To say today without prequalification that Fields should start opening day is, frankly, pretty dumb.

But it might not be wrong.

It has been proven in the NFL a thousand times the surest way to screw up what is the most promising lead the Bears have had in years is to put Fields on the field too soon.

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I have no issue with him starting the opener if he's ready to compete and gives his team the best chance to win. But since he has yet to meet his teammates, stepped on a practice field, learned any of the playbook or terminology, had a single practice or thrown a single pass, how can that possibly be today?

It was interesting hearing an interview with Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule on the "Rich Eisen Show" when he said in answer to why the Panthers passed on Fields, "I love those guys (Fields and Mac Jones), and I think that they're going to be great NFL players."

Then he added a but: "The hit rate on first-round quarterbacks isn't real high."

It isn't hard to count the number of first-round QBs who have failed because they weren't given enough time to get ready. Nagy made it clear the Bears will have a plan to make the right decision.

"The biggest thing we've taken into this thing is there will be a plan with Justin and with Andy (Dalton) and with Nick (Foles) and with just how we go about this," Nagy said. "I have had a bunch of discussions and talked through scenarios, and as everybody has talked about, I went through that in 2017 (with Patrick Mahomes).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"So is it going to be the same thing? I don't know. But at least we have some type of blueprint to work off of."

That blueprint was to have Mahomes sit for a year and learn behind Alex Smith, because the Chiefs were trying to "win now."

Tom Brady and Drew Brees each waited a full year for first starts and Aaron Rodgers waited three.

Troy Aikman and Peyton Manning started right away and struggled through awful seasons before building Hall of Fame careers, while Ben Roethlisberger and Russell Wilson started almost immediately and took their teams to the playoffs as rookies.

History pretty overwhelmingly says QBs have a much better shot at success by watching and learning first, but there are rare exceptions and reasons to believe Fields can be one.

History also tells us even though he's nowhere near as talented as Fields, Dalton's 142 career starts to Fields' none give the Bears a better chance to "win now" by playing Dalton until he gives the Bears a reason not to, and Pace and Nagy have been clear he is the starter now.

Then, of course, there's the assumption Pace and Nagy do want to do all they can to keep their jobs.

It seems almost certain Dalton will be the Bears' opening-day starter, and there is far more to argue it's the right call than there is to suggest it isn't.

• Twitter: @Hub_Arkush

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