Why the time — and timing — is right for Matt Nagy to give up calling plays
The Bears need to change something. Nagy has played most of his cards already, except for letting coordinator Bill Lazor — or pass-game coordinator Dave Ragone — call the plays.
The lights went out during Matt Nagy’s postgame press conference Sunday, leaving the Bears head coach, for, about 45 seconds, to appear as though he were speaking from the void of outer space.
Nagy trudged on, undaunted, before the lights came up as he was talking about how much it hurt to lose the Bears’ third straight game, 24-17 to the Titans.
“We’ve gotta make sure, whatever those issues are, we just at some point in time get this thing back on track,” he said. “And that’s my job as the head coach to do that.
“And, trust me, I’m gonna look at everything.”
That should include a mirror. And a functioning light.
The Bears offense isn’t improving. As much as Nagy and quarterback Nick Foles preach the need for patience, the definition of insanity at this point would be expecting a different offensive result on Sundays.
The Bears need to change something. Nagy has played most of his cards already, except for letting coordinator Bill Lazor — or quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo or pass-game coordinator Dave Ragone — call the plays.
The timing is right.
The Bears play one game in the next 20 days. The ‘Monday Night Football’ contest Nov, 16 at Soldier Field is followed by a bye. That’s plenty of time for the coaching staff to reevaluate the offense, and to implement changes.
Time is of the essence.
The Bears’ next three games — against the divisional opponent Vikings, Packers and Lions —are their most important of the season. Even with a seventh playoff spot in play, the most direct path to the postseason is to win the NFC North.
Short of waiting for the offensive line to heal — and, let’s be honest, the Bears’ attack was atrocious even with four of five starters healthy —the team doesn’t have many other moves it can make.
General manager Ryan Pace didn’t add help — on the offensive line or elsewhere —before Tuesday’s trade deadline.
Mitch Trubisky, the team’s only other realistic option at quarterback, has a right shoulder injury. While it won’t require surgery or a trip to injured reserve, there’s no evidence he’d be ready to play Sunday. And there’s no reason to think Nagy would want to play him, anyway. He didn’t when Trubisky was healthy — short of the one “Wildcat” play that led to the injury.
Because of injury and illness, the Bears lack the offensive line depth to orchestrate a shakeup the way they did last year, when the organization decided to put Kyle Long on injured reserve during the bye week.
Lastly, they’re unlikely to make staff changes. Just in January, Nagy hired a new offensive coordinator, offensive line coach, quarterbacks coach, pass-game coordinator and tight ends coach. He would have probably fired the play-caller, too, if he didn’t share the same DNA as the head coach.
That’s another reason why Nagy should be open-minded about shifting play-calling duties: he’s nine games over .500 as the boss. His head-coaching intangibles — how he leads and motivates his players —have been excellent for two-and-a-half years. Look no further than last week, when his players praised his handling of the team’s first coronavirus outbreak.
Freed of play-calling, Nagy could focus exclusively on steering the Bears through their issues.And every team has issues.
Last week, against these same Titans, the Bengals played without four offensive line starters from their previous game. Their left and right tackles made their first NFL starts at the position. Their center made his first start at the position in a year-and-a-half. The Bengals replaced another starting lineman one series into the game. They won, 31-20. The Bears meanwhile, looked lost against the same mediocre Titans defense.
The Bears — after either two-and-a-half seasons, nine games or six Foles starts, depending on your starting point —still don’t have an offensive identity.
“Unfortunately, that’s kinda where we’re at,” said receiver Allen Robinson, who had seven catches for 81 yards. “Myself, personally, I don’t have too many answers on that. I just try to run what’s called and again make the best of my opportunities. That’s all I can do. …
“I think everybody’s frustrated, myself included. When I look back at the game [Sunday], I think that for me, whenever I get frustrated on the sideline, it’s typically [asking myself], ‘How can I do more?”
The Bears should ask another question: at what point, after hammering away at the same offensive issues that have dogged them for six weeks, do they have to change something?
“If I had that answer, we probably wouldn’t be here,” said Foles, who threw for a season-high 335 yards, most of them empty, and, after the game had been decided, two touchdowns. “The only thing I can say is that we have to continue to keep working. I don’t know what you all expect me to say. But other than [that] I believe we that we have to keep working at it and keep grinding and keep figuring out what we want to do and how we want to do it. That’s the only way to be, because quite frankly, we’re the ones in it.”