INDIANAPOLIS -- Whether at D-II Shepherd or for the Bears, Tyson Bagent knows how to play quarterback.
So when the undrafted rookie jogged onto the Lucas Oil Stadium turf in the second quarter of Saturday's 24-17 preseason loss to the Indianapolis Colts, it should be no surprise that he looked like he belonged.
OK, it was still a little surprising to see the heralded, record-setting D-II quarterback engineer a 17-play, 92-yard touchdown drive -- to look like he belonged on an NFL field with no hint of nerves or inexperience. He was calm, collected, and comfortable as he went 7-for-8 for 61 yards on the drive before capping it off with a 2-yard touchdown run.
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He finished the day 9-for-10 for 76 yards, with 4 yards rushing and a touchdown.
"I would say it’s probably two things," Bagent said after the loss when asked why he looked so comfortable. "Luckily enough, I was able to play a lot of football in college and really get exposed to all the situations football has to offer. I think that definitely serves a role. I’ve also been playing quarterback since I was 6, when my dad forced me to play. I’ve been playing for a long time.
"I have a pretty good understanding of what needs to happen and what doesn’t need to happen. And also, the mental load that it is to play quarterback in the NFL, it’s a lot. So if you kinda let that get to you, you can start to look pretty crazy out there. I like to keep it cool, calm, and collected and let all the guys in the trenches do all the crazy dirty work. And try to get everybody on the same page so we’re able to move the ball down the field."
Bagent took over for backup quarterback P.J. Walker, who struggled mightily in two series of work. Bagent has been the most consistent of the backup quarterbacks throughout training camp, and Saturday, he just might have officially thrown his hat in the ring to be the Bears' backup quarterback.
"I saw poise," Eberflus said of Bagent after the loss. "Delivery was there, the accuracy looked pretty good, timing was nice, decision making was good."
Eberflus later added that the backup quarterback job, like almost every spot on the depth chart, is an open competition.
It would be Hollywood-esque for a D-II quarterback to win the backup job for a marquee NFL franchise just months after going undrafted. It's unlikely, yes. But Bagent quickly endeared himself to the Bears' staff during rookie minicamp. He came in and immediately tried to learn the footwork needed to run offensive coordinator Luke Getsy's scheme. That led to an inaccurate first day of rookie minicamp, but the Bears respected Bagent's desire to do it their way instead of just racking up completions with his Shepherd footwork. It showed that he was willing to do the hard, dirty work to get where he wants.
That earned him a spot on the training camp roster, where he has put his head down to digest Getsy's offense.
"I had three offensive coordinators in college, all were coming with different schemes and way of doing things," Bagent said. "I feel like I was introduced to pretty much every single little thing an offense can possibly do. And then here, it’s kinda bringing all three of those offenses all together, just how detailed and intrinsic everything is at this level. I think [Getsy] does a good job of situational football. I think that all the checks on plays are, you really can’t be wrong. You can’t really run a bad play. Every play’s not gonna be great, but you’re really operating in the sense that we’re getting out of bad plays, and if anything, it’s just a neutral play. I kinda like that aspect. And just following the coaching points and listening to those coaching points every play."
After Walker finished the day 1-for-4 for 6 yards, Bagent's precision and decisiveness were a breath of fresh air for a game that was in a coma for the first quarter.
Bagent and the Bears' offense started the drive at their own 8-yard line after a special teams penalty. It's a spot where countless undrafted rookie quarterbacks have wilted -- where the moment has become too big as they look to make a statement that they belong.
But Bagent was unbothered by the opportunity handed to him Saturday. Having already jumped Nathan Peterman on the quarterback depth chart, Bagent had a chance Saturday to show the Bears' staff that he can do the job if needed.
On second-and-10 from the Bears' 8, Bagent dropped back and zipped a rope to Dante Pettis on a slant for 9 yards. After picking up the first down on a sneak, Bagent threw another strike to Nsimba Webster for 13.
Some tough running by Roschon Johnson got the Bears into Colts' territory.
Facing a first-and-15 from the Colts' 34, Bagent found Joe Reed over the middle for 11. Three plays later, he found Johnson out of the backfield for 11 more.
Bagent led the Bears down to the 2-yard line before finishing the drive himself with a crafty scramble.
Bagent's composed drive was no surprise to his fellow rookies. This is who he has been since the day he walked through the Halas Hall doors.
“He’s a cool dude. He’s smooth. He doesn’t panic," Johnson said after the game. "He comes from a small school but you wouldn’t know the way that he plays. Just how he carries himself. He’s a guy that everyone kind of gets along with and everybody trusts when he’s in there because he’s very calm and collected.”
"He's just a hard worker," rookie defensive tackle Zacch Pickens said. "He puts down. When it's time to work, it's time to work."
The odds are still stacked against Bagent in his quest to unseat Walker as the Bears' backup quarterback. The guaranteed money in Walker's contract, plus his experience, make it unlikely he'll lose his job to an undrafted rookie from Shepherd.
But it's not inconceivable after Saturday's performance.
Walker has struggled throughout camp, and his play hasn't improved in the preseason games. Bagent, meanwhile, is doing what he's always done -- make smart decisions, deliver accurate passes, and instill belief in his teammates.
Two months ago, Tyson Bagent being the Bears' backup was deep Twitter fiction. After Saturday, it's no longer the stuff of D-II dreams.
"As a quarterback, I really just would like them to know ... I would really just like to make them as comfortable as possible with the thought of me in the game," Bagent said when asked about potentially winning the backup job. "Just really have them understand that any play that needs to be run, I at least know how to run it. Every play's not going to be perfect, but I know how to run every play in the playbook. That's where I'm at, kind of working tirelessly. I know opportunities will present themselves. I try to be as ready as I am for those opportunities."
An opportunity presented itself Saturday, and Bagent, a quarterback from the age of six, did what it seems he was born to do.
He looked the part. Now the only question is: Will the Bears give him the role?