Former Bears QB Jay Cutler weighs in on the decision to start or sit rookie Justin Fields

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The conversation surrounding Chicago Bears rookie quarterback Justin Fields and whether or not he should be the Week 1 starter continues to be a point of discussion amongst football fans and analysts alike.

Would it be more beneficial for Fields to sit behind veteran Andy Dalton for an extended period of time to learn what it takes to be an NFL quarterback? Or does it make more sense for Fields to start immediately if he shows he’s more than ready to lead an NFL offense?

There are arguments to be made on both sides, despite the fact the Bears are still two months away from beginning training camp, let alone playing in a preseason game. But someone who was once in a very similar position as Fields and is very familiar with playing the position in Chicago decided to share what he thinks of the team’s quarterback situation and how he would approach the dilemma.

Former Bears quarterback Jay Cutler joined ESPN 1000’s Waddle and Silvy on Tuesday afternoon and was asked if he thought Fields should start or sit. In a surprise to some, Cutler erred on the side of caution:

“I wouldn’t play the kid [Fields] to start. That’s what I would do, I would let him watch. I think it’s just a tough spot to put someone out there, especially in Chicago and I think Andy [Dalton] is more than serviceable. I think they can win games with Andy and kind of float the ship along until the kid is ready.”

Cutler is most remembered for his many years spent in Chicago where he became the Bears’ all-time leading passer, but he began his career with the Denver Broncos when he was drafted 11th overall in the 2006 NFL draft. He wound up not playing right away and sat behind veteran Jake Plummer for the first 11 games of the season his rookie year before supplanting him as the starter in early December of 2006.

When discussing Fields, who coincidentally was also the 11th overall pick when the Bears traded up to select him, Cutler reflected back on his own journey and admitted that sitting to start his career benefitted him in the long run.

“I didn’t feel equipped to play Week 1 just because mentally, I wasn’t taking the reps. It’s different for me, I need the reps, I need to see it. I didn’t take the reps so I wasn’t ready to play. But I also think it benefitted me tremendously of watching it, seeing the ups and downs, see us lose games, see us win games. And Jake [Plummer] was a consummate pro. He was fabulous with me and just seeing how he handled life as an NFL quarterback those first 10-12 weeks was insanely valuable for me. Whenever I stepped in, he supported the hell out of me and helped me, answered questions and was there.

“Everyone is different, I’ve always just been on the side of ‘what’s 10 games, what’s a season’ in the grand scheme of this kid’s career. If you believe he’s the guy, then get everything set up so when he’s in there, he’s supported and he can make things happen the way he should instead of battling through all this stuff and seeing ghosts five years from now.”

Cutler’s situation with Plummer was somewhat similar, but also different, when compared to Fields and Dalton. Plummer wasn’t a world-beater at the position, but had just led the Broncos to 13-3 record and played in the AFC Championship game, losing to the eventual Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers in 2005. He also was named to his first Pro Bowl that season as well. The Broncos clearly felt comfortable riding with Plummer while Cutler studied under him to start the 2006 season.

The Bears don’t have that same history with Dalton, who was signed in free agency back in March and was assured he would be the starter come week one. Bears head coach Matt Nagy doubled down on that assurance after the selection of Fields. But neither Fields or Dalton has taken a snap as a Bear, however does Dalton have 10 years of experience in the league playing for the Cincinnati Bengals and Dallas Cowboys.

Though he said everyone is different and you truly never know when someone is ready to play quarterback in the NFL, Cutler felt strong about how he was brought along in Denver and believes the Bears would be wise to do something similar with Fields. We’ll see if that continues to be the plan, or if Nagy is forced to roll with the rookie earlier than he’d like.

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