Fallacy #1. The Soft Landing Spot
Where did this premise come from?
“No, Jeff, you can’t start Justin Fields in the opener because the opener is against the Rams on the road. And the Rams are very good.”
It’s not the landing spot that is soft. It is this mode of thinking from fans and media. What kind of a message would that send to the kid? “Hey Justin, we think you’re ready to be our quarterback but we’re going to wait until the bad teams. We don’t think you’re ready for the good ones yet.”
Rookie quarterbacks struggle. Aaron Rodgers was a mechanical nightmare. John Elway tried to take a snap from his guard. Terry Bradshaw got benched. Troy Aikman went 0-11. Peyton Manning threw 28 picks. Josh Allen looked like he was destined for the CFL.
You’re not going to prevent a rookie quarterback from struggling by cherry-picking his opponents. The Lions are just as capable as the Rams of showing Fields a coverage disguise he hasn’t seen before. Rookie quarterbacks struggle. And that’s okay.
Fallacy #2. The Unhealthy Offensive Line
Deshaun Watson has been one of the most productive quarterbacks in the league the last three seasons. In those three seasons he was sacked 62, 44 and 49 times. He’s had one thousand-yard rusher. The only thing that’s made Houston’s rushing attack seem productive is Watson himself. His team mortgaged their entire future to attain…an offensive lineman.
Russell Wilson has been complaining about his offensive line, and rightfully so, for five years. Josh Allen is often running for his life (and making plays on the run) in Buffalo. They were two of the five best quarterbacks in the league last year.
Because they’re great. And the great ones produce. The great ones make the players around them better. And if the Bears are going to wait for their offensive line to be at full strength before handing the reins over to Fields, there’s no telling how long that wait might be. This is the NFL. People are injured constantly.
If Fields is the guy, make him the guy. Let him learn how to throw it away under pressure. Let him learn when to take off with his legs and when to sit in the pocket and absorb contact. Let him learn how to release the football quickly when the offensive line is struggling to stay healthy.
The Bears need to see the imperfections of this situation not as impediments to development, but as teaching tools.
Fallacy #3. The Veteran’s Summer Performance
Nothing Andy Dalton does this summer should have ANY influence on the team’s decision at quarterback.
Dalton is what he is. He’s slightly better than mediocre. He’ll make some terrific plays. He’ll make some bad plays. He’ll make 4-5 plays a season that will leave fans wondering if there’s a brain in his head. If he stays healthy, it’s likely Dalton will win a game or two more than he loses. He is what he has been for a decade. And that’s what he’ll be in Chicago.
But this can’t be about Dalton. Making this decision about Dalton is football malpractice. This is about Fields. It’s all about Fields. What he does, and only what he does, should dictate the decisions. If he displays the ability to execute the fundamentals required to play the position, he should play the position day one. Dalton could look like the second coming of Dan Marino in practice sessions but who cares?
If Dalton starts, every pick he throws at Soldier Field will lead to chants for Fields.
If Dalton starts, every loss will force Chicago sports radio hosts to open their shows with “Is it time for Fields”?
If Dalton starts, because the Bears are impressed with Dalton’s summer, it will be short-sighted, misguided and yet another example of an organization mismanaging the most important position in team sports.
Because the only reason to start Dalton is because Fields is incapable of doing the job. And there’s no one around this team currently who believes that to be the case.