The Chicago Bears have stated rather clearly that they do not plan on Justin Fields starting this season if all things go right. That is completely fine, and Fields taking as much time as possible to ease into the NFL is not an issue. Matt Nagy was with the Kansas City Chiefs when they had this plan with Alex Smith and Patrick Mahomes, and Nagy seems set on repeating this ordeal.
While it sounds good in theory that Dalton leads a playoff team in 2021 and then passes the baton in 2021, things rarely go perfectly to their plan. The Kansas City Chiefs were a very rare situation.
People are going to point to Dalton having similar stats to Alex Smith over their careers, and him being a reliable veteran who can do the same. However, there are legitimate differences.
Lack of experience with Chicago Bears
It is fair to note that Andy Dalton spent time with Bill Lazor, the OC. However, he has never played under Matt Nagy. When the Chiefs drafted Mahomes Alex Smith had played four years and was going on year five in the Andy Reid system. Smith had a firm grip on that job and Patrick Mahomes would have been unreal to beat him.
Dalton has a leg up and will beat Fields out in week one. However, the gap between the two when it comes to familiarity with the coaches is not as strong.
Kansas City Chiefs were ready to win
The Kansas City Chiefs were 22-9 when Alex Smith started in the two seasons prior to them drafting Patrick Mahomes. They were a well-oiled machine that needed a piece to put them over the edge. In fact, they actually took a step back because they did not get any contribution from their first-round pick. They won fewer games than the two seasons prior and went one and done in the playoffs.
Over the past two seasons, Andy Dalton is 6-16 in games he has started. As a head coach, Matt Nagy is 16-16 in the past two seasons. So these two, without a first-round pick to help, and without any continuity are going to pull off a playoff run similar to Andy Reid and Alex Smith in their last season together? Sure.
Help around Alex Smith
When the Chiefs drafted Mahomes they already had Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. They already had Mitch Schwartz, Eric Fisher and still had Mitch Morse back then. That was an offense to jump into.
The Chicago Bears just cut their starting tackle. They have a quick fill-in but that is a rookie, and their right tackle situation remains ambiguous. Beyond that, they are still overly reliant on Allen Robinson in the passing game.
On defense, it is hard to say the defense will get better going from Kyle Fuller to Desmond Trufant. Danny Trevathan and Robert Quinn are just a year older as well.
The Chicago Bears are projected by oddsmakers to win closer to 7 or 8 games than they are 10 or 11.
Job Security for Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy
The Chicago Bears need to end 2021 with some sort of steam to go into 2022. They need to have positives throughout the year for Nagy and Pace to keep their jobs. So, while the Bears will go into week one with Andy Dalton, they are under much more pressure than Andy Reid to make a move.
In 2017, the Chiefs had a four-game losing streak in the middle of the year. For Andy Reid, he can keep Smith in and keep things calm. For Pace, and Nagy, a four-game losing streak means Justin Fields needs to get on the field.
When you break down the Chief’s situation and see that their record got worse, they went on a losing streak, and they had a better roster, to begin with, it is really hard to say that Andy Dalton can repeat this with a limited offseason on a new team.
Justin Fields is not going to start week one, and you can believe the Chicago Bears mean it when they say they plan to ease him in. However, stuff happens and when it does, the Bears are going to turn to Justin Fields. Do not be surprised when this happens earlier in the season than it does later.