Bears coach Matt Nagy has hired four new assistants, traded for one quarterback and demoted another in the last year. On Friday, however, he made the most significant offensive change of his head-coaching tenure: He benched himself.
Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor will call plays Monday against the Vikings to try to right an offense Football Outsiders ranks as the fourth-worst in the NFL.
Nagy wouldn’t call the move permanent, but it’s unlikely he would have done something so personally painful — his identity is tied to being the play-caller — if he planned for it to be a one-off before the bye week.
‘‘Bill knows and our coaches know that this is their opportunity and this is Bill’s opportunity to do what he wants to do and call what he wants to call,’’ Nagy said.
Lazor, 48, will keep running Nagy’s scheme, but he will tilt it toward his preferences. When Nagy chimes in on the headset Monday, it will be with situational advice, such as if the team is in four-down territory or if he is worried about field position.
Nagy lived through a similar handoff. In December 2017, Chiefs coach Andy Reid let Nagy, his offensive coordinator, take over play-calling duties. The Chiefs won four of their last five regular-season games to make the playoffs but blew a 21-3 lead to the Titans in the wild-card round. The Bears hired Nagy two days later.
‘‘Sometimes when you’re in the position that we’re in right now, you want to make sure that you’re looking for solutions,’’ Nagy said. ‘‘You can always talk about execution. You can always talk about teaching. You can always talk about all facets of the game. But this here, with me going through that [in 2017] and seeing what can come from it, I just think it’s the right thing to do.’’
When calling plays for the Dolphins and Bengals, Lazor used a hybrid West Coast/Air Coryell scheme that emphasized tempo and pre-snap motion. Lazor’s teams finished among the top nine in rushing yards per play three times in four seasons.
His 2014 Dolphins ranked 11th in points and 14th in yards before cratering the next season. Coach Joe Philbin was fired five games into the 2015 season, and Lazor was fired with five games left in it.
He became the Bengals’ quarterbacks coach the next season and replaced fired coordinator Ken Zampese two games into 2017. The Bengals finished 26th in points and last in yards. They improved slightly in 2018 before firing coach Marvin Lewis.
Lazor was a consultant for Penn State last season. While touring NFL facilities to pick coaches’ brains, he befriended Nagy, a fellow Pennsylvania-bred former FCS quarterback. Nagy hired him to replace Mark Helfrich in January.
Lazor’s familiarity with quarterback Nick Foles — he was his position coach during his Pro Bowl season in 2013 with the Eagles — should help the transition. Lazor has called plays into Foles’ helmet during practice, save for two-minute-drill situations, all season.
Nagy said he had a long talk with Foles about ‘‘where we’re at right now and how this can help make us a better team, we hope.’’ He didn’t call a team meeting to make the announcement.
Nagy chose Lazor to call plays over quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo, who has called plays for three NFL teams, and pass-game coordinator Dave Ragone.
Earlier Friday, Lazor was asked how close he felt the Bears’ offense was to clicking.
‘‘The feel — right, how do I feel? — is not very good,’’ he said. ‘‘But the reality is probably a lot better. I say that because I think many of us — maybe all of us — are at a very frustrated point right now.’’
Lazor ducked play-calling questions before the announcement but recalled his first coordinator job, where ‘‘we would do anything for a first down.’’ His University at Buffalo teams went 3-8 and 1-11.
‘‘That role is only fun when you’re moving the ball and scoring points,’’ he said.
Just ask his boss.