Matt Nagy says ‘stay the course’ as Bears’ offense sinks toward bottom of NFL
He sounded more open to giving up play-calling to one of his assistants than he had the last few weeks but maintained that “it’s a pretty effective offense” when players execute it correctly.
He might be the only one, but Bears coach Matt Nagy still believes in his offense.
After another day of disappointments on that side of the ball in a 24-17 loss Sunday to the Titans, Nagy said what every coach says: It starts with him. Whether that means he’s ready to turn play-calling over to one of his assistants is yet to be seen.
While he acknowledged that option and softened his once-strident stance against it, it’s clear he doesn’t consider that to be the Bears’ biggest problem. Among other explanations, he said: ‘‘When you stay within the offense and [players do their jobs], it’s a pretty effective offense.’’
He might be right. With a better roster, perhaps Nagy’s scheme would flourish more and flounder less. But he has failed to work within the limitations of his personnel.
The Bears have scored the fifth-fewest points (19.8 per game), gained the fourth-fewest yards (317.8) and are second-worst on third downs (32.3% conversions).
No team gets less from its ground game than the Bears’ average of 82.3 yards, and quarterbacks Nick Foles and Mitch Trubisky have combined for the NFL’s seventh-lowest passer rating at 84.6.
It’s fair to ask whether there’s any good element of the offense. That list probably starts and ends with receiver Allen Robinson.
Other than him, the offense is undercutting a top-10 defense and threatening to torpedo the Bears’ playoff hopes. They’ll drag a three-game losing streak into their game Monday against the Vikings.
Playing on Monday gives the Bears one extra day of preparation, so if Nagy is going to let offensive coordinator Bill Lazor or quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo call plays, this is favorable timing. And while it still seems unlikely Nagy will step aside, he sounded more open to it than he ever has.
‘‘I’m looking at all that right now,’’ he said. ‘‘When we’re where we’re at right now as an offense and struggling the way we are, you have to be able to look at everything — including myself. So we’ll see where that goes.’’
Nagy said any change would be done without telling the public.
‘‘So that’s where that’s at,’’ he said. ‘‘I think you can understand that part.’’
Not really, but OK.
While Nagy has maintained accountability this season, as well as during the Bears’ 8-8 flop in 2019, there were two troubling threads in his comments: He continued pointing out player miscues and said he thinks the Bears are closer to clicking than the evidence suggests.
It’s true that players have sunk plays with penalties, drops, off-target throws and missed assignments. The Bears are tied for the NFL lead with 73 penalties, rank 23rd in completion percentage and have seen 22% of their running plays go for zero or negative yards.
But is all of it player error, or is Nagy unable to tailor his offense to his personnel? His plays might look great if he coached the Chiefs or Seahawks, but this is what he has.
And at some level, even as he says winning doesn’t ‘‘deodorize’’ problems, he still thinks a victory is the cure. Obviously, the goal is to stack victories by any means necessary, but the Bears weren’t on a good path even at 5-1.
‘‘We’ve just gotta get that one win to get that vibe back,’’ Nagy said. ‘‘What we’ve gotta do is use prior experiences that we’ve had, which is a four-game losing streak last year, to pull through it.
‘‘This is where you truly get tested. I’ve said it over and over and over — and you probably get tired of it — but we’ve gotta be able to stay the course.’’
Staying the course is virtuous only if that course leads somewhere good. This course has taken the Bears to the bottom of the NFL in offense and left them clawing just to stay above .500.