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Chicago Sun Times
Chicago Sun-Times
21 Oct 2023
https://chicago.suntimes.com/authors/mark-potash


NextImg:Odds against Tyson Bagent, but what if he’s good?

With undrafted rookie Tyson Bagent making his first NFL start Sunday against the Raiders at Soldier Field, even the best-case scenario could be a little awkward for Matt Eberflus. 

If Bagent is good, the Bears are going to have a quarterback controversy. As silly as that scenario was in August, when Justin Fields was a top-10 MVP candidate and Bagent was a no-name rookie trying to make the roster, it will be real on Monday if Bagent is the right kind of good against the Raiders. And it won’t be just the lunatic fringes of social media driving the conversation.

With a poor performance before he was injured against the Vikings that followed encouraging games against the Broncos and Commanders, Fields has lowered the bar for even the unheralded Bagent to look like a better option with an efficient, winning performance Sunday. 

As crazy as it might sound, Fields has left all sorts of room for Bagent to look like the better option. If Bagent shows a better command of Luke Getsy’s offense after three practices as QB1 than Fields has in 23 games; if Bagent’s moxie lifts his teammates to better performances — no drops, fewer missed blocks, missed assignments and miscommunications; if Bagent doesn’t falter in the fourth quarter like Fields has (a 61.1 passer rating compared to 105.2 in the first three quarters); if Bagent — miracles of miracles — puts the Bears over the top with a late rally, there will be a passionate debate on every outlet in town about the Bears future at quarterback. This would not be like Chase Daniel beating the Lions.

That’s a long shot scenario, no doubt. But the Raiders’ defense is a fair test for Bagent to show what he’s got. The Raiders are 19th in points allowed and 11th in yards allowed through six games. The six quarterbacks they’ve faced have either had passer ratings of 108.0 or better (Josh Allen, 124.5; Kenny Pickett, 108.5; Russell Wilson 108.0) or 75 or lower (Mac Jones, 75.3; Justin Herbert 72.7; Jordan Love, 32.2). 

Fields’ best work this season has come against two defenses ranked in the bottom five in the NFL in points and yards — the 32nd-ranked Broncos (a 132.7 passer rating) and the 29th-ranked Commanders (125.3). Against the Vikings’ defense — 23rd in points, 19th in yards coming in — Fields’ passer rating was 36.7. 

The odds are against Bagent going in. The development of Luke Getsy’s offense has been torturous — like the development of every other Bears offense since Sid Luckman. When’s the last time a replacement quarterback made a Bears offense look appreciably better? Nick Foles for two quarters in 2020? Brian Hoyer for four games in 2016? Jim Miller in 1999 and 2001? Josh McCown was more efficient than Jay Cutler in five games as a starter in 2013 (a 109.0 passer rating to Cutler’s 89.2), but the offense scored fewer points with McCown than Cutler that season. 

In general, Bears offenses make the other guy look like a better option until he’s the guy. Bagent might be the latest to have that reality hit him smack in the face. But for now, there’s something about him until there isn’t. 

“Coming from where I come from, I’ve pretty much beat every odd that there was for me, so I’ve got nothing to lose,” Bagent said. “I’m going to go out there and fight with these guys to the death and try to stack up as many wins as a I can until we get Justin back.”

Indeed. If Bagent keeps beating the odds, it will be interesting to see what happens when Justin Fields comes back.