Even before Javon Wims’ punch, the Bears had a discipline problem
Entering Monday night’s game, no NFL team had more penalties than the Bears’ 59. Two of the players in a three-way tie for most penalties in the NFL this season are Bears.
Even before their fifth wide receiver decided to throw right-handed haymakers in the middle of the field during a nationally televised game Sunday afternoon, the Bears had a discipline problem.
Javon Wims’ ejection for punching Saints safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson twice in the helmet Sunday only magnified the issue. Even after he was suspended two games by the NFL on Monday, those around the league still smirked at the profoundly stupid decision by the third-year wideout.
Coach Matt Nagy’s teams typically don’t do that. Regardless of his play-calling struggles over 2½ seasons, Nagy always has run a tight ship.
Until this season.
Entering Monday night’s game, no NFL team had more penalties than the Bears’ 59. Only the Saints had more penalty yards against them than the Bears’ 536.
Two of the players in a three-way tie for most penalties in the NFL are Bears: Defensive lineman Akiem Hicks and cornerback Kyle Fuller have been flagged seven times each.
Last year, they had the ninth-fewest penalties in the NFL. They had the fifth-fewest in 2018. This season, however, they’re remarkably undisciplined.
“I think that’s something that you have to understand as a head coach,” Nagy said Monday. “No matter the ‘why’ part, that’s the simple fact. The fact of the matter is that . . . we are leading the league in penalties.
“And then you have something like what happened [Sunday]. You never want that to happen ever from nobody on your team, and it’s an emotional game, and people get into it, but, again, just knowing who Javon Wims is as a person, a high-character guy, that’s the part that I thought was surprising.
“So, yeah, until it gets changed, I have to be able to accept responsibility for it, and I have to be able to focus on the ‘why’ part, and I have to hold myself and the coaching staff accountable. Because we’re the ones that basically are the conduits to the players on how they’re acting on game day.”
The Bears have had at least five penalties in every game this season. Twice, they’ve had 10.
They’ve been whistled for 10 defensive-pass-interference calls. The league average is about five. Fuller alone has four.
More concerning is penalties that require focus and organization. They’ve had eight false starts, four delay-of-game calls and two incidents of having too many men on the field. All are above the league average and reflect what the team has shown in its game-day operation, be it failing to line up properly or taking timeouts rather than a delay of game: The Bears just don’t do the details right.
Earlier in the season, they explained such sloppiness away by blaming the lack of preseason games and the new relationship between quarterback Nick Foles and Nagy. Neither excuse applies now — the Bears have played eight games, and Foles has taken 366 snaps.
The Bears also have been hit with two -unsportsmanlike-conduct flags and two more unnecessary-roughness penalties.
After he committed four penalties last week against the Rams — two, including a roughing-the-passer call, were declined — Hicks bemoaned the harm he’d done to his team. On Friday, Hicks said it would be easy to live in denial and claim his mistakes were a one-off.
“But you can’t put your team in that situation,” Hicks said. “It’s as simple as that. You gotta figure out a way to not have your teammates getting backed up 15 yards when we’re already fighting out tough -situations.
“It just doesn’t work. So fix it, Akiem.”
Fix it, Javon.
But mostly: Fix it, Matt.
“Until it stops,” Nagy said. “I’ve gotta take full responsibility for it.”