Do the Bears start David Fales (left) or Jimmy Clausen (right)?
I loved head coach John Fox‘s answer when he was asked if quarterback Jay Cutler would be able to practice on Wednesday:
“Is (the coin flip) going to be heads or tails on Sunday? I don’t know.
He knows. Cutler is reportedly out for two weeks and it looks like it’s time for his back ups to step up.
Fans and media have been pretty harsh on Jimmy Clausen after Sunday’s performance and it’s hard to defend. Clausen was 14/23 for 121 yards, an average of 5.3 yards per attempt and a turnover. He didn’t exactly look like a guy who was waiting for his chance to show what he could do in this league.
I’m inclined to go easier on him than most but there’s no doubt that, going in cold with no practice reps or not, he was unprepared on Sunday. The question is, how much better is he going to be when he is prepared. And, more to the point, is it time to take a good look at David Fales?
Everyone understands this is a rebuilding year for the Bears so the first instinct is to say, “Throw the youngster in and see what he can do.” But the problem is that the quarterback isn’t the only position where development has to take place. What will it do to the development of other young players on the team without a veteran quarterback who can make the required throws. Clausen was 23/39 for 181 yards in his only start of 2014 against the Detroit Lions and his QBR was 77.
Those statistics aren’t earth shattering but they are at least competent and I’d say that Clausen is good enough to allow other young players to progress, something that we won’t know about Fales until we see him under real game conditions. But Clausen’s performances for the Bears haven’t been starting quarterback of the future material and Clausen has a long history of below average quarterback play in the NFL before that to judge him on, indicating that he’s not likely to do a whole lot better given the chance.
Fales is currently on the Bears practice squad but will almost certainly be promoted before the game this week. He was drafted in the sixth round of the 2014 draft. However, the last coaching staff didn’t deem him ready to play very often and when Clausen sustained a concussion last year in his only start, the team chose to go back to the benched Cutler rather than put Fales on to the field to see what he could do.
The good news for Fales is that the current regime chose to keep him despite the fact that they did not draft him and he missed a significant portion of training camp with an illness. So they must see something in him. But is he that much more ready now than he was late last year when the staff that drafted him wouldn’t play him?
What the coaching staff does here may tell us a lot about what they think about Fales. They could see him as a guy whose ceiling is a good back up. If that’s the case, Clausen is your man. If they see him as something more, then the decision gets more tricky. Take a huge chance on the young guy or go with the devil that you know? As Fox would undoubtedly say, “Flip a coin”.