Tony Dungy has witnessed almost everything you could think of during his lifetime in football.
He has experienced quarterback controversies. He knows what impending ones look like and how best to deal with them.
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"I think you go back to Justin Fields. You have to because he's your future," Dungy said on the latest episode of the Under Center Podcast. "But to steal a line from Danny Green, my old boss: 'Nobody loses their job to injury, but sometimes you don't recover 100 percent.' Denny would say he's not quite there yet. And he'll be back when he's totally right. But what I think it gives you is you don't have to rush Justin Fields back. If Bagent comes out and plays the way he did this past week, and they win the game -- yes, you want to get back to Justin Fields, but you'll let him practice, make sure everything's absolutely perfect, because if it's not, then OK, you can go another week. Now Tyson comes back and wins another one. Now you got a tougher decision. But I would say this is Justin Fields team when he's healthy, but he's got to be absolutely 100 percent."
Bagent, the record-setting quarterback from Division II Shepherd, went 21-for-29 for 162 yards and one touchdown in the win over the Raiders.
The 23-year-old operated the offense, was accurate, threw with anticipation, and avoided the negative plays.
But it was something else that stuck with Dungy.
"Tyson Bagent just impressed me with poise. And that is the number one thing," Dungy said. "People look at quarterbacks and they look at arm strength and, you know, touch and all of those things. And that's great. But what quarterback in the NFL is all about is knowing where to go with the football, throw it to the right person, and then when things break down, what do you do when it's not exactly in rhythm? And that's what I saw from him, that it didn't throw him off. Things didn't have to be perfect. He made good decisions. And I was I came away very, very impressed with his first start."
While there's no quarterback controversy with the Bears, Dungy saw how the Bears' offense operated with Bagent at the controls and their success with that plan of attack. If that continues, Bears head coach Matt Eberflus could face a murky quarterback picture when Fields returns.
Dungy has seen unheralded guys come in and take starting jobs away from supposed franchise guys. It's a difficult decision to turn away from the guy who is supposed to be the future, but Dungy believes it's important to follow the pulse of the locker room.
"With quarterbacks, you know, when they have it and when they don't, and you’ll see -- Tyson Bagent, they may win, and maybe he's just playing OK. But if he's the reason they're winning, players know that, the locker room knows that, and now you're going to have a different situation. I'm not saying we're going to get to this, or we have gotten to this. But it'll be pretty evident. It'll be pretty clear.
"Kurt Warner came in the 1999 season. Trent Green got hurt. Kurt Warner starts lighting it up. Say Trent Green could have come back three or four weeks later. Well, you know, those players knew what they had in Kurt Warner. And I think it's the same thing with Brock Purdy. You see it in other situations. And as a coach, you can do damage if somebody has got it and you don't play them. That can be tough. "
To Dungy, Bagent getting an "extended audition" due to Fields' dislocated right thumb could complicate a situation that, for the moment, remains straightforward.
"If you go three, four or five weeks and you're playing this offense, that is more drop back pass-oriented, more traditional play-action and you're winning, then it's hard to step away and say, okay, we're going to put Justin back and go back to this other offense that we ran. And I think the 49ers kind of found that with Purdy. Hey, he's doing some things. We've got him going, and we're winning. We're winning more. We keep winning. We keep winning. Well, you know what? He's pretty good now, so we'll see. It's only been one game with Tyson Bagent, and we'll see. But if he strings together a couple more like this, it would make it a difficult call."
The Bears were impressed with Bagent during his first career start. They also managed him and didn't put too much on his plate in terms of vertical throws.
Tight end Cole Kmet called it "pretty good quarterback play." Wide receiver DJ Moore wasn't surprised that Bagent looked unfazed by the moment.
It was a good win in which Bagent showed he's a capable backup quarterback who might develop into something more down the road.
Dungy is clear about where the Bears' QB situation stands now.
"Justin Fields is your quarterback until proven otherwise."
If Bagent proves himself to be the better option -- as Warner and Purdy did -- the Bears will have to make a tough choice.
But we're nowhere close to that scenario ... yet.