Matt Nagy is open-minded in his quest to figure out what’s wrong with the Bears’ offense — not just what’s wrong in the wake of a 24-10 clobbering by the Rams, but what has been wrong throughout his three seasons as coach.
He’s even willing to consider that it could be him. Sure, the Bears have ongoing problems at quarterback and on the offensive line, can’t run or pass consistently and rank in the bottom third of the NFL in every meaningful category over the last three seasons, but maybe — just maybe — Nagy is exacerbating it all.
Are you sure? It seems like he ...
Nope. He checked. It’s not him.
A thorough internal investigation — spearheaded by Nagy and assistants who work under him — determined that Nagy is not the problem. He’d be more than willing to give up play-calling duties if that was the issue, but he’s certain it isn’t.
“That’s the very first thing I look at,” he said of taking his share of the blame. “I’m really, honestly not opposed to [giving up play-calling]. There’s no opposition from me if we feel like that’s what the issue is.
“That’s not where we think it’s at. But . . . when you’re in a little bit of a rut like we are, a lot of a rut like we are right now, you have to look at everything.
“No one here, coach or player, has too big of an ego to think that it’s not them.”
There were traces of accountability, but he fell short of owning his contribution to an offense that has averaged 21.5 points per game under him in an era when leaguewide scoring keeps rising.
How many times during the Rams game did Nagy make you wonder what on earth he was thinking?
ESPN’s Louis Riddick, a friend and former co-worker of Nagy’s, couldn’t hold back after the Bears failed to score from first-and-goal at the Rams’ 8 and said, “That play-calling sequence in the red zone . . . it just seemed too easy to defend. You’ve gotta come up with something a little bit better.”
Nagy needs something a lot better right now when it comes to decisions and explanations.
Timeouts, arguably the simplest part of his job, have been an adventure. He burned two on back-to-back plays Monday and explained it away by saying essentially that first-half timeouts aren’t that important. Then, with a timeout to spare, he let 20 seconds run off the clock at the half rather than force the Rams to punt.
“I wasn’t, you know, too concerned about that decision at the end of the half,” he said, implying it was a non-factor in the end.
Moving on: What was he doing going for it on fourth-and-one at his 19-yard line in the second quarter? He called it “aggressive,” but it was borderline crazy. Even if they had gotten it, the prize was first down at his 20. His sense of risk-reward was shockingly out of whack.
Nagy was irate that left guard Rashaad Coward negated the play with a false start, but Coward might’ve saved him some embarrassment because it was up for debate whether Nick Foles picked up the first down as Nagy sent him plunging into Aaron Donald and the heart of the Rams’ defense.
Nagy unleashed more fourth-and-one magic late in the third quarter on a pitch to Cordarrelle Patterson that left him needing to cover three actual yards to pick up one. It did not work.
“Against Detroit, do you guys remember that we ran a very similar play, and he ran for a first down?” Nagy said. “When it works, it’s good. And when it doesn’t work, unfortunately, it’s not good. Just kind of what we have to live with.”
What “we” have to live with? He called the play.
And just because a play worked against the Lions doesn’t mean it’s good. That’s evidence of a constant disconnect between Nagy and reality: The performances that eked out wins over the Lions, Falcons and Giants won’t suffice against good opponents.
More alarms went off when broadcaster Brian Griese relayed a story in which Foles said he figures out a play is doomed before Nagy does. There’s no schism between Foles and Nagy. It’s a bigger problem. A section of Nagy’s playbook isn’t feasible, and he can’t see it until his quarterback tells him.
Nagy sounded like he was calling a customer-service hotline when he complained that promising rookie tight end Cole Kmet doesn’t play enough — he got 32% of the snaps Monday — but that’s something a coach could fix.
“It’s no hidden secret that we want to get him more involved,” Nagy said.
Then do it.
But after all that, Nagy can trot out the ultimate counterpoint: He’s 25-14 with the best winning percentage since George Halas.
But aside from impeccable leadership as a person, how much of that success is attributable to Nagy? Because of the Bears’ world-class defense, he has a winning record (9-8) when his team has scored 20 or fewer points, whereas the rest of the NFL has lost 81% of those games.
The average NFL defense allowed 23 points per game last season. With that number, Nagy would’ve gone 4-12.
For all of the flash of his debut season — Hey, Akiem Hicks is a running back! — the Bears hired him for his offensive expertise, and he has not delivered. His team is 27th in yards per pass (5.8) and 30th in yards per carry (3.9) during his tenure, so unless there’s some third way to move the ball, he’s out of ideas.
He has fired the offensive coordinator, swapped out position coaches, changed quarterbacks. Nothing has worked. The one constant has been Nagy, an integral component of the Bears’ formula for failure.