Saturday night wasn’t supposed to be fun.
If you’re an old-school meathead football fan like me, you believe the way you get better at football is by playing football. In a game. When you can hit and be hit. Especially a team that’s culture is built on the H.I.T.S. principle (hustle, intensity, takeaways and smarts). Matt Eberflus and the Bears’ front office chose to punt on that opportunity and sat Justin Fields and virtually every notable starter.
At least Eberflus had good reasoning behind the decision. Data.
Eberflus explained to Jeff Joniak in the ESPN 1000 pregame show that the Bears’ performance team calculated that their starters’ reps and energy expended in practices against the Colts last week equaled what normally would be two preseason games.
So they’d sit this game and most likely play against the Bills and give the backups plenty of opportunities to win jobs.
That’s exactly what happened, and then it got fun.
Enter Secret Bagent Man (h/t Bleacher Nation Bears).
As if the backup quarterback isn’t eternally the most popular player on the Bears, the Tyson Bagent story already is one of training camp legend.
Division II star.
Legendary arm wrestling father.
We’d be getting ahead ourselves if we’re writing the Disney script already, even in Chicago. Let’s settle on him making the roster as a capable backup to Fields.
Yes, I have fallen hard for Bears camp heroes in years past.
Henry Burris was the new Doug Flutie.
And I was convinced Sulecio Sanford could play wide receiver!
So I can excuse your skepticism.
Let’s examine the Honey Bagent’s track record.
He played and he produced at Shepherd University, a small liberal arts school in West Virginia founded the same year as the Great Chicago Fire and also the last time the Bears had a franchise QB. (I kid.)
Bagent threw for more than 17,000 yards and 159 touchdowns. Fire emoji.
As we know, playing is important.
Brock Purdy wasn’t projected to be a high-profile NFL quarterback a year ago, and like Bagent, he played a lot at Iowa State. Purdy threw for more than 12,000 yards and 81 touchdowns.
Even with the production, Purdy was the last pick of last year’s draft, and unless you were a Cyclones fan, you couldn’t pick him out of a football lineup. You know the story now.
It happened to Tony Romo.
Small-town Wisconsin kid at Eastern Illinois. Undrafted after producing almost 8,000 yards and 82 touchdowns.
We know the story now.
Baby Bagent is just the talk because of his performance Saturday, but the Bears have had a pretty long look at him for a while. Offensive coordinator Luke Getsy coached him for the week at the Senior Bowl, where he also shined. Another bonus of being the worst team in the NFL. Bagent has been in the building all offseason after not getting drafted, and his practice against the Colts on Thursday also was noteworthy. He has proved that he clearly belongs.
Back to Eberflus. I wrote about him a couple of weeks ago and how we’re still getting to know him.
We’re also learning how much he loves playing young players. That’s the opposite of a lot stubborn coaches.
The old guard usually doesn’t trust young players, but Eberflus enables them, gets them experience, and that ultimately leads them to becoming better players. I love that about him.
He’s clearly starting to trust Bagent, at least as a backup.
Maybe there was a method to the madness in sitting Fields.
Now we just have to work on better Bagent nicknames.
• Marc Silverman shares his opinions on the Bears weekly for Shaw Local. Tune in and listen to the “Waddle & Silvy” show weekdays from 2 to 6 p.m. on ESPN 1000.