What is understood doesn’t need to be said out loud. Except when it comes to who is the Chicago Bears’ starting quarterback. Let’s face it. There is no athlete in town more popular than the Bears’ backup quarterback. And when they perform as admirably as Tyson Bagent did in his first NFL start, whispers of a quarterback controversy in Chicago were bound to pop up.
For what it’s worth, Bears Head Coach Matt Eberflus did his best to put that drama to bed:
It probably didn’t need to be said that Justin Fields is still The Guy over Tyson Bagent. Still, maybe we need to have a discussion about how the Bears operate at quarterback moving forward.
To be clear, Eberflus probably didn’t need to reiterate that Fields was his starting quarterback when healthy. But here’s the thing … when is Fields going to be healthy? Reports on Sunday suggested Fields could return as early as Week 9 against the New Orleans Saints. And while I don’t want anyone to think that I’m out here banging the table for Bagent to be QB1 moving forward, his play in Week 7 against the Las Vegas Raiders merits a second start. Especially with Fields still on the mend.
As a Cubs fan, I’ve seen it far too often when a player rushes back from injury and is a detriment to the team. Meanwhile, a healthy and perfectly capable fill-in doesn’t get a shot. We just watched Dansby Swanson limp to the finish when shifting Nico Hoerner to shortstop at any point during the second half for a few days to give his double-play partner some time off was an option that manager David Ross didn’t turn to when he had a chance. All things considered, I’d prefer not to deal with it during the football season.
Eberflus and the Bears will have a better idea regarding a timetable for Fields’ return early this week. Fields could return to practice on Wednesday after suffering a dislocated thumb in Week 6 against the Minnesota Vikings. But that doesn’t mean that the Bears should thrust him back into the lineup. And they definitely shouldn’t do it before he is ready. I fully expect Fields to push hard to return because that is my default for highly competitive pro athletes. However, Bagent’s game-manager ability buys Fields (and the Bears) some additional recovery time. Why not take advantage of it?
Let Tyson Bagent start for the Bears (at least for one more week)
We’ve often discussed this season as a place to evaluate Justin Fields. But there are 52 other players on the roster who have something to prove. One of them is Bagent. And with Fields being less than 100 percent, this feels like a good time to test the rookie backup quarterback. Let’s find out what he can handle. I’m not suggesting that the Bears throw the kitchen sink at him. However, it might be neat to see if the team has an honest-to-goodness QB2 on its hands.
If it does, then it would save the team a lot of hassle (and cap space) by having a backup quarterback on a rookie-scale deal that it plucked from the UDFA market. And what better time to figure that out than while Fields is recovering from an injury. Give Bagent another full practice workload. Game plan for him against the Chargers this week. And let him go to battle not having to look over his shoulder. I don’t think there is anything wrong with giving the rookie some extra runway this week. Especially since it isn’t expected that Fields would take a large chunk of practice reps after being not practicing at all last week.
Frankly, that I’m at a point where I’m OK giving Bagent an extended leash says a lot about his performance on Sunday. I don’t think I’d be petitioning for another Bagent start if he didn’t look like a capable backup against the Raiders. Bagent did everything you’d want a QB2 to do in that game. He was quick and decisive with throws. Plus, there was never a moment watching when you thought the moment was too big for him. That counts for something … right?
No, Bagent wasn’t giving off Tom Brady or Tony Romo vibes. So I’m not ready to turn Justin Fields into Drew Bledsoe. And this doesn’t feel like a Wally Pipp situation. But still … I’m OK with letting the rookie start another. At least for this week.