What Bears see in Andy Dalton as their starting quarterback

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Alex Shapiro
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Why Pace, Nagy named Andy Dalton their QB1 originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

When the Bears signed Andy Dalton and named him their QB1, to say fans and media alike had “mixed reactions” would be generous. Unless, of course, you’re talking about the range of reactions from, “Don’t worry they’re getting a rookie in the draft,” to “What the hell are they doing in Halas Hall?”

But when Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy addressed the media for the first time since signing Dalton, they were resolute that they found the man to lead their offense in 2021.

“That's how we see Andy Dalton, as a starting quarterback,” Pace said. “We're excited to have him... He's been a starter in the league for a long time and produced at a high level for a long time. That's all of us collectively in the building, coaches and scouts, coming to that conclusion as we went through the free agency process and, yeah, he's our starting quarterback as we head into the season.”

“When you go through free agency and you look at everybody that's available, it was really a consensus for us to get Andy in here and move forward as the starting quarterback,” Nagy said.

As for why the Bears landed on Dalton versus the other quarterbacks available via free agency, Pace cited Dalton’s intangibles.

“With Dalton, the things we like as you look at it, obviously his experience — he’s a nine-year starter, he’s been to three Pro Bowls, a lot of leadership with Andy Dalton, decision-making, his decision-making, he’s won a lot of games in this league. Andy’s been a durable player, too. I think that’s something that’s understated. And I think, really, Andy fits our style of offense. When you go through it with our scouts and coaches, he can handle the drop-back game, he can handle the RPOs, the play actions, the movements. And we just felt, as we went through those free-agent quarterbacks, he’s one of the more complete quarterbacks that we evaluated in free agency, and we’re excited to have him.”

Pace also made it clear that the Bears view Dalton as an upgrade over outgoing QB Mitchell Trubisky, and a better fit for the Bears offense as well. It’s reasonable to question whether that is the case, however.

Pace pointed towards Dalton’s 64.9% completion rate last year as a point in his favor. While he came close to 65% in 2020, Dalton’s only crossed that threshold once in his 10-year career. For context, 24 quarterbacks with least 200 attempts last season completed at least 65% of their passes, including Trubisky. In fact, Trubisky has completed more than 65% passes twice in his four-year career.

You can go down the line in 2020 and pick out several places where Trubisky outperformed Dalton— at least statistically— with the same number of starts, and with far fewer weapons in Chicago than Dalton had in Dallas. Quarterback rating, yards/attempt, yards/game, TD%, INT%, are all categories where Trubisky put up better numbers. That’s all before considering what Trubisky brings to the table with his ability to run the ball, too.

But when pressed on how he specifically views Dalton as a better fit over Trubisky, Pace declined to look back to compare the two, opting to look forward instead.

“Andy’s experienced. He’s played in a lot of games in this league. He’s won a lot of games in this league. Andy makes good decisions. He’s accurate and we just feel he’s a fit for our offense.”

While they won’t say it outright, clearly the Bears didn’t think Trubisky had the capability to run Nagy’s offense as he envisions it. Whether it was reading defenses, progressing through reads, or another reason, something— in their minds— was holding Trubisky back. At that point, Trubisky’s edge from either a statistical or physical-ability standpoint becomes irrelevant.

“We feel like we’ve gotten better with Andy,” Pace said. “We’re excited to add him.”

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