Anybody with even a passing interest in the Bears has an opinion on what’s wrong with the offense. One person thinks the offensive line is a disgrace. Another believes that Matt Nagy’s play-calling should be the subject of a congressional hearing. Nick Foles doesn’t appear to be very good at playing quarterback, which is a problem in that it’s what he does for a living. Running back David Montgomery runs hard but not for appreciable yardage.
All of those opinions are dead-on. So what’s wrong with the Bears’ offense? Everything. Everything is wrong with the Bears’ offense.
When Nagy tried to figure out the “why’’ of his team’s horrible loss to the Rams on Monday night, he should have come to the realization that solving the problem is impossible. And that’s a killer for a franchise with a defense that can dominate other teams.
The Bears have made it clear that they’re not going to publicly play the blame game, oneness in the NFL being next to godliness, but the rest of us can’t help ourselves. When there are major talent issues, the index finger points to the general manager. That would be Ryan Pace.
Pace has taken massive abuse for drafting Mitch Trubisky instead of Patrick Mahomes, and rightly so. Trubisky’s subsequent failure should have been a big enough mistake to cost Pace his job, but these are the Bears, so, no. In the offseason, he passed over more talented quarterbacks to trade for Foles, who looks only marginally better than Trubisky. Foles’ struggles could be because of the offensive line that Pace “built.’’ Or it could be because of the coach Pace hired.
Or it could be because of the general manager the McCaskeys chose.
Pace gets big points for building a great defense, but in a strange, almost unfair way, that success only shines more light on how badly he has done with the offense. There’s a good chance that, at the end of the season, the theme of the 2020 Bears will be “What a waste.’’ Suitably concise for a T-shirt or a baseball cap.
Nagy has been unable or unwilling to adapt his offensive approach. When he interviewed for the Bears job in 2018, he wowed Pace with his creativity. But all we’ve seen the past year and a half is stubbornness. It’s not that he won’t commit to a run game. It’s that he won’t even try to establish one.
It’s true that he has had to maneuver around the inadequacies of the offensive line. Maybe he thinks that by limiting Montgomery’s carries, he’s protecting the running back from an experience that could damage his confidence forever. What it looks like, though, is that he thinks the running game is about as necessary as celery.
Whatever this is, whatever the problems are, it all comes back to Pace. It all comes back to a man who doesn’t understand quarterbacks and never should have been in the position of choosing one. He’s apparently very good at building a “team culture,’’ but the Bears’ culture has a combined 80.6 passer rating, sixth-worst in the NFL. The Bears’ culture also is averaging 3.8 yards per rush, tied for third-worst. And if you’re scoring at home, the Bears’ culture could manage just a field goal in the 24-10 loss to the Rams, the touchdown coming via the defense.
The good things that happened in Monday’s game seemed fortuitous. Rookie tight end Cole Kmet had a 38-yard reception because a linebacker forgot to look up. You get the sense that the Bears’ best weapon on offense is the hope for a pass-interference penalty. Does this sound like a 5-2 team to you?
The Bears haven’t had a great quarterback in ages. Pace isn’t alone in his inability to get that position right. But he is so very alone in his decision to trade up to take Trubisky with the second overall pick in the 2017 draft. And now there’s Foles, who looks to be the latest king of the seven-yard pass in Nagy’s offense.
So, yes, Foles, Nagy’s play-calling, the offensive line and the lack of a running game. Mention any of them, and you’ll be right about the Bears’ problems on offense.
But the biggest problem is Pace and, by association, ownership. He identified the people he considered worthy of being a part of the Bears, and the McCaskeys identified Pace as someone who seemed to know football. Together, they got it half-right.