Throughout the summer we will be running a 12-part series grading each Bears position group on a standard A-F scale, including pluses and minuses based on a bell curve comparing all 32 NFL teams.
This is the most difficult position on the Bears roster to grade.
Understand that quarterbacks drafted in the first round over the past 10-to-15 years have failed at a rate of about 87% depending on your definition of failing, so while Justin Fields is the Bears’ new great hope, with reasonable cause, until he takes his first NFL snap – and realistically a few hundred more after that – the only grade we can consider for him right now is an incomplete.
Andy Dalton is tough because he was overrated in his prime and he hasn’t been there for several seasons, and Nick Foles is the NFL’s QB version of Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde with Hyde still being a really good guy but an awful quarterback.
They are currently the only three QBs on the roster.
Dalton is a 10-year veteran who will turn 34 at midseason. He is a winner when surrounded by very good talent and has a 74-66-2 record as a starter. Dalton has average size and athleticism for the position and a nice arm although his accuracy and touch get him above average, not his arm strength. He is really the definition of a game manager. History says he won’t be the reason his team wins games, but he shouldn’t be the reason you get beat often either. The concern is after going 50-26-1 his first five years in the league, as the talent around him faded he’s fallen to 24-40-1 without a single winning campaign the last five seasons. Also, if he gets there, Dalton has somewhat famously gone 0-4 in the playoffs with one touchdown, six picks and a 57.8 passer rating, so it is in large part his fault. Have the Bears upgraded the O-line and receiver group enough to make Dalton a winner again? Grade: B-
When Foles is good, he’s a Pro Bowler and an MVP. When he’s bad, he’s awful. If you study this 32-year old, nine-year veteran’s career, it’s almost impossible to know when to expect which Foles you’ll get. He is four inches and 20 pounds bigger than Dalton at 6-6, 240, so he has excellent size and pocket presence. He’s actually a bit better athlete than Dalton, too. Foles’ arm talent is average, maybe slightly better, but while he may have a bit more strength, he doesn’t always have Dalton’s touch. Foles was 21-11 in five seasons in Philadelphia but is just 28-27 as a starter overall. He has had some injuries and ups and downs mentally in his approach to the game, and paired with his performance last season behind an awful offensive line, it’s the only reasonable explanation for why there isn’t a competition between him and Dalton for the starting job. Grade: C+
Fields is near the perfect prospect. He’s a winner with outstanding athletic ability, unique speed for the position and rare arm talent. He should have been the second quarterback off the board after Trevor Lawrence. The Bears got a steal. You really have to nitpick to find reasons to downgrade this kid. But the draft is over. While a much better prospect than Mitch Trubisky was, Fields is not a better prospect than Robert Griffin III, Blake Bortles, Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, Jarred Goff, Sam Darnold, etc., were. Grade: Incomplete
The presence of Fields makes this the most exciting quarterback room the Bears have had since Jay Cutler arrived in 2009, but we can’t know what Fields is until he plays. We have no idea when Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy project that to be other than we believe Dalton will start the opener. We do know though that the O-line should be better, the team does now have a running game if they choose to use it, and, if necessary, Foles has always been at his best coming off the bench assuming they don’t find a training camp trade partner to take him off their hands. Overall grade: B-/C+