Give Bears coach Matt Nagy credit for team-first decision to give up play-calling

It’s not only what he did but how he did it. Nagy showed rare accountability and self-awareness in making the move to Bill Lazor.

SHARE Give Bears coach Matt Nagy credit for team-first decision to give up play-calling
Matt Nagy is 25-16 as head coach, but his offense ranks 29th in scoring and yards this season.

Matt Nagy is 25-16 as head coach, but his offense ranks 29th in scoring and yards this season.

For the Sun-Times

It has been a long time since Bears coach Matt Nagy made a move that earned universal approval.

He deserves it for this one.

In what was surely the hardest decision of his coaching career, Nagy surrendered play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. Most coaches wouldn’t have the humility to make that decision — they rather would get fired doing it their own way — but he did exactly what coaches so often hypocritically ask of their players: He put team over self.

‘‘It’s not easy, but it does get easy the more you think about it,’’ Nagy said. ‘‘If our team can be better because of this move — and I don’t know that, but if we can — then darn it, that’s what we need to do. And what I need to do.’’

Nagy the coach just fired Nagy the play-caller. That’s rare self-awareness and accountability, and it’s further proof there are many parts of the job he handles masterfully.

Lazor will call plays Monday against the Vikings, and Nagy didn’t say whether that’ll be the plan for the rest of the season. The fact that he was willing to try it for even one game is a credit to his selflessness. If you aren’t satisfied with that, nothing short of him resigning would appease you.

To his further credit, Nagy went back on his stubborn stance that any change would not be made public. He volunteered it to the media to open his post-practice news conference Friday, throwing chum to the sharks and diving in for 16 unrelenting minutes of being bitten with questions about the failures that led to this point.

And this has been a failure; there’s no getting around it. Changing play-callers isn’t something that happens when things are going well. In the end, this might be just another mile marker on the road to a disappointing destination and the end of Nagy’s time as the Bears’ coach.

The Bears rank 29th in points and yardage, continuing their offensive decline at a time when scoring never has been higher in the NFL. Nagy has been unable to turn Mitch Trubisky or Nick Foles into a viable quarterback. The running game barely exists. And the Bears are second in the NFL in punts.

And Lazor has been Nagy’s wingman throughout the wayward mission. He hasn’t been standing there silently with the solutions.

With all that being said, however, Nagy realized his way wasn’t working. He softened from his initial insistence his play-calling wasn’t the problem and stepped away from the most treasured part of his job in the hope that Lazor can squeeze more out of a markedly flawed offense than he did.

‘‘Is it hard to do? Absolutely,’’ Nagy said. ‘‘I’d be lying to every one of you guys if I told you that this is easy. It’s not easy. It’s one of my favorite parts of coaching. I love calling plays. I love it. I love it.

‘‘But guess what? If this is what’s best for the team, then that’s what I’m gonna do. We need to do what’s best for us, not what’s best for Matt Nagy. That’s where I’m at. I’m excited about it, you know, looking forward to it.’’

The Bears still have major offensive line problems. They still don’t have a quarterback. They still don’t have a dependable skill player other than receiver Allen Robinson. None of that changes by giving the keys of the offense to Lazor.

But Nagy is trying to solve the problem of his play-calls making things worse. He has maintained throughout the season that his offensive scheme is a good one, and it probably is — with the right players. But he has been unwilling or incapable of reshaping it to fit the Bears’ reality.

Will a fresh voice as play-caller change that? It’s unknown. But Nagy cares enough about the team, instead of himself, to find out.

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