Bears’ 2021 Quarterback Room Labeled ‘Toxic as Hell’


  • Justin Fields was drafted in 2021, while the Bears already had Andy Dalton and Nick Foles on the roster.
  • The three of them never got along, leading to reports of a toxic culture in the quarterback room.
  • None of the three ended up working out in Chicago, and they all eventually went their separate ways.

The Chicago Bears knew they were in need of their next franchise quarterback heading into the 2021 NFL Draft. As a result of that, they wound up using the 11th overall pick in that draft, selecting Justin Fields, one of college football’s premier quarterbacks out of Ohio State.

Fields was one of the best quarterbacks in the country. He excelled at Ohio State, and led the team to the National Championship in 2021, after out-dueling Trevor Lawrence in the College Football Playoff Semifinal. Once drafted by the Bears, those impressive performances in college led to a lot of hype for his NFL career.

At the time, the Bears quarterback room also consisted of Andy Dalton and Nick Foles. Both were veteran quarterbacks, and they would be joined by the rookie, Fields. Dalton was originally in line to begin the season as the starter, with Fields being the second-string, and Foles the third.

Dalton and Foles were meant to form a sort of mentorship role for Fields, who would eventually, ideally, be the quarterback that takes over for the long-run. Unfortunately, as Beth Mishler-Elmore and Ty Dunne report, things weren’t all sunshine and butterflies between the three in the windy city.

There were several arguments amongst the QBs… Once, per one source, Foles was trying to teach something to Fields in the QB room and—upon turning toward the rookie—Foles realized Fields wasn’t even paying attention. His head was down. At that point, Foles was done trying to play mentor. The two could not stand each other.

Ideally, you’d want your young, potential franchise quarterback to form a good relationship with the older players at his position, as there’s a lot of mentorship that a player can only receive from another player, instead of a coach. A lot of things went wrong between these three, though, and it eventually led to them all leaving the Bears at one point or another.


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Justin Fields makes a throw on the run
Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The Bears signed Foles before the 2020 season, shortly after he won the Super Bowl with the Philadelphia Eagles while filling in for their injured star, Carson Wentz. Foles started seven games during the 2020 season, but didn’t perform very well. Foles went 2-5 in the seven games he started, while throwing 10 touchdowns alongside eight interceptions, and 205.8 passing yards per game.

After the season, Foles would only start one more game for the Bears, as he started in their week 16 win against the Seattle Seahawks in week 16 of the 2021 season.

Nick Foles’ 2020 Statistics

Stat Category



9 (started 7)

Completion Percentage


Passing Yards


Passing TD’s




Yards per Attempt


The Bears’ quarterback play in 2020 was poor, at best. Chicago kept Foles on the roster, but knew they still needed to upgrade at the position. As a result, they brought in Dalton to be the starter, and drafted Fields, who they’d hoped to develop into their next star quarterback.

During that season, Dalton and Fields would go back-and-forth between starter and backup, with both battling various injuries. Dalton didn’t do much, going 3-3 in the six games he started, while throwing eight touchdowns and nine interceptions. Fields didn’t do much better in his rookie year, throwing seven touchdowns and 10 interceptions, while winning just two of the 10 games he started. Foles, of course, started just one game, in week 16.

Andy Dalton’s Statistics in 2021

Stat Category



8 (started 6)

Completion %


Passing Yards


Passing TD’s




Yards per Attempt


While neither quarterback found much success, they didn’t do much to help each other, either. Dunne’s reporting mentions instances in which Fields wasn’t associated with the two older quarterbacks:

The trio ultimately never were together. It was always Andy and Nick walking side by side and Justin always 15 yards behind them.

The situation, in general, was odd. Foles had been brought in just a year before, shortly removed from his Super Bowl win. He likely had large expectations for his time in Chicago, with the belief that he would be their solution to the position for at least the near future.

Then, Dalton was brought in to start, or at least be the bridge quarterback. After letting their former high-draft pick at the position, Mitch Trubisky, walk in free agency, either one of these two likely figured they had a solid chance to at least man the position for a couple of seasons.

Then, the entire dynamic changed when Fields was drafted. Any quarterback drafted in the first round will typically have high expectations surrounding them, and that was especially true with Fields in 2021. The only time a quarterback drafted that high ever sits behind a veteran usually happens when the veteran is still a reliable option at the position.

A situation in which a dynamic like this makes more sense is Alex Smith and Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes was drafted with the 10th-overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft by the Kansas City Chiefs, yet the team still had Alex Smith on the roster.

Smith started the 2017 season, and Kansas City allowed Mahomes to learn behind him for a year. In 2018, they traded Smith to the Washington Commanders, giving way for Mahomes. The key difference between the Chiefs’ and Bears’ situations, is that Smith was still very much a starting caliber player at the time, while Dalton and Foles left a bit to be desired.

Ultimately, the Bears 2021 quarterback room had three players who all had a logical reason to have high expectations. Dalton and Foles both believed they had a fair shot to start. With Fields behind drafted as high as he was, he also, for good reason, believed he’d get a chance to play in 2021.

With three egos in the same room, all competing for the same job, it’s understandable that they didn’t get along as well as the franchise might have hoped.

Now, all three have moved on from the team in various different ways. Dalton was a free agent after the 2021 season, and he left for the New Orleans Saints, where he found a much bigger role. Dalton started 14 games for the Saints in 2022, and performed a bit better than he did in Chicago. Foles ended up being cut shortly after Dalton left, and signed with the Indianapolis Colts. Foles last played in 2022, and remains a free agent.

Justin Fields’ Statistics with the Bears

Stat Category








Completion %




Passing Yards




Passing TD’s








Rushing Yards




Rushing TD’s




Fields got his chance to start in 2022 and 2023, but didn’t do enough to make the Bears avoid drafting Caleb Williams with the first overall pick in 2024. He had his moments in both of those seasons, but in the end, things were just too inconsistent. He was traded to the Pittsburgh Steelers earlier this offseason.

Now, once again, Fields has been paired with an older quarterback. He’ll be sharing the quarterback room with Russell Wilson, who finds himself in a similar situation after being ousted from the Denver Broncos. The toxicity in Chicago may not have entirely been Fields’ fault, but if these rumors are true, then Fields will have to do a better job of connecting with his teammates in Pittsburgh.

Source: Bleacher Report

All statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference unless stated otherwise.


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