Justin Fields grateful for Andy Dalton’s mentorship in 2021

Justin Fields grateful for Andy Dalton’s mentorship in 2021

It’s not often that a veteran quarterback is willing to help train his replacement, but that’s what Andy Dalton did for the Chicago Bears in 2021. He developed a relationship with Bears quarterback Justin Fields that endured even after he signed with the New Orleans Saints last year, remaining in touch as both passers went their separate ways.

“Andy’s amazing,” Fields said during an appearance on the Pardon My Take Podcast. “I mean, even this year he was texting me after good games that I had and said ‘I saw your game. Great job bro.’ Just his family, his wife, his kids. They’re amazing. Andy and Nick (Foles) they taught me a lot last year just with the life of being an NFL quarterback and he kind of took me under his wing. I’m definitely very appreciative of that and I wish Andy nothing but the best of luck.”

It’s clear that Dalton left a strong impression on Fields. His 14 games as the Saints starting quarterback didn’t go according to plan, but he wasn’t signed with intentions of starting him, anyway — the plan was for him to offer his input as an experienced passer and back up Jameis Winston. Winston’s serious back injury forced a change of plans, though, and Dalton ended up throwing more passes than anyone expected.

But no one was less surprised to see Dalton handle the situation with grace than Fields, who added: “He’s always been great to me. Always seen the bigger picture, not really getting that confusion. Just the situation we were in last year, not getting in the way with our relationship. Always kept it cordial with me and was kind of a big brother to me.”

Does Fields’ endorsement mean Dalton should return to New Orleans in 2023? Maybe, depending on how things shake out for the Saints under center. They’re actively pursuing former Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr as the top option in free agency, and pickings are slim if he’s out of reach. It could make a lot of sense to re-sign Dalton as a bridge towards preparing a young draft pick to start in the near future. But there isn’t a scenario that makes sense where he’s expected to start most of the 2023 season.

And, hey: is there a reality where Fields and Dalton team up again in New Orleans?

Almost certainly not. There’s been some scuttlebutt going around that the Bears could trade Fields and spend this year’s top pick in the 2023 NFL draft on a new franchise quarterback, but it’s malarkey. The definition of hustling backwards. Chicago was only competitive at times last season because of Fields’ presence. It would be wild if the Saints could find a way to pry him loose and get him and Dalton back together in what was clearly a positive working relationship, but odds are the Bears will continue to build around him.

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