New drama between Bears coach Matt Nagy, QB Nick Foles after delay vs. Saints
Last week, it was the fallout from Brian Griese’s comments on the ESPN broadcast. Now Nagy and Foles don’t see eye to eye about Foles using a wristband with play calls on it.
Something isn’t quite right between coach Matt Nagy and quarterback Nick Foles. Their partnership has been choppy from the beginning, exacerbated by having no offseason, and the ongoing offensive slump isn’t helping.
It’s not a full-blown rift, but it’s something.
In the last three weeks, Nagy went nuclear about a delay-of-game penalty coming out of a timeout against the Panthers, spent multiple days rehashing a comment Foles made about play-calling to a broadcast crew and probably wanted to chuck Foles’ cheat-sheet wristband across the room Sunday.
Anyone can see there’s a disconnect. Nagy says there isn’t.
“From the outside world, watching things, it can reflect that,” he said Monday. “It can look like there’s a communication issue and all that stuff.”
It’s interesting how often Nagy and “the outside world” haven’t seen things the same way lately.
Foles’ delay of game in the third quarter against the Saints was so egregious that Fox broadcaster Troy Aikman called him “totally oblivious.”
That’s probably gentler than whatever Nagy said when they sorted it out on the sideline after the penalty turned a third-and-four into a third-and-nine and the Bears punted on fourth-and-18. There was a lot of pointing at the wristband during that exchange.
While there were many instances of poor discipline — “That’s what [ticks] me off . . . excuse my French,” Nagy said — Foles’ penalty revealed serious dysfunction.
“You know, we’re reading it from a wristband,” Nagy said after the game, when he was unfiltered. “I just — I’m struggling with that right now. It’s getting you into a hole. And so, that has to — that has to change.”
Surprise: Foles doesn’t want to change.
Nagy’s objection seemed to be Foles’ dependence on the wristband to give the play call, and he was still reading it as he walked to the huddle with 23 seconds on the play clock. He has always used one.
When Foles likened their relationship to a marriage last week, perhaps a second marriage would be more accurate — one in which both people have cemented their habits and must figure out how to merge them.
In the Foles-Nagy relationship, just like in marriage, conflicts arise from the smallest things, such as wearing a wristband.
“The wristband is basically for unique plays that maybe there are different tags that become little stories of themselves,” said Foles, who might as well have been reading a book as the clock ran down. “It’s just easier to have it on the wristband to make sure. I like it because it allows me more time at the line of scrimmage to see things . . . so there is a purpose for it. I believe in the wristband. I’ve done it for a lot of my career.
‘‘The communication thing — great teams communicate well, and that is something we’re working toward.”
Here’s the chaos that preceded the penalty:
With radio communication from Nagy to Foles malfunctioning, Foles got the play from the sideline, then walked to the huddle and broke it with 15 seconds left. It was evident something was amiss as he continued talking with running back David Montgomery in the backfield.
As the clock hit five seconds, Foles was signaling to another running back, Ryan Nall, lined up at wide receiver to his right. He was still engaged with Montgomery and Nall with two seconds left when left tackle Charles Leno yelled, “Hey, hurry up. Hurry up.” With their disorganization fully exposed, the flag came down.
Once the play was beyond rescue, Nagy preferred that Foles take the penalty rather than burn a timeout. That was the only aspect of the fiasco in which he did exactly what Nagy wanted.
This misadventure comes a week after Foles told ESPN he sometimes has to inform Nagy that certain play calls aren’t going to work because Nagy doesn’t realize how little time Foles has behind a dilapidated offensive line.
These two definitely speak more freely about each other than Nagy and Mitch Trubisky did.
Here’s the problem: If Nagy and Foles aren’t a great fit, it undermines general manager Ryan Pace’s rationale for acquiring him at the high price of a fourth-round pick and a three-year, $24 million contract.
Nagy has always pumped the brakes on expectations that he and Foles were ready-made for each other simply because they had worked under Andy Reid and spent one season together with Nagy as the Chiefs’ offensive coordinator and Foles as their backup quarterback.
“Some people think these offenses are exactly the same, and that couldn’t be further from the truth,” Nagy said. “There’s a learning curve there a little bit.”
A little bit? The Bears got Foles seven months ago, and they’re now halfway through the season, and Foles is still being asked the valid question of how well he understands Nagy’s offense.
“I feel like I have a good grasp on what we’re doing right now,” Foles said. “The big thing is we’ve got to continue to work and build on things. . . . And then where we maybe have mistakes as the offense, just working on cleaning those things up.”
In the loss to the Saints, the offense scored its third-most points and Foles had his second-best passer rating (92.7). Neither of those is good. NFL teams are averaging 25 points per game this season, and the Saints have been allowing 28, so the Bears putting up 23 isn’t cause for celebration. And if Foles had maintained that rating all season — he’s currently at 80.2 — he’d rank only 24th in the NFL.
That’s the chief concern for Nagy and Foles. As things go poorly on the field, little things like wristbands elevate the anxiety. And neither Foles nor Nagy has been the life raft each of them hoped for. Foles hasn’t been the upgrade Nagy needed, and Nagy hasn’t brought the best out of Foles like Chip Kelly and Doug Pederson did.
Whether some success will cause the little issues to evaporate, or whether straightening those out will lead to Foles playing better, is for them to figure out. So far they haven’t, and the entire “outside world” sees they have work to do.