Schrock: Enjoy Tyson Bagent’s underdog moment without needless Bears QB debate originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
CHICAGO — Tyson Bagent is real. That’s not to say he’s the “real deal” as an NFL quarterback. The jury is still out on that, and a verdict might never return.
But Bagent, the undrafted rookie out of Division II Shepherd University, is as real as they come.
“Oh, yeah. Yeah,” Bagent said when asked if he was nervous to make his first career NFL start after he helped lead the Bears to a 30-12 win over the Las Vegas Raiders at Soldier Field.
Most professional athletes would regurgitate the typical sports cliches about having blinders to block out the noise, focusing only on themselves, etc.
Bagent isn’t like that. He’s unafraid to admit that he was nervous before the biggest moment of his young life. Who wouldn’t be? It’s not a sign of weakness or that he’s a lesser player, but an acknowledgment of human emotion — one he said subsided once he ran onto the field for warm-ups.
By the numbers Sunday, Bagent was unspectacular. He finished the day 21-for-29 for 162 yards and one touchdown. But for a kid whose last start came against Colorado School of Mines to walk into Soldier Field and be unfazed by the moment, to not make mistakes, and seemingly unlock parts of the Bears’ offense that had been dormant.
Well, that’s impressive, no matter what his future holds.
“He played really good football today,” tight end Cole Kmet told NBC Sports Chicago after the win. “I don’t know what the stats were, but that’s really good quarterback play. I know everyone gets caught up in fantasy points or whatever, but it was really good, efficient quarterback play.”
Bagent operated the Bears’ offense precisely how offensive coordinator Luke Getsy wants the buttons pushed. He was accurate and on time. He threw with timing and anticipation. He didn’t turn the ball over and connected with seven different receivers on the afternoon. With Bagent at the controls, the Bears’ offense stayed ahead of the sticks and leaned on a physical run game that Kmet noted “kicked the Raiders’ ass.”
You’re probably not going to find Bagent on SportsCenter’s Top 10.
Sure, the 12-yard scramble on which he utilized the pump fake was nifty. The toss-back screen that was key in the Bears’ 88-yard, time-sucking drive in the third quarter was run to perfection. There was the third down pass in which Bagent navigated a messy pocket, climbed it, and delivered a strike to Tyler Scott for the first down.
None of those are needle-moving plays. But they were the energy that kept the Bears’ offense humming, and put the Raiders’ defense on its backfoot.
For a guy who was playing West Chester College at this time last year, that’s notable, no matter the numbers.
“It was really impressive for an undrafted rookie,” Kmet said.
“It was really good,” right guard Teven Jenkins said of Bagent’s pocket poise and play. “He really felt comfortable back there. The way he was moving around and avoiding pressure, he was looking really good.”
The Bears were confident Bagent could pilot them to a win on Sunday. His self-confidence has been evident since the moment he arrived at Halas Hall. They knew the moment wouldn’t be too big for him. His confidence let his teammates know that as long as they did their job and had his back, he wouldn’t let them down.
“Just seeing his playmaking ability,” linebacker Tremaine Edmunds said when asked when he knew Bagent was more than a normal undrafted rookie. “He made a lot of good plays running and throwing the ball. I’m happy he was able to come out today and show the world what he was able to do.”
“He stayed within his self. He didn’t go wild and do nothing extraordinary,” wide receiver DJ Moore said. “He just stayed calm, collected and do what he had to do.”
There’s a reactionary need in today’s sports landscape to assign big overarching takes to everything that happens.
That’s unnecessary in the case of Tyson Bagent’s first career start and win. He did what the coaching staff asked, got the ball out of his hands, and let Moore, D’Onta Foreman, and the Bears’ skill guys do the rest.
There’s no question the Bears’ offense ran smoothly. The pass protection was excellent, the run game did the heavy lifting, and the Bears were 8-for-13 on third down and 3-for-3 in the red zone.
Getsy’s offense, in its most efficient form, is all about running the ball and having the quarterback get the ball out on time and on target. Bagent did that Sunday. In all honesty, his skill set meshes well with that offensive philosophy.
He’s got something to him. Label it what you will: Moxie, it factor, self-belief. Whatever it is, his teammates felt it and fed off it. The Bears played some of their best football Sunday, allowing Bagent to do what he’s best at.
That’s all well and good, but Sunday’s 30-12 win wasn’t a statement about the Bears’ future, proof of progress, or the start of a quarterback debate.
It’s OK to enjoy the Tyson Bagent experience without making a grand proclamation about Justin Fields’ future as the Bears’ franchise quarterback.
For one Sunday (maybe more), Tyson Bagent gave the Bears precisely what they needed from the quarterback position and was a crucial cog in unlocking parts of the offense that had been inconsistent or non-existent through the first six weeks.
He gave them quality NFL quarterback play while doing nothing extraordinary.
For a day, he was everything the Bears needed.
Can he be more? Can he do it again?
That’s a conversation for another day. For one day, there’s no need for navel-gazing takes or to project things out weeks or years into the future.
For one day, it’s OK to live in the moment.
That moment belongs to Tyson Bagent, Division II legend and Chicago Bears quarterback who beat the odds and the Raiders.