The Chicago Bears have repeatedly said Andy Dalton is their starting quarterback heading into the 2021 season.
That stance may be changing.
ESPN's Jeremy Fowler said on Get Up on Monday that Fields will have a chance to earn the starting job if he's impressive in camp:
"This offseason the Bears assessed their situation and said, 'Look, we've been an 8-8 team, we just need an upgrade at quarterback that can get us closer to 10 wins.' They felt Andy Dalton did that. They said, 'Hey, we can win 10 games with this guy, he's a slight upgrade at the position.' But then they had the chance at Justin Fields, crazy athlete, great ability. They said, 'OK, this is the long-term play.'
"Now, if Fields is just undeniable over the next three to four months in training camp, they're not going to just sit him just for fun or posterity just to play the veteran. So they're going to give him the best chance, but they're OK sitting Fields if Dalton has a good grasp on the job and they feel like they can win with him. So, they believe they're going to be better regardless. It just depends on whether Fields is ready Week 1."
The Bears signed Dalton to a one-year contract in March to serve as their starter. Their social media team labeled him QB1 in a widely mocked tweet soon after the agreement, and both general manager Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy have said they're sticking by Dalton despite moving up to draft Fields a month later.
"Matt has spoken to Andy Dalton tonight," Pace told reporters last month. "That communication and clarity for us is really important. Andy is our starter, and we're gonna have a really good plan in place to develop Justin and do what's best for our organization and win games."
While these are the right things to say publicly, Dalton was never considered the long-term option in Chicago, which became even more evident when the Bears traded up for Fields. It's possible the Ohio State product will be brought along slowly if he struggles in camp. There were concerns about how Fields would translate to the NFL, given Ohio State's offensive system has struggled to produce quality pros at quarterback.
That said, there is a massive chasm in talent between Dalton and Fields. If Fields arrives at camp and proves he's ready from Day 1, the Bears won't have an issue offering a mea culpa to Dalton as he holds a clipboard in 2021.