The scramble to find out who in the wide world of eastern West Virginia is Tyson Bagent has been made necessary by the inevitable shelving of Justin Fields, who came to the Bears preregistered and eagerly haloed, the answer to doubts and dreams.
Fields was highly sought, a product from the front window of the Ohio State football factory, a place that turns out jocks the way other schools turn out scholars and sports columnists, myself being the exception that makes the rule.
Meanwhile Bagent frolicked in the outback of college football, otherwise known as Division II, setting records that no one noticed nor much cared about at tiny Shepherd University, boastful of its “convenient location and reasonable pricing.”
Not that Bagent’s first NFL start is likely to go unnoticed back in Shepherdsville, W.V., but the place does have concerns of its own, most notably homecoming this weekend against West Chester, which always draws a crowd.
For Chicago, of course, it is just another promise broken, although Fields’ right thumb is reportedly merely dislocated, a medical distinction best left to those who can still cut their own meat.
How long Fields will be out is vague and inconsequential to the real matter at hand, and that is how can the Bears keep losing without causing suspicion? And what better cover than Tyson the Obscure, who can only screw things up.
The ruse goes like this. Through crafty planning the Bears have found a future in young Bagent, so impressive in pantomime that he climbed the ladder of success over the anonymous and the deficient; that is to say over P.J. Walker and Nathan Peterman, word has it, quarterbacks also, all the way from West Almost Heaven Virginia, thank you, John Denver.
According to those who keep count, this NFL season began with 43 Division II players on rosters, meaning that roughly 2 percent of the league came from places where football is played for fun and reasonable pricing.
Such things are not unheard of. Walter Payton comes to mind, as he should, from Jackson State, then a D-II school, but Payton was also a first-round draft choice, while Bagent was no choice at all. So is set a tale of odds killing triumph, the obscure becoming the eminent, from country roads to city lights, understudy to star, just like in the storybooks.
Look it up. Books are full of such stories. Take John Unitas, eventual legend, a ninth-round pick by Pittsburgh, cut and reduced to playing for the Bloomfield Rams at $6 a game before getting another chance with the original Colts.
What of Tom Brady, sixth-rounder, the 199th player taken after other immortal quarterbacks like Giovanni Carmazzi and Spergon Wynn? What of Joe Montana, taken near the end of the third round, thought less of than Steve Fuller, who, nevertheless, remains my favorite Bears quarterback?
And then there is current 49ers illustration Brock Purdy, from the last draft pick in 2022 to the NFC Championship Game, the living promise that all things are possible.
Possible, yes possible. Unlikely, very unlikely. Nothing is headier in life than being unfailed. Secondary Bears quarterbacks have managed to strut and fret their hour on the stage from Mike Tomczak to Craig Krenzel, probably before and certainly after, though those names come to mind first.
Optimism lasts only as long as the first pick-6 — the fumble for 6 does not count against Bagent — but that is all that counts. Until further proof, Bagent has a strong arm and a decisive mind, accurate and solid, a real NFL quarterback, or what’s an overlooked specimen for?
Poor Fields had much to live up to, too much as it has developed, expectations rooted in a generation of searching for he who would be the one. Maybe Fields may yet be the one, while the list of better quarterbacks than he were not.
It is just as unlikely that Bagent is the one, or is anyone more likely, rather just another deputy in waiting. It was always going to come to this, Fields gone from injury or impotence, and someone needed to front the fraud.
The Bears can see the first two draft choices waiting, available for losing, and the Bears are certainly capable of that. Dependable, really.