CHICAGO (CBS) — After rookie Justin Fields’ impressive performance against the Lions last week, Bears head coach Matt Nagy said he will be the team’s starting quarterback going forward the rest of this season.
Veteran Andy Dalton started the season as the team’s number one quarterback, and even after suffering a knee injury in Week 2 against the Bengals, Nagy repeatedly said Dalton would return as the team’s starter when healthy.READ MORE: City Hall, Chicago FOP File Dueling Lawsuits In Heated Standoff Over Vaccine Mandate
That changed on Wednesday, when Nagy named Fields the starter going forward this season.
“We’ve been patient with this. We’ve grown with him. We’re proud of Justin. He’s been a great teammate from the very beginning,” Nagy said. “He’s done everything to show us that he’s ready for this opportunity.”
— Matt Zahn (@mattzahnsports) October 6, 2021
Barring an injury to Fields, he will remain the starter for the rest of the season, according to Nagy.
“This is Justin’s time,” he said.
Fields said Nagy informed him of the promotion after practice on Tuesday.
“It was good news, of course,” he said.
“My parents were actually at my house last night. I told them, and they wanted to go out to celebrate, but I’m ‘Nah, I’m cool,’” he added.
Fields said his parents went out to celebrate without him while he stayed home with his dog to watch game film.
Justin Fields said his parents were with him when he found out the news he’s starting. “They wanted to go out and celebrate. I was like, nah.” Says they went out and celebrated without him. @cbschicago pic.twitter.com/NCQZHwTFu0
— Matt Zahn (@mattzahnsports) October 6, 2021
Fields said it wasn’t a major surprise that he was named the starter for the rest of the season, despite Nagy’s insistence until Wednesday that Dalton would remain the starter as long as he was healthy.
“I would say I was a little bit surprised, but not really the greatest surprise, but definitely a little bit of surprise,” he said. “Of course, there’s some reason to celebrate, but I’m not just going to be complacent where I’m at. I’m going to continue to grow, continue to get better, and just try to work hard each and every day to get wins on Sundays.”
Not surprisingly, Nagy said Fields was “very stoic” when he learned he was being promoted to the starting quarterback spot, a term coaches have repeatedly used to describe the rookie’s demeanor.READ MORE: Illinois Democrats Look To Increase Edge With New Congressional Maps
“The stage, for him, never gets too big,” Nagy said. “He has been in this position before. I think when you have somebody like that that understands how he’s gotten to this point, and knows that he’s worked hard to get to this point, that he’s ready for this opportunity.”
Promoting Fields to the number one quarterback spot was all but inevitable at some point this season, after the team traded up to take him at No. 11 overall in the draft. Fields was one of the best players in college football in his two years at Ohio State after transferring from Georgia.
Fields led his Buckeyes team to the National Championship Game in 2020, completing 70 percent of his passes for 2,100 yards and 22 touchdowns in just eight games during the shortened season. His shining moment came in the College Football Playoff Semifinal, throwing for 385 yards and six touchdowns while playing through an injury.
As a redshirt sophomore in 2019, Fields was dominant, throwing for 3,273 yards and 41 touchdowns against just three interceptions in leading the Buckeyes to a College Football Playoff appearance.
Nagy said the decision to elevate Fields to the team’s number one quarterback was “sped up” by Dalton’s knee injury, but it’s also based on Fields’ performance.
On Sunday against the Lions, Fields completed 11 of 17 pass attempts for 209 yards, including four completions of 20 yards or more, leading the Bears to a 24-14 victory.
It was a remarkable bounce back for Fields and the Bears’ offense, after a complete disaster in Week 3 against the Browns, when the team amassed only 47 yards of total offense in 42 plays, and Fields was sacked nine times.
The offense responded with 373 yards of total offense against the Lions, allowing only one sack.
Fields’ impressive play came as Nagy also handed over play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, who Nagy credited with helping develop Fields so far this season.
“I think that Coach Lazor has done an amazing job at really helping to get this process going,” Nagy said. “He makes my job as a head coach a heck of a lot easier, and that I appreciate. It’s been awesome with that.”
Dalton, who has been nursing a bone bruise in his left knee since Week 2, will practice in full on Wednesday, and will be the backup quarterback behind Fields for Week 5 against the Raiders.MORE NEWS: Chicago Weather: Showers Followed By A Sunny Weekend