“Here’s the thing: Life is an endless series of train-wrecks with only brief, commercial-like breaks of happiness. This had been the ultimate commercial break, which meant it was time to return to our regularly scheduled program.”
When it rains, it pours, and in a season where it’s rained pain and poured misery for fans of the Chicago Bears for nearly six straight weeks, there’s no better place to look for a momentary respite from the gloom and doom than the slapstick, nihilistic ramblings of one of the world’s most recognizable anti-heroes — Deadpool.
The quote from the 2016 blockbuster action film suits the Bears season thus far almost to a T.
The backstory to Deadpool, aka Wade Wilson, is rife with pain and misery — living life as a mercenary, constantly around death and destruction, all the while dealing with an ongoing battle with cancer.
While death, destruction and cancer haven’t been in the literal cards for the Bears, the team’s existence has left a taste in the mouths of onlookers like a well-blended purée of those three ingredients for the previous two-plus years.
According to statmuse, Chicago is now 10-30 over their last 40 games after dropping a stinker of a matchup against the Minnesota Vikings Sunday, 19-13. The six-point loss moved them percentage points below the Houston Texans (10-29-1) for worst record in the NFL over that timeframe, and that’s without even mentioning the shroud cast over the team from the ambiguous departure of former defensive coordinator Alan Williams.
What provided a pause in the endless amount of train wrecks for Deadpool? Wade met his dream girl, Vanessa, and the two hit off a romance fueled by sarcastic cynicism and witty banter, only for her to take a fatal bullet meant for Wade at the beginning of Deadpool 2 — a return to the regularly scheduled programming of endless train wrecks after the commercial-like break of happiness referenced by our guy in the stretchy red spandex.
Justin Fields slinging touchdown passes to Bears fans is akin to discovering Vanessa to Deadpool. For the entirety of their game against the Washington Commanders last week, and all but the last 90 seconds or so of their game before that against the Denver Broncos, Fields looked like everything Chicago has never had under center — a dynamic weapon at quarterback, capable of picking apart defenses through the air.
Eight touchdown passes in two games had Bears fans falling in love all over again. They believed they had the quarterback they’ve always dreamed of, only for the Vikings to come screaming into Soldier Field like a metaphorical bullet, and end the commercial-like break of happiness Chicago sports faithful were experiencing, and deliver them back to the regularly scheduled train wreck of being a Bears fan.
Fields was sacked on Chicago’s first offensive play of the day, a seven-yard loss courtesy a free run from the blindside by Minnesota’s DJ Wonnum. According to Pro Football Focus, Fields was pressured on 64.7% of his dropbacks against the Vikings, including three more sacks and another ten pressures before exiting stage left with a dislocated right thumb on Danielle Hunter’s second sack of the day just under five minutes into the third quarter.
Tough to swallow for a fanbase so devout in their support of a team they’ve been desperate to see a revival from, especially with the perennial Bear-killer Aaron Rodgers now jettisoned off to the American Football Conference (AFC).
If there’s any silver lining though, it’s that x-rays on Field’s thumb came back negative Monday, and QB1 will be out “however long it takes for swelling and stiffness to reside and strength to come back so he can grip a ball,” according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
That may very well knock Fields out of Chicago’s contest next week against the Las Vegas Raiders, but at least there isn’t any significant structural damage to his throwing hand, which would lead to several weeks on Injured Reserve (IR) and all but completely extinguish any hope of the Bears turning their season around.
Until then, plucky DII legend and undrafted free agent Tyson Bagent will be the man under center for the mediocre Monsters of the Midway, trying to use his unflappable demeanor and underdog backstory to energize a football team desperate for a pulse as they head into an opportune matchup against the Raiders, who will likely be trotting out Aidan O’Connell or Brian Hoyer next Sunday in a battle of the benchwarmers.
Bagent, an alum of Shepherd University in West Virginia, owns the NCAA record — across all divisions — for career touchdown passes with 159, previously held by the University of Houston’s Case Keenum with 155, and is the DII record holder for career passing yards (17,034) and total career touchdowns (171).
Despite being a DII product, Bagent is mobile – not to the level of Fields, but still a plus trait – and has shown enough arm strength to make NFL throws as he creates on the move.
The learning curb will be steep — NFL defenders are on a completely different level of speed and reaction compared to DII college defenders — but Bagent has been proving doubters wrong his entire life.
A zero-star recruit out of high school in Martinsburg, West Virginia, Bagent had some help from the family gene pool getting to play college football at Shepherd, where his father starred years prior on the baseball team.
Though if you were to ask Bagent how he got to be on the precipice of becoming the first non-DI college quarterback to start an NFL football game since Central Washington’s Jon Kitna in week 15 of the 2010 regular season with the Dallas Cowboys, he’d tell you he’s always bet on himself since day one.
“As crazy as the odds are, it always made sense to me that this is the position I would be in,” Bagent told The Athletic in a December 2022 article.
An undrafted, DII rookie quarterback standing in for an injured Justin Fields after a 1-5 start may not be how Bears fans saw the 2023 season unfolding, but as Deadpool would put it …
“Life is what you make it. If you don’t make it interesting, then it won’t be.”
This piece is a weekly column that will be published following each Bears game for the rest of the NFL season. For more on the Bears and other Chicago sports from WGN TV News online, you can follow Eli Ong and Larry Hawley on X.