If I didn’t know better, I’d say the Bears are on the brink of the only situation in which Bears fans feel truly comfortable and safe: A good, old-fashioned quarterback controversy. Tyson Bagent, who even Bears fans had never heard of before he spelled an injured Justin Fields last week, led the Bears to their second win of the season, taking down the Raiders 30-12. Bagent threw for 162 yards and a touchdown, and while he deserves all the credit for dragging the Bears to a dub, today’s win had much more to do with the Raiders’ incompetence against the run than the Bears discovering their next franchise QB.
The Raiders are 21st in the league in defending the rush, and Chicago took advantage today, with two of their three offensive TDs coming via the run. Las Vegas also had to play with Brian Hoyer under center, as starting QB Jimmy Garoppolo was sidelined with a back injury.
“Why can’t Justin Fields do this?” Bears fans on social media asked. “Why are we paying Justin Fields so much when Tyson Bagent can do the exact same thing?” “Trade Fields and keep Bagent!” one friend texted me. And sure, Bagent’s numbers from his first NFL start are similar to those we’ve seen from Fields the last two years. Fields is usually good for around 200 yards and a couple of passing TDs. His passer and QB ratings thus far in 2023 are 91.6 and 40.4 (if you take out the game where he was injured last week, his QBR is closer to 78), respectively. That’s far less than what the Bears hoped to get out of Fields by this point in his career, but how much of that is on Fields and how much is on the organization that hasn’t developed a franchise QB in many fans’ lifetimes? From Mike Ditka’s staff to Matt Eberflus’, Chicago has never drafted a QB that lived up to even reasonable expectations.
The Bears used their top draft pick on Fields in 2021, and the former Ohio St. QB became the latest in a long tradition of highly-touted college QBs who turned out to be terrifically average (or below average) under the tutelage of the Bears’ offensive staff. No matter who wears the headset for Chicago, there is something about this team that does not allow QBs with raw talent to succeed. While Bears fans rightfully lament the team being so laser-focused on Mitch Trubisky that they passed on Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson (before all the uh… unpleasantness), it’s hard to imagine Mahomes being the MVP-caliber QB he is under the guidance the Chicago Bears’ various offensive gurus down through the years.
This is what the Bears offense is. It allows plenty of room for failure, but has a low ceiling when it comes to success. It’s too limited, too lacking in creativity. It tries to force every QB into the same mold (even across different coaching regimes) from Jay Cutler to Mitch Trubisky to Justin Fields, no matter their individual strengths. For a single season in 2018, Bears fans were treated to ridiculously creative offensive play-calling, which featured not only fun play names like “Willy Wonka,” “Fridge Left,” “Oompa Loompa,” and “Santa’s Sleigh,” but trick plays that actually worked. The Bears finished ninth in the NFL in total scoring that season, and Bears fans thought there was finally an offensive-minded coach at the helm.
The next season, in 2019, the Bears finished 24th in scoring and things only got worse from there, until Matt Nagy was removed and replaced with Eberflus. This year, the Bears hover around the middle of the NFL pack in scoring, despite their 2-5 record.
Then there’s the perennially sub-par offensive line, which hasn’t featured anyone worth celebrating since 2018, when both Charles Leno and Cody Whitehair went to the Pro Bowl, and as mentioned above, that year was an outlier.
When you look at Justin Fields, it’s hard to imagine that this is all he’s capable of. Fans see flashes of what he could be every now and then, when Fields uses his legs to extend a play and then zips one into the red zone for a big gain. But the Bears’ offense simply does not allow him to do it very often. Even Fields felt constrained by the play-calling, saying back in September that the coaching caused him to be “robotic,” even if he immediately took a right back.
If fans are wondering if there’s a quarterback controversy between Bagent and Fields (and my God, I’ve never been happier to be out of sports radio than the thought of that subject dominating the call-in lines for the next week), they’re asking the wrong question. The problem is not why Tyson Bagent was able to play like a poor man’s Justin Fields this week. The real question is what it is about the Chicago Bears that constantly dooms their top quarterback picks to NFL mediocrity? Because until the team figures that out, they can draft all the high-ranked QBs they want — it will never matter.
Original source here
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