Andy Dalton

Bears’ Matt Nagy: Rumors Of Firing Are “Not Accurate”

Earlier today, former Chicago Sun-Times journalist Mark Konkol reported that Thanksgiving will mark Matt Nagy‘s final game as head coach (via Patch.com). For his part, Nagy says “that is not accurate,” (Twitter link via Kevin Fishbain of The Athletic). 

My focus is on these players and Detroit, and that’s it,” Nagy said (via ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert). “That’s my job as a head coach and a leader, is to do that. These players have been amazing. They’ve been great. You have this quick turnaround after a loss like [Sunday’s to the Ravens], and now here you go. The only thing we can do is focus on the now and do everything we can. Thursday is going to be here quickly.

Still, Nagy says that he has not received any assurances from owner George McCaskey or GM Ryan Pace this week. Left to fend off the rumors by himself, Nagy claims that he won’t be distracted by the speculation.

We all have our own decisions as to how we do things, and I think this whole entire time, for me and for ownership, we’ve had great communication..[We’re] focused on Detroit. That’s what it is,” said the head coach.

After dropping five straight, the Bears are 3-7 and en route to a lost season. It’s a sharp drop from Nagy’s first 12-4 season at the helm, or even his back-to-back 8-8 campaigns. Assuming no decision has been made yet, a win on Thursday could help cool down the hot seat. On that note, Nagy also confirmed that the Bears will start Andy Dalton while Justin Fields recovers from his rib injury.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Injury Notes: Fields, Saints, Seahawks

It sounds like Andy Dalton will be back in the lineup for the Bears on Thursday night. The veteran quarterback is expected to get the start for Chicago later this week, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport (via Twitter).

Rookie Justin Fields is currently dealing with a rib injury, thrusting Dalton back into the starting lineup. The 34-year-old has barely seen the field since starting Chicago’s first two games. Since then, Dalton has appeared in two contests, completing 12 of his 24 pass attempts for 209 yards and two touchdowns.

Fortunately, it sounds like it’s more of a timing thing for Fields than anything else. The rookie spent the day undergoing more testing on his rib injury, but the turnaround time will ultimately keep Fields out of the lineup. Rapoport adds that the young QB has “been making major strides,” and it sounds like he’ll be back for the Bears before long. Fields has started eight of his 10 games this season, throwing four touchdowns vs. eight interceptions.

More injury notes from around the NFL:

  • Saints tight end Adam Trautman had a career day yesterday, but it came at a cost. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports (via Twitter) that Trautman suffered a sprained MCL that will keep him sidelined for the next four to six weeks. Presumably, the former third-round pick will end up seeing a stint on the injured reserve. Trautman had a standout game on Sunday against the Eagles, finishing with five catches for 58 yards and one touchdown.
  • Saints defensive back C.J. Gardner-Johnson landed on injured reserve a few weeks back, but it doesn’t sound like he’ll be sidelined for much more than the three required weeks. Rapoport tweets that Garden-Johnson’s expected recovery time from his foot injury is only three to four weeks. The 23-year-old started each of the Saints first seven games this season.
  • Saints quarterback Jameis Winston underwent surgery on his ACL earlier this month, but ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler tweets that the procedure “did not include an MCL repair.” While there was damage to the MCL, doctors believe the ligament was still strong enough to heal on its own.
  • Seahawks rookie cornerback Tre Brown is likely done for the season, as Pete Carroll acknowledged that Brown will likely require season-ending knee surgery. “This is just the day after and it looks like surgery is imminent,” Carroll said (h/t Charean Williams of ProFootballTalk.com). “Yeah, so he would be [done for the year].” The fourth-round pick has gotten into five games (three starts) this season, collecting 10 tackles and one pass defended.

Nagy: Andy Dalton Is Starter When Healthy

Andy Dalton returned to practice Wednesday, going through the Bears’ workout in a limited capacity. And Matt Nagy has not changed his depth chart at quarterback.

The player the Bears promised would begin the season as their starter will remain so going forward, once he returns to full strength. Dalton suffered a knee contusion in Chicago’s Week 2 win over Cincinnati.

In regards to the depth chart with them, Andy is the 1, Justin’s the 2, Nick is the 3,” Nagy said of his Dalton-Justin FieldsNick Foles depth chart (via ESPN.com’s Field Yates, on Twitter).

Although Dalton’s injury moved Fields into the lineup, he trudged through an abysmal day in Cleveland. The No. 11 overall pick took nine sacks and completed 6 of 20 passes. First-round rookies rarely give jobs back after ascending to staring roles; Mitchell Trubisky moved into Chicago’s starting lineup in Week 5 of his rookie year and made every subsequent start in 2017. Fields’ performance may have opened the door for Dalton to stay in the picture. Fields was also uneven in his debut against the Bengals, following Dalton’s injury.

After suffering a right thumb injury, Fields practiced fully Wednesday. Foles is not on Chicago’s injury report but does not appear to have re-entered the equation for a possible starting role. The trade candidate remains in a third-string position to begin his age-32 season.

Nagy also indicated the Bears have had conversations about their play-calling role, though no decision has been made. Chicago ranks last in total yards and 31st in points through three games. Nagy gave OC Bill Lazor play-calling responsibilities amid a swoon last season, and the Bears — albeit against favorable opposition — made a late-season run to reach the playoffs. Nagy took back the play-calling reins this offseason. Lazor was Dalton’s OC in Cincinnati from 2017-18 and his position coach in 2016.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bears To Start Justin Fields

The Bears will start Justin Fields on Sunday, head coach Matt Nagy announced (Twitter link via Field Yates of ESPN.com). The rookie will start in place of the injured Andy Dalton with Nick Foles serving as the No. 2 quarterback. 

This will be a temporary arrangement, according to Nagy. “When Andy is healthy,” the head coach said. “He’s our starter.”

Dalton was knocked out of Sunday’s win over the Bengals and an MRI confirmed a bone bruise in his knee. That shouldn’t shelve the veteran for too long, though he hasn’t been stellar so far this year. His performance in the Week 1 loss to the Rams was rough and, even though he looked a bit better on Sunday, Fields’ upside cannot be ignored.

Before exiting, Dalton completed nine of his 11 passes for 56 yards and one touchdown. Meanwhile, Fields completed both of his pass attempts and rushed for a touchdown in Week 1. In fairness, the first-round pick wasn’t as strong this past weekend — he completed only six of his 13 pass attempts for 60 yards with one TD and one fumble.

Despite Nagy’s assertion, a strong showing from Fields could change quickly. If he takes the helm, he’ll be just the fifth Round 1 QB to be the primary starter of his club since 2011, following Patrick Mahomes, Jake Locker, Johnny Manziel, and Paxton Lynch.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Bears QB Andy Dalton

Bears quarterback Andy Dalton was knocked out of yesterday’s win over the Bengals, and NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport confirmed (on Twitter) that an MRI confirmed a bone bruise in the veteran’s knee. No official determination has been made about Dalton’s status for next weekend’s game against the Browns.

Dalton wasn’t great during the Bears’ Week 1 loss to the Rams, but he looked a bit better on Sunday. Before exiting with his injury, the veteran completed nine of his 11 passes for 56 yards and one touchdown. Meanwhile, after Justin Fields completed both of his pass attempts and rushed for a touchdown in Week 1, the first-round pick completed only six of his 13 pass attempts for 60 yards yesterday. The rook also threw an interception and had a fumble.

The Bears depth chart seems a bit unpredictable at the moment, and coach Matt Nagy didn’t do much to help the matter this afternoon. When asked to reveal who would start Week 3 if both QBs are healthy, the head coach gave a head-scratching answer.

“That’s something that I’m not going to get into with scheme,” Nagy said (via Andrew Siciliano of NFL Network on Twitter).

Later, a team official clarified that Nagy had misinterpreted the question and that Dalton would remain the starter, if healthy (via ESPN’s Jeff Dickerson).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Matt Nagy: Andy Dalton Is Our Starter

A couple of weeks ago there was a report that the Bears were planning to enter Week 1 with Andy Dalton as their starter, which a lot of people dismissed.

Now, Bears head coach Matt Nagy has more or less confirmed that report publicly in a recent appearance on Cris Collinsworth’s podcast (Twitter video link). When asked by Collinsworth if there was any possible scenario where rookie Justin Fields is under center come Week 1, Nagy said “No.” Fields, of course, was just drafted 11th overall by Chicago.

 “I mean Andy is our starter. And again, I can’t predict anything, you know how it goes. I mean there’s so many things that could happen between today and that Week 1. But Andy is our starter and Justin is our number two, and we’re going to stick to this plan,” he continued.

It sounds like the team wants to do right by Dalton, as he was publicly anointed as the starter after signing a one-year, $10MM deal back in March.

It’s worth keeping in mind that only four quarterbacks chosen in Round 1 since 2011 — when that year’s CBA changed first-rounders’ earnings and timelines — did not become a primary starter in Year 1. They were Patrick MahomesJake Locker (2011), Johnny Manziel (2014) and Paxton Lynch (2016).

Both Nagy and GM Ryan Pace are on very thin ice. If the Bears struggle this season, they’ll almost certainly both be fired. As such, it’s hard to believe they’ll have too much patience. Unless Dalton comes in and immediately catches fire and leads the team to victories, it’s hard to see them waiting more than a few weeks to pull the trigger.

If Dalton is anything other than excellent, the pressure from fans and the media will be intense to unleash Fields, the former Ohio State star. We should learn a lot more about the situation in training camp and the preseason.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bears Plan To Start Andy Dalton In Week 1

While early June is generally far too early for these sort of proclamations, the Bears continue to throw support behind their stopgap quarterback. Despite Chicago’s quarterback plans changing in late April, the team intends to honor a promise it made in March.

The Justin Fields draft choice notwithstanding, the Bears plan to keep the promise of starting Andy Dalton in Week 1, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk notes. The Bears will play the Rams in Los Angeles in Week 1, opening the Sunday Night Football slate.

First-round quarterbacks generally take over quickly as rookies. The Bears did not waste much time giving the keys to Mitchell Trubisky four years ago, with the one-year North Carolina starter usurping free agency addition Mike Glennon by Week 5. This year, Bears GM Ryan Pace pledged Dalton — signed to a one-year, $10MM deal — would be the team’s starter. Of course, the team’s depth chart consisted of Dalton and Nick Foles at that point. Fields certainly throws a wrench into a lengthy Dalton stay atop the depth chart.

Matt Nagy said after the Fields pick he would like the Bears to use the Chiefs’ most recent QB-transition model, when Alex Smith started throughout Patrick Mahomes‘ rookie year. Nagy was Kansas City’s offensive coordinator that season. Comparing Fields and Mahomes is unwarranted at this point, but it would be surprising if the Ohio State standout remained on the bench for too long. The Kansas City model is quite rare, despite teams hoping to follow suit. Pace and Nagy entered the draft on scorching-hot seats. Their trade-up for Fields may have bought them some time, but the high-end prospect will almost certainly play early.

Only four quarterbacks chosen in Round 1 since 2011 — when that year’s CBA changed first-rounders’ earnings and timelines — did not become a primary starter in Year 1: Mahomes, Jake Locker (2011), Johnny Manziel (2014) and Paxton Lynch (2016). All but Locker started at least one game as rookies. The 27 other first-round QBs from 2011-20 started at least six games, with 22 of those starting at least 10. Although Dalton has nine-plus seasons as a starter and is reuniting with Bears OC Bill Lazor, recent history shows the 33-year-old passer does not figure to be long for the Bears’ QB1 post.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC North Notes: Bears, Sewell, Bateman

In a comprehensive piece, Adam Jahns of The Athletic details how Bears GM Ryan Pace, head coach Matt Nagy, and the rest of Chicago’s brain trust approached their quarterback situation this offseason. These types of behind-the-scenes stories are always worth a read, especially for fans of the team in question, and particularly notable here is that the club identified the No. 8 through No. 12 overall selections as the “sweet spot” to target a collegiate QB. Pace’s predraft research indicated that trying to acquire the Falcons’ No. 4 overall pick would require too much draft capital, but he didn’t want to start calling teams holding picks eight through 12 too early for fear of tipping his hand.

So he waited until the day of the draft to start making those calls, and while the early run on QBs pushed down quality players at other positions, Pace identified Ohio State QB Justin Fields as his top target. 11 Bears staffers filed reports on Fields, and all of them had very similar grades on him. Pace and Giants GM Dave Gettleman had worked out the parameters of a trade earlier in the day, and when Fields was still on the board after the Eagles leapfrogged the Giants — Pace feared Philadelphia might have been targeting Fields — Chicago and New York were able to swing a trade that brought the former Buckeye to the Windy City. Now, Pace and Nagy will hope that the bold maneuver will help them keep their jobs.

Here’s more from the NFC North:

  • Even though the Bears just signed Andy Dalton this offseason, they extended him a courtesy that the Packers did not extend to Aaron Rodgers when they drafted Jordan Love last year: they told Dalton that they might pick a QB. “I talked to [Dalton] earlier in the day on [the day of the draft], and we were just catching up,” Nagy said (via Albert Breer of SI.com). “And at the same time I said, ‘Hey, listen man, I have no idea which way this thing may go, you never know, but all positions are open and we can do a lot of different things, including at quarterback. So I just want you to understand that and be aware for that.'” Of course, the news couldn’t have come as a surprise to Dalton, who was signed to a one-year contract and who presumably has no delusions that the Bears acquired him as their quarterback of the future, but it’s the type of gesture that might have helped ease the strain on the Packers’ relationship with Rodgers.
  • The Lions‘ first-round pick, No. 7 overall selection Penei Sewell, has tested positive for COVID-19, as Sewell himself tweeted several days ago. He will therefore miss this weekend’s rookie minicamp, but at this point it sounds like he is either asymptomatic or else has mild symptoms, so there shouldn’t be any cause for concern.
  • The Packers selected Georgia CB Eric Stokes with the No. 29 overall pick of the draft, but if Minnesota WR Rashod Bateman had still been around, execs around the league believe he would have been the choice, as Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com writes (subscription required). Of course, taking a first-round receiver this year after selecting Love in the first round in 2020 might not have been enough to placate Rodgers. The Ravens took Bateman off the board with the No. 27 overall selection.
  • The Vikings have been busy over the past couple of days, trading cornerback Mike Hughes to the Chiefs and signing first-round pick Christian Darrisaw.

NFC Notes: Bears, Fields, Winston, Sherman

The Bears made the biggest splash of the draft by trading up for Justin Fields. When they did so, it couldn’t have been welcome news to Andy Dalton. Dalton signed with Chicago this offseason hoping to be their starter in 2021, and obviously the Fields pick put that plan in jeopardy. But Bears head coach Matt Nagy talked to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network shortly after the pick and told Rapoport he “wants the Kansas City model” that the Chiefs did with Alex Smith and Patrick Mahomes (Twitter video link).Smith, of course, played the entire 2017 season before Mahomes took over in 2018.

Nagy was the offensive coordinator in Kansas City for that ’17 season before getting hired by the Bears. Rapoport says “their goal is to have Andy Dalton play the entire year, have Fields develop under the radar, and then pass the torch the following year.” Despite Nagy’s contentions, that’s almost certainly unrealistic. Nagy is coaching for his job this season, and both he and GM Ryan Pace are on the hottest of seats. They need to win in 2021, and they know it. It’s far from guaranteed Dalton even makes it to Week 1 as the starter, and assuming he does he’ll be on a very short leash. For what it’s worth, Rapsheet notes the Bears did call and talk to Dalton about moving up for a quarterback prior to making the trade. As he points out, that’s more than Aaron Rodgers got from the Packers with Jordan Love.

Here’s more from around the NFC on a quiet Sunday night:

  • The Saints just drafted Notre Dame passer Ian Book in the fourth-round, but he’s not likely to be involved in the competition between Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill to become Drew Brees‘ successor. We heard when Winston re-upped with the Saints on a one-year deal with $5.5MM guaranteed worth “up to” $12MM that he had significant incentives, and now we have the details on those incentives. They come courtesy of Nick Underhill from NewOrleans.Football (Twitter link). There are too many to list here, but Winston will get $62.5K for every game where he plays more than 50 percent of the snaps up to $1MM. He’ll get $500K if he throws 20 touchdown passes ($1MM if he hits 25). He’s got an incentive for pretty much everything, including another $500K if the Saints make the playoffs and he plays 70 percent of the snaps.
  • We heard earlier this weekend that Richard Sherman was talking with a handful of teams, including the Seahawks about a potential reunion. The 49ers, Saints, and Raiders are apparently also in the mix, but it sounds more and more like a return to Seattle is a distinct possibility. Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll told the media on Saturday that he had talked to Sherman “quite a few times” this offseason about coming back to where he started his career, via Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com. Sherman, now 33, only played in five games last season but was a second-team All-Pro in 2019. He was with Seattle from 2011-17, making four Pro Bowls and four All-Pro teams as part of their legendary ‘Legion of Boom’ defenses. Sherman has said previously he’d sign after the draft, so something could materialize here soon.

Bears Looking To Move Up In Draft For Quarterback?

While the Bears may have promised Andy Dalton the starting gig, they’re still in the market for a rookie quarterback. Tony Pauline of Pro Football Network (on Twitter) reports that Chicago is looking to move up in the draft in pursuit of one of the top quarterback prospects.

One of the teams I’m told is a realistic possibility to trade up is the Chicago Bears, who want to trade up to get a QB,” Pauline said during a recent episode of his podcast.

Pauline specifically points to the Cowboys at No. 10 as a potential trade partner, which would take Chicago out of the running for (presumably) Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, and at least one of Justin Fields, Mac Jones, and Trey Lance. The Bears are currently armed with the No. 20 pick in the first round, along with a second- and third-round pick.

While the Bears may be set atop their depth chart with Dalton and Nick Foles, there have been continued whispers that they could look to the draft (including the first round) for another quarterback. Head coach Matt Nagy even seemed to acknowledge that the organization has been eyeing a handful of rookies QBs during a recent meeting with reporters.

As everybody knows, we’ve been to a few pro days with some of these quarterbacks and it definitely helps, but there is only so many of those you can do and see. What’s fair is every other team is doing the same thing. Ryan and I are super excited about going through that evaluation process together and how we do it. It’s a challenge, but we look forward to it. There are a lot of good quarterbacks in this draft class.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.