Here's the good news, Chicago Bears fans, it's April and your team already has its starting quarterback. Here's the bad news: That quarterback is Andy Dalton.
Bears general manager Ryan Pace confirmed the news Friday, telling reporters the team views Dalton as the starter after signing Dalton to a one-year, $10 million deal in March.
The news shouldn't come as a surprise. Days after Dalton was signed, the Bears' Twitter account tweeted out a photo and called Dalton "QB1." That was just the team's social media account, however, it wasn't someone in the Bears' front office. Until Friday, fans could have held out hope the Bears would pursue another player to be their starter. It seemed unlikely given the Bears already have Dalton and Nick Foles, but fans wanted someone better.
Bears call Andy Dalton most complete QB on market
Whether someone better was actually available remains a question. Other free-agent quarterbacks included Ryan Fitzpatrick, Cam Newton and Alex Smith, among others.
Of that group, the Bears believed Dalton was the "most complete."
It's believed players like Deshaun Watson and Russell Wilson are available for trade, though the Houston Texans and Seattle Seahawks haven't confirmed those players are being shopped. Watson may no longer be coveted by teams after multiple women have accused him of sexual misconduct. In Wilson's case, it would take a lot to convince the Seahawks to make a deal.
Bears front office faces make or break year
One of the reasons fans expected a better quarterback than Dalton — who threw 14 touchdowns against 8 interceptions in 11 games last season — is that both Pace and Bears head coach Matt Nagy could lose their jobs if the Bears struggle in 2021.
With his job potentially on the line, Nagy confirmed he will call plays in 2021.
Nagy has called effective offenses in the past. During his first season with the Bears, the team's offense ranked 9th in points per game. Former starter Mitchell Trubisky looked like he could be an essential piece in the Bears' future that season, throwing 24 touchdowns against 12 touchdowns and making the Pro Bowl.
Things only got worse from there. The Bears' offense ranked 29th in points scored in 2019 and 22nd in 2020. Trubisky never improved, and was allowed to walk in the offseason. It's now solely on Nagy to prove he can recapture the magic his offense showed in 2018.
There's nothing preventing the Bears from taking a quarterback in the 2021 NFL draft. The team owns the No. 20 overall pick, and it is expected the elite quarterback prospects will be gone by the time the team picks.
Even if the Bears get someone they like at No. 20, it's unlikely that player will beat out Dalton to start Week 1. And if Nagy and Pace fail long enough with Dalton at the helm, they won't be around to see whoever they tab as the team's long-term option at quarterback.
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