Coller: Don't laugh at Andy Dalton so fast, Vikings fans

Matthew Coller writes a weekly Vikings column for BMTN, with more of his work found at Purple Insider.
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Matthew Coller is an experienced football writer who covered the Vikings for 1500ESPN and Skor North for four years. Also a published author, Coller writes a weekly Vikings column for Bring Me The News, and you can find more of his work at Purple Insider.

When the Chicago Bears blasted out a tweet that said “QB1” with a photoshopped picture of Andy Dalton in a Bears uniform attached, the internet naturally turned its snark up to full power.

After all, it was just a few weeks ago that Russell Wilson’s agent said that his client would be willing to accept a trade to the Windy City. The Bears reportedly did everything they could, including offering three first-round picks and several players for Wilson. The Seahawks wouldn’t budge so Chicago’s consolation prize is Dalton, who went 4-5 as a starter filling in for injured Dak Prescott on a poorly-coached Dallas team last season.

Dalton and Chicago are almost too perfect for each other. The Bears are one of the few teams that is more quarterback tortured in their history than the Vikings. They have struggled so much to find a franchise QB that Mitch Trubisky ranks fifth in team history in passing yards. That’s right, the fifth leading passer in team history only played four seasons and was run out of town at the end of his rookie deal.

Chicago has truly tried everything at quarterback. They traded up to pick Trubisky. They traded for Jay Cutler and Rick Mirer. They drafted Rex Grossman and Kyle Orton. They signed washed up Kordell Stewart and Chris Chandler. They’ve thrown guys in there that nobody’s ever heard of like Chad Hutchinson and Moses Moreno. They’ve tried a McCown and McNown.

Yet many of the aforementioned failed QB options for the Bears have still found a way to beat the Minnesota Vikings.

Since 2000, the Vikings have won just 19 of 42 games against Chicago. In recent years with Matt Nagy in charge of the Bears, the Vikings have twice lost to Trubisky with a playoff spot on the line. Chase Daniel came off the bench to beat the Vikings in 2019. He only has two other career wins.

As classic as it might be for the Bears to end up with a guy best known for never getting terrific Cincinnati Bengals teams over the hump and then slowly commanding their downfall into tankness, Dalton not only beat the Vikings in last-minute fashion as Dallas’s quarterback last year, he is also an upgrade over previous recent Bears QBs who beat the Vikings.

Last year Pro Football Focus graded Dalton similarly to Ben Roethlisberger and Jared Goff. Even with a late-season hot streak (and good game against the Vikings), Trubisky’s scores were only a shade ahead of Nick Mullens and Sam Darnold.

The Bears had a better record than the Vikings last season with not just one but two of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL. Nick Foles ranked dead last in yards per pass attempt, went 2-5 as a starter and Chicago still managed to swing a road playoff game. The Red Rifle can’t do worse than Trubisky/Foles.

It also wasn’t that long ago (2015) that Dalton led the seventh ranked offense in scoring and fifth best in passing Expected Points Added. The Vikings have not reached those marks since Kirk Cousins arrived in 2018.

He’s probably not the same guy from 2015 but Dalton is cheap and Chicago isn’t locked into him long term. They can draft a QB in the first round without controversy this year. That might be considered favorable to having the third most expensive QB whose record doesn’t include as many 10-win seasons as Dalton.

In order to make the case for Vikings fans having permission to snark about the Bears’ newest QB acquisition, we have to be sure they can be better than the Dalton Bears.

Since 2018, Cousins is 1-4 against the Bears with a 88.8 QB rating, seven touchdowns, four interceptions and 16 times sacked.

Presently, the Vikings haven’t done much to help their quarterback. The only moves they have made on offense are Riley Reiff and Kyle Rudolph being cut and Chad Beebe being re-signed.

Who’s blocking Khalil Mack?

The Vikings still have plenty of work to do before we can be convinced that they’re a dead lock for at least the No. 2 spot in the NFC North.

None of this is to say that the Bears are in a great spot. They’re destined for seven or eight wins -- maybe nine if the NFL adds a 17th game. They have a fading defense and a coach and GM with uncertain futures. However, Pro Football Focus’s “Improvement Index” lists the Vikings as less improved than the Bears this offseason (because of the projected Dalton gains over Trubisky/Foles).

OverTheCap.com data reports the Vikings have around $10 million to spend in free agency and they are still in need of the left side of their offensive line and anyone who can pressure the quarterback.

When Dalton defeated the Vikings at US Bank Stadium last year he was only pressured on four of 34 dropbacks and had a 106.7 rating when kept clean. Yes, Danielle Hunter’s return (we think?) should help the pass rush but who else is getting after Chicago’s latest journeyman QB?

Not to mention that the Vikings haven’t had any space for luxury playmaking pickups in free agency. The WR3 market is drying up and it appears that they’ll have to look to the draft for anyone else who can give Cousins options in key situations.

Certainly if you were betting right now you’d give the edge to the Vikings in the North race. If we agree that offense drives success in the NFL these days, we’d still say the Vikings should be in the top 15 in scoring next year and Chicago will be on the outside of that. The question is: Have the Vikings done enough with two defensive signings to be really, really sure they’re beating Dalton twice in 2021? Based on past and recent history, it’s too soon to say so. Check back after the draft and maybe it’ll be OK to mock Dalton’s Bears. Maybe.

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