In what seems like a never-ending story for one of the NFL's original franchises, the quarterback position is once again the top storyline as the Chicago Bears get ready for training camp for the 2021 season. But this time, things are slightly different. Instead of worrying about who will start under center, the question is how long before the future begins at this position.
Andy Dalton was signed to be the starter in the early weeks of free agency, Justin Fields was drafted to be the future, while Nick Foles is the only remaining signal-caller that was on the roster last year. Choosing a starter this year won't be as complex as 2020, but it's a responsibility that still weighs heavily on the franchise.
Head coach Matt Nagy is definitely under the microscope in 2021, as this could be the last opportunity for him and/or general manager Ryan Pace to prove that they can get the Bears back to being a legitimate contender. Whether or not that happens will largely hinge on quarterback play. Here are the signal-callers currently on the roster.
Given the number of other quarterbacks that either changed teams due to a trade or free agency or were reportedly available, Bears fans made their displeasure known o social media when the team agreed to a one-year, $10 million deal with Dalton. The starter throughout his nine seasons with Cincinnati, Dalton entered last season as Dak Prescott's backup in Dallas. Dalton took over after Prescott suffered a season-ending ankle injury, going 4-5 in nine starts while throwing for 2,170 yards with 14 touchdowns and eight interceptions on the season (11 total games).
For his career, Dalton has completed 62 percent of his passes for 33,764 yards, 218 touchdowns, and 126 interceptions. A three-time Pro Bowler, Dalton is 74-66-2 as a starter and led the Bengals to the playoffs on four different occasions (0-4 in the postseason). Dalton isn't young (turns 34 in October) and he hasn't had a winning season 2015 as his last four Cincinnati teams (2016-19) went 20-35-1. Dalton's production also has decreased. Last season, he averaged fewer than 200 passing yards per game with the Cowboys and his passer rating was just 87.3.
Bears fans also took issue with the fact that Matt Nagy named Dalton the starter as soon as he was signed, pretty much signaling the team had already moved on from Nick Foles. Now this declaration came before the draft, so Dalton no doubt understands that he's not the one everyone wants to see under center. But unless Nagy changes his mind, the starting job will belong to Dalton so he should get his opportunity to try and win over the fan base.
Related: NFL Quarterback Rankings for 2021
The thinking is that it's a matter of when, not if, Fields will see the field this season. The Bears traded up to draft the Ohio State standout 11th overall in April and it's clear that he's the future face of the franchise. The fans want the future to start right away so they can watch the dynamic dual-threat who totaled 5,701 passing yards, 1,133 rushing yards, accounted for 86 touchdowns in his collegiate career. Fields also won plenty of games, including a pair of Big Ten championships in his two seasons at Ohio State, which ended with an appearance in the national title game. But Fields seems on board with the team's plan, which is for him to develop and learn while serving as Dalton's backup. That does mean that the fans will go along with it, especially if Fields outplays Dalton in the preseason.
There's no guarantee that Foles will still be on the roster come Week 1, especially since he's getting paid $4 million this season to essentially be the third-string quarterback. Foles replaced Mitchell Trubisky as the starter in Week 4 but he had his struggles as well, going 2-5 as the starter. Foles didn't have the impact on the Bears' offense that many were expecting, but he shouldn’t be made a scapegoat for the unit's lack of production either. Foles has started for five different teams in his career and he's most known for helping Philadelphia win Super Bowl LII after Carson Wentz tore his ACL. With Chicago clearly focused on Fields as the future at the position, Foles could find himself on a new team before the start of the season or at some point during it due to a trade or if the Bears choose to go in a different direction for the No. 3 spot on the depth chart. Until then, Foles' veteran leadership and knowledge of Nagy's offense should only benefit Fields and Dalton.