Chicago Bears: 2021 Season in Review: Justin Fields, Andy Dalton, Nick Foles
|Monday, January 31, 2022, 3:00 PM- -|
Now that the Bears have found a new GM and Head Coach, you can already see the staff coming together. While some fans like the decision of the new head coach and Offensive coordinator, some are still skeptical as they feel Ryan Poles didn't have a complete say in who he hired as the next head coach.
With the coaching news out of the way and the draft a few months away, this would be a great time to look back at the season by grading each player based on their position. We will start on the offensive side of the ball and work our way to defense as the Bears have a lot of things to sort out this offseason.
Perhaps the most crucial position on any team is the QB position, which the Bears have been trying to get right for years. With Justin Fields in the mix, he looks to be the QB for the next decade, but he must improve immensely from how he looked this season. Outside of that, Chicago had two veterans that held their own when called upon, even if the team didn't win as many games as they would have liked.
Taken 11th overall in the 2021 NFL draft, Fields was immediately viewed as the franchise QB the Bears were looking for. Even if he wasn't announced the starter out of the gate, Bears fans were patient enough to wait for him, but were then left wanting more. Yes, Fields was a rookie, and the growing pains were expected to be there. However, I don't think anyone saw the struggles coming that he went through.
As a starter, Fields struggled to win games as he won just two of his nine starts on the season. Along with that, you have a guy who completed fewer than 59% of his passes while throwing for 1870 yards which led the team. His seven touchdowns were second behind Dalton, but his 10 interceptions were a growing concern, as were the fumbles he led the league in. He needs to work on many things this offseason to give the Bears 100% confidence in him going forward.
Season Grade C-: I was tempted to give Fields a lower grade, but I will be nice on this one. After all, he was a rookie, and rookies do struggle in the NFL, especially rookie QBs. Many of the mistakes he made were mental mistakes that will come when you don't have a ton of in-game experience. However, the coaching side never put him in a good position, which appears to have slowed his development a little bit.
No one will argue the amount of talent this kid has, but now the question is, will he ever reach that talent. With a new head coach and play-caller
coming in for the 2022 season, all eyes will be on Fields this season as he looks to take gigantic steps forward with his development.
Brought in on a one-year free-agent deal last offseason, Dalton was viewed as the starter from day one, replacing Mitch Trubisky. About a month after signing Dalton, the Bears drafted Fields putting Dalton and his future in question. Matt Nagy reiterated several times that Dalton would be their starter, and that was precisely the case until a knee injury in week two bumped him out of that role.
Still, Dalton would miss about a month of action before returning to the starting job and was then injured again later in the season. Working with Bill Lazor again, who was his offensive coordinator in Cincinnati for years, Dalton played well, but not well enough as he won a total of three games as a starter this season.
He completed 63.1% of his passes which is better than his career average, and threw for 1515 yards to go with eight touchdowns and nine interceptions. When Dalton was on this season, he looked terrific. The problem was he wasn't on enough and will now be looking for work elsewhere next season unless the Bears bring him back as a backup.
Season Grade C: It is hard to grade Dalton despite his numbers being where they are. He opened the season as the starter, missed time with an injury before returning, and then missed time again. Simply put, he wasn't healthy long enough to see extended action, which affected his grade a little bit.
Last season, fans wanted Dalton to be benched, and rightfully so. However, there were also times when Chicago would have been better off sticking with him instead of Fields. All those tough decisions that the team faced saw the Bears finish 6-11, which is never good for this organization.
One of the biggest questions all offseason long was whether or not the Bears would trade away Nick Foles. Not only did the Bears hold on to him, but he proved to be a critical piece late in the season, which leads me to believe the Bears may hold on to him again as Fields backup. With both Dalton and Fields down for a late-season matchup against Seattle, it was up to Foles to step in and try and make something happen.
Not only did he step in, but the Bears offense played well and was showing signs of life for the first time in months. Foles completed 24-35 passes for 250 yards and one touchdown in that game. That was also the game that he helped orchestrate the game-winning touchdown drive where he hooked up with Damiere Byrd to give the Bears the win.
Season Grade B+: Although he only played in one game this season, Foles played exceptionally well, leaving tons of questions surrounding his future. Many people feel that game was an audition for him as he might be looking for a new team next year. However, with Dalton on a one-year deal, the Bears may elect to keep Foles around as the backup to Fields, giving him a great veteran mentor to lean on.
Say what you want about Foles, but he is the perfect pro to guide Fields. He knows his role on this team and where he stands in the NFL, but he also knows what it takes to succeed. Looking at his career, especially with Philadelphia, Foles has been at his best when used as a backup QB, which is intriguing. Chicago will need some depth behind Fields next season, and there are far worse options than Foles to consider.