Time for the Bears to sit Justin Fields and give Tyson Bagent a real chance

The undrafted rookie showed enough in his NFL debut Sunday to earn a start.

SHARE Time for the Bears to sit Justin Fields and give Tyson Bagent a real chance
Bears quarterback Tyson Bagent celebrates after his one-yard touchdown run against the Vikings on Sunday.

Bears quarterback Tyson Bagent celebrates after his one-yard touchdown run against the Vikings on Sunday.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

I’d rather see more of Tyson Bagent than more of the same from Justin Fields.

I’d rather see what the undrafted quarterback from Division II Shepherd University can do with one NFL game under his belt than see what I know I’m going to get from the first-round pick from Ohio State after 33 NFL games.

That might seem like a knee-jerk reaction, especially after Bagent’s up-and-down performance in relief of an injured Fields on Sunday. Maybe it is. The damage from years of watching bad quarterbacking in Chicago has made me twitchy.

Even though Bagent threw a very bad interception Sunday in a 19-13 loss to the Vikings, he showed enough in his emergency performance to deserve another look. That’s all you need to know about Fields and the state of the 1-5 Bears.

They’re staring at another lost season and the likelihood of another high draft pick, so why not go with the unproven kid instead of the proven mediocrity? Why not see if Bagent can play while the team competes (sort of) for the No. 1 pick in the 2024 draft?

Fields suffered a hand injury early in the third quarter Sunday. X-rays were negative. He wanted to come back in the game, but he couldn’t grip the ball, according to coach Matt Eberflus.

So in came Bagent, whom fans fell in love with in the preseason because fans are required to fall in love with an unsung quarterback in preseason.

He received the same uneven-to-bad blocking that Fields has received for the past three years but exhibited a much better feel for the passing game than Fields ever has. He threw a couple of ridiculous passes, including the underthrown interception on first down at the Minnesota 35 that all but ended the game. He also lost the ball on a strip sack that turned into a 42-yard fumble return.

Wait, this is the guy you want as your starter?

Yes.

Does that make you the village idiot?

Possibly.

But tell me where the Bears are going with Fields. He’s no longer the rookie with tons of room to grow. He’s every bit of what we’ve seen for too long, a quarterback who doesn’t look beyond his first read. The best version of him is when he runs, and that version doesn’t work in the NFL.

Chicago has loved the idea of the backup quarterback for the past 70 years. Loved the mystery inherent in someone who never plays. Loved the possibility he might be The Answer. It’s no way to go through life, but what else is there for Bears fans? It’s the preferred method of escape in this town. Reality stinks.

So let me tell you a story. Perhaps you’ve heard this one before, the one about the backup who turns into a swan, even if ever so briefly. There was this drive Sunday, a nine-play, 77-yard, fourth-quarter scoring effort that was the picture of efficiency. It was beautiful, and it ended with the hero’s one-yard touchdown run, the way a lot of these rags-to-riches tales do.

One drive. That was enough for me.

So, yeah, more of him, please. More of the guy from the school in West Virginia with 3,159 students.

“You could see what he could do,’’ Eberflus said of the TD drive.

We could. He completed 10 of 14 passes for 83 yards. His passer rating (56.5) was nothing to brag about, but he did a decent impression of someone who belongs. I’d like to find out if he does. How about you?

Say this about him: Whatever happened Sunday, good or bad, he seemed unfazed.

“Football is football,’’ he said. “Football field is the same size. Eleven-on-11. You’re either going to throw the ball or pass the ball.’’

Fields went 6-of-10 for 58 yards and an interception, which is why his passer rating was 36.7. The Vikings sacked him four times, the last one leading to his injury. That performance is much closer to the player Fields is than the player who threw for a combined 617 yards and eight touchdowns the previous two weeks. Those games, against the Broncos and the Commanders, were a mirage, the product of two bad defenses.

His stats Sunday felt … normal.

So bring on Tyson Bagent. The Bears play the so-so Raiders at Soldier Field next week. Let’s see what the guy who threw for more than 17,000 yards in college can do.

After the game, Eberflus didn’t sound like a man making a change at quarterback. If that’s because he doesn’t believe Bagent is good enough, fine. If it’s because he believes Fields is good enough, then the Bears have more than a quarterback problem. They have a judgment problem, too.

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