Sticking Up for Justin Fields

Bears coach Matt Nagy sees a mentoring relationship developing with Andy Dalton and Justin Fields in which the younger quarterback is educated on the league.
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One of the duties the Bears entrusted quarterback Andy Dalton with is mentor to Justin Fields.

This concept of mentoring is something discussed often in the NFL but one probably overrated in terms of the amount it actual occurs.

After all, why does a player want to hasten his own departure by helping a younger player at his position?

The Bears saw a perfect example of how it can actually work well when they brought in Jimmy Graham last year. Graham still caught 50 passes and eight for touchdowns, helped and befriended Cole Kmet and now they go into Graham's year two of a two-year contract based on this arrangement.

It's a little easier at tight end to stomach this for a veteran because the team needs more than one tight end and Kmet actually plays a different position than Graham. Kmet is the in-line or Y-tight end and Graham the move or U-tight end.

In Dalton's case it's truly helping train a quarterback to take his position, but no one can be certain when.

On the surface, it seems there is a working situation.

"Justin is a great guy, getting to know him the last couple weeks, being around him." Dalton said. "He's going to make the quarterback room better."

Coach Matt Nagy has shed some light on what this relationship looks like in the quarterback room.

"Those guys build their own relationship when they're in there watching tape and, again, like, I think the biggest thing that Justin can learn from Andy is just understanding that the defenses that he's seeing, not just out at practice on the field, but also when they're watching tape together," Nagy said. "He can explain something in a way that a player really thinks about it.  And so he's going to help (Fields) grow."

Nagy described a setting in one practice film session recently to depict how this mentoring can work. 

Quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator John DeFilippo was being critical  of Fields' footwork on a pass in practice.

"We were in the room going through it just talking about how he can be better with his feet on a particular play, and it was a good throw," Nagy said. "He made a real good throw, but Flip didn't say anything about a real good throw."

Dalton wasn't about to let that one go unmentioned.

"And Andy made sure, as a player, he said, 'hey dude, that was a hell of a throw right there,' " Nagy said.

It sounds a bit like a good-cop, bad-cop routine but DeFilippo isn't always a bad cop. The compliment simply slipped his mind but not Dalton's.

"So I think that's an experience of just one piece that y'all can see if you're in the room, that you understand these guys supporting each other," Nagy said. "He's commending (Fields) when he does something right, he's protecting him, and it's pretty neat to see."

The quarterback mentoring can include learning small things like watching Dalton's cadence.

"What's he doing with his voice inflection, the way he says, 'White 80' vs. the way Justin says it at the line of scrimmage," Nagy said. "Like, little things, and then, of course, how to handle teammates. Teammates all react in different ways. How do you grab a guy?

"And so there's a lot of intangibles that a quarterback has. Justin's going to be Justin, no doubt about it. And Andy's going to be Andy. But they're going to learn from each other and I think right now just the little things that I'm seeing in the meeting room and out here at practice, it really does remind me of prior (QB mentoring) experiences that I've been a part of."

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