Here's when Justin Fields will start his first game for the Bears

Andy Dalton will start Week 1, but the date for the start of the Fields Era seems obvious.

Justin Fields
(USA Today Sports) 

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Can you wait another 42 days for the start of the Justin Fields era?

No?  Well, too bad, because Matt Nagy won't provide a choice other than patience right now. The Bears coach reaffirmed Andy Dalton as the team's Week 1 starter after Saturday's 41-15 dispiriting loss to Buffalo, a contest that only reinforced Dalton's status as the highest-paid seat warmer on the planet.

You thought sitting through an entire half of watching Dalton before getting to see Fields on Saturday was tough?  Wait until we have to sit through all of  September.

Here's the good news, though: If everything goes wrong — and it probably will — Justin Fields will start against the Lions at Soldier Field on October 3.

That's not a prediction based on any inside information, but I would wager a healthy sum if any book offers the bet. I actually circled the same date when the schedule was released in May and the reasons still present a case for making Bears fans wait.

Delaying Fields' debut until the season's fourth game ...

• ... keeps Fields out of a nationally-televised Week 1 game against the Rams defense and a Week 3 contest in Cleveland — two games that will be tough for the Bears to win no matter who's starting at quarterback.

• ... gives Dalton a chance at his own revenge game when the Bengals come to Soldier Field in Week 2. That should be a Bears win no matter who starts and if Dalton fails, well, it makes Fields' ascension that much easier.

• ... sets the table for an ideal debut situation for any NFL quarterback: A home game against the Lions, followed by a road game in Las Vegas with a heavy Chicago fan presence and a Sunday noon home game against the Packers before heading to Tampa for a truly scary date against the Bucs defense.  

I'd be shocked if this wasn't Nagy and Ryan Pace's plan all along, nor am I surprised to see them clinging to it ever after what we've seen the last two weekends.

Remember: While we're guaranteed to be around for whatever this Fields era turns into, both men presumably don't have the same security. Their short-term job prospects — particularly Nagy's — are likely tied to Fields' immediate success and so they'll look for the most gentle entry point possible.

If Dalton somehow wins some games between now and then?

Well, all the better because Nagy's trial timeline is extended.

It's why you see Nagy getting up after Saturday's game and insisting he needs to see Dalton "in the regular season" — as if he doesn't have a training camp, two preseason games and 10 years of tape before that.

If anything, you almost have to admire Nagy's commitment to the bit. Dalton has spent his first two preseason games doing a spot-on impression of the prototypical "Bears quarterback," stacking three-and-outs while struggling to perform behind a broken offensive line.

Dalton was 11-of-17 for 146 yards with one touchdown and one interception against the Bills. Exactly half of that yardage came on one touchdown pass to Rodney Adams; the immobile Dalton couldn't move the ball otherwise.

Let's put it this way: Had the Bears not landed Fields, most of the fanbase would've checked out of the entire season at halftime of Saturday's game.

Fields hasn't been perfect so far and he's going to deal with the same protection problems — see the heart-stopping illegal hit by Andre Smith — but it's clear he's better equipped to lead the Bears than Dalton. This isn't Brett Favre blocking Aaron Rodgers for years or even Alex Smith buying Patrick Mahomes some time.

You know it, I know it and Nagy knows it.  

Should we be mad that last party needs to see Dalton go three games and out before sending Fields in? I don't think I'm as angry about it as other parts of Bears fandom. If Fields is indeed the real deal, the next month or so won't even get a mention in his Wikipedia.

And let's not act like the starting quarterback decision will mean the difference between a Super Bowl title or not this year. This is a long play, one that's going to require more patience than a fanbase going on almost 40 years without a Super Bowl title probably has.

The Fields Era will be here soon enough and when it starts, so does Matt Nagy's most important test as coach of the Chicago Bears.

I'm willing to bet that clock starts ticking the first Sunday of October.

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