Bears OC Luke Getsy should stay conservative with QB Tyson Bagent vs. Chargers

By Chicago 6 Min Read

The Bears haven’t found many ways to win over the last two seasons, so figuring out a feasible formula for undrafted rookie quarterback Tyson Bagent to beat the Raiders in his first career start should have been one of the great successes of Luke Getsy’s choppy time as offensive coordinator.

But now he has to do it again, and Getsy has been in no mood for a victory lap.

“There’s nothing personal [or any] self-satisfaction from me,” he said Thursday. “That doesn’t really cross my mind in the way that I operate. I was excited for the guys to celebrate together… and hopefully we can continue to build off of that.”

It has been an ongoing wrestling match for Getsy to find an effective scheme while navigating the roster’s various limitations, including at quarterback. Justin Fields, and now Bagent, haven’t brought quite the same skill to the equation that Aaron Rodgers did when Getsy was with the Packers. And the Bears have never won back-to-back games under this coaching staff.

So the fact that he found a functional formula for Bagent means he’s likely to stick with it Sunday against the Chargers. Getsy should be more inclined to base his game plan on what he knows Bagent can do rather than what he hopes Bagent can do.

The Chargers have given up the eighth-most points (25.8 per game) and second-most yards (406.8), and furthermore have allowed the second-highest opponent passer rating (105.6). That suggests Bagent at least has a chance.

Getsy must open that opportunity for him by finding new ways to get to what worked against the Raiders.

That’s going to start with run-heavy play calling. The Bears were down to their third and fourth running backs — D’Onta Foreman and Darrynton Evans, respectively — against the Raiders and got 4.6 yards per carry from them collectively. The Chargers have been better against the run than the pass, but the Bears have the No. 5 rushing offense in the NFL and shouldn’t be afraid to emphasize that strength against any defense.

“Anytime you can establish the line of scrimmage, you’re going to have a much easier time doing everything,” Getsy said. “That was a really important part of what we wanted to do last week.”

And surely this week. No facet of the Bears, on either side of the ball, has been as reliable for them as their running game. Even last season, when they did almost nothing right, they led the NFL at 177.3 yards rushing per game.

It didn’t produce many points or wins, though, and that’s the next problem Getsy has to solve. If he assumes the ground game will be there for him, and it should be enhanced by the return of Roschon Johnson from a concussion, he has to gauge how much he trusts Bagent as a passer.

“When you look at the Raiders game, there was a lot of stuff that we had in but didn’t use,” tight end Cole Kmet said. “When you’re running the ball like we were and he’s able to stay ahead of the chains, there’s no reason to get crazy with it. When you’re absolutely dominating a front like that and he’s getting the ball out quick, we’ll do that all day.

“The Chargers will probably adjust and they’ll want to stop the run and see what [Bagent] can do, but we have full confidence in him. They’re not putting training wheels on the game plan for him.”

Bagent’s rise from Division II has been remarkable. He has impressed coaches and teammates at every turn. He was competent against the Raiders.

But he’s still fledgling. He’s still a rookie who has thrown 43 NFL passes and has never experienced anything remotely close to lining up with pass rushers Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack to his left and right. Those two have 11 Pro Bowl selections and 155 career sacks between them.

In Bagent’s starting debut, he didn’t throw a pass beyond 15 yards downfield. The Bears certainly will have to open it up more than that, and Getsy smirked when asked if he thought Bagent had a strong arm and could capably make every necessary throw.

“Yes and yes,” he said. “We have complete confidence in Tyson.”

Well, not “complete confidence,” to be honest. The Bears strangely sent backup Nathan Peterman at the end of the half last week to hurl one to the end zone from 54 yards as time ran down. Peterman never got that throw off because he got sacked.

The unusual move prompted a question to Bagent about his arm strength, to which he replied that he had “a cannon” and “the ball most definitely would have got there.

That might be true, but the Bears are best served not needing to rely on Bagent’s “cannon” until he finds his footing. Until then, playing it safe is the most prudent path, and it’s up to Getsy to find an inventive way to do it.

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