As tempting as it may be, Chicago Bears fans should resist comparing the team’s current situation at quarterback with past examples from around the league, especially what transpired in Kansas City with Patrick Mahomes. Justin Fields is neither Mahomes, nor Mitch Trubisky. Andy Dalton neither Alex Smith, nor Mike Glennon. The situations are simply not comparable.
First, the veterans.
When Mahomes was drafted Smith had been the starting quarterback in KC for four years, leading the team to the playoffs three times. He had the locker room’s respect and knew the playbook cold. The Chiefs were HIS team, and he’d earned that. But Smith had physical limitations. Hence, Mahomes was drafted.
Glennon came to the Bears with 30 career touchdown passes to 15 interceptions. He had a career rating of 84.6 in 18 starts. He was no Smith. Dalton is more Smith, coming to Chicago with 142 starts under his belt and leading numerous playoff teams. Dalton, like Smith, has success when everything around him is perfect. But their situations are completely different. The Bears are not Dalton’s team. He’s been slightly longer than his surefire replacement, Justin Fields.
Then there are the contracts.
The Chiefs hoped Smith would play well and they could trade him for draft capital. It worked.
The Bears had hoped the same for Glennon. It did not.
No matter what Dalton does in 2021, he will be a free agent in 2022. (The Bears could, in theory, tag and trade him if he balls out, but let’s not cross that bridge until it comes.) There was significant prospective value in playing Smith and Glennon. There is little-to-none when it comes to Dalton.
Now, the future.
While we have no idea what he’ll be as a pro, Fields is certainly a more highly thought of prospect than either Trubisky or Mahomes were and he’s more pro ready than either. Unlike either of the 2017 quarterbacks, Fields will be running an offense with the Bears that is similar to what he ran at Ohio St. Trubisky and Mahomes both ran offenses stemming from the Air Raid tree in college, whereas Ohio St.’s offense was a college version of the Spread Coast offense we’ve seen around the league, mixing West Coast and Spread concepts.
By now we know the story well because Matt Nagy keeps telling it, but Mahomes didn’t know how to call a play in the huddle. We remember that Mitch Trubisky couldn’t take a snap. While a couple of fumbled snaps at OTAs – possibly blamed on the center – were a blip for Fields, everything else has seemed second nature. (And his play opened excited everyone on the field.)
Could Mahomes have played as a rookie? Probably. But we’ll never know that for sure.
Trubisky outplaying Glennon in the 2017 camp was really the blind beating the blind. Trubisky had the flash plays because he could move and throw down the field, whereas Glennon couldn’t get out of his own way. Some insist Mark Sanchez was actually the best quarterback in camp that year.
If Fields were to outplay Dalton, he would be besting a legitimate NFL quarterback. A guy who, like Smith, serves as the baseline for what a team can win with. And unlike the Mahomes/Smith dynamic, the Bears have nothing to gain by giving Dalton an extended look if they view Fields as competent and ready to play.
Like it or not, the 2021 Chicago Bears quarterback derby is unique. As tempting as it is to use past examples to try and predict how it will play out, we just have to wait and see.