One thing's for certain -- the Bears won't be 8-8 again

  • Bears coach Matt Nagy is among the few who knows when quarterback Andy Dalton will pass the torch to Justin Fields.

    Bears coach Matt Nagy is among the few who knows when quarterback Andy Dalton will pass the torch to Justin Fields. Associated Press

Updated 9/3/2021 1:30 PM

Pick one. The Bears are (a) rebuilding (b) rearranging (c) repeating.

A case can be made for all three, I guess, but common sense and history lean toward (c).


The Bears are assured of not repeating at 8-8 this season because there is a 17th game, the reason we have this vacant weekend between the phony and the real, so anything on either side of breaking even will count the same.

I say 8-9 or 7-10 and no wild card game, but good enough to count as marking time and good enough to save the jobs of those who will be given a chance to do the same again.

The Bears will be the Bears, as they have been for the last 35 years or so, inadequate and incomplete. How was it Jim Croce put it, a jigsaw puzzle with a couple of pieces gone?

One of those pieces has always been the quarterback, a cursed position on the Bears, no matter the front office, the head coach or the Green Bay Packers. Well, maybe the Packers more so because, searching through the same pile, the Bears' storied rival seems to find Hall of Famers at the position, while the Bears find the odd Trubisky or the leftover Cutler.

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Ah, but now a brighter future appears, although unclear exactly when, in the form of Justin Fields, a young man of infinite promise and unconfirmed accomplishment.

Off his exhibition (excuse me, preseason) appearances, Fields looks less like a savior than an apprentice, which is what he is minus the breathless impatience for him to (a) start instead of Andy Dalton and (b) to play better than what he has. (I love parentheses.)

What comes to mind are two plays, a touchdown pass to tight end opportunist Jesper Horsted, (more Horsted's big play than Fields') and a run for a touchdown by Fields himself. Now, if the Bears are going to rely on Fields running out of the pocket or his receivers making better plays than himself, the Bears could have stuck with Mitch Trubisky.

The plan (the Bears always have a plan) is to play Fields when he is ready. How will the

Bears know when that is? They will know he is ready when (a) Dalton gets hurt or (b) when Dalton stinks. Losing won't be enough to move Fields off the bench because the Bears will lose no matter who the quarterback is. The Bears win with defense and running the football. Always have. Always will.


The defense looks like that jigsaw puzzle mentioned earlier (and the offensive line is worse), so Fields would have to be as good as, well, as good as Dalton was as a rookie.

Yes, Dalton himself was once a franchise savior, (the Red Rifle they called him then). He started as a rookie for the Bengals, took them to the playoffs five years in a row and then drifted into irrelevance, taking on whoever would have him. That would be Dallas and now the Bears, in each case as a place holder for someone better. (Or at least younger.)

There is no reliable formula for passing the torch (in the Bears' case more like passing the candle) but here when all things are possible and will be possible until Fields proves they aren't, consider that Tom Brady did not start for the Patriots until the third game of his second year.

Likewise, it took Joe Montana a year and a half to start. John Unitas, in a different era, was cut as a rookie and missed an entire season before getting a chance to start two seasons later for Baltimore.

Immediate success does happen. Maybe the greatest example is the Steelers Ben Roethlisberger, who started the third game of his rookie season and three Super Bowls and 17 years later is still there.

Dan Marino waited five games before starting for the Dolphins, John Elway started as a rookie, was relieved in each of his first two games and later benched, Peyton Manning ... well, Manning has always been blessed.

The Bears have no stories like these. (Nor quarterbacks like these either.) Jim McMahon started as a rookie and made the most of guts and guile until he was battered into modesty. Will Fields join the myths or the regrets?

The field's (no pun intended) wide open.

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