The Bears’ offensive struggles have been maddening as well as sleep-inducing.
The team sits in the bottom seven of the NFL in scoring, yards, passer rating, rushing and third-down conversions, chronic problems that have hounded coach Matt Nagy.
Anyone who has followed the Bears for an extended period is used to a plodding offense, but it’s especially unseemly under Nagy, who was hired specifically to change that. He got the job on the basis of his experience under offensive guru Andy Reid, his work with successful quarterbacks and his character. While Nagy has shown exemplary leadership, he hasn’t come close to delivering a competent offense.
Over nearly three full seasons, the Bears have ranked 22nd in points, 30th in yards per play, 22nd in passer rating, 28th in yards per carry and 26th in third-down conversions. They are the only team in the bottom 13 in scoring to have a winning record (25-19), but that’s because they’ve benefitted from a strong defense.
Nagy’s .568 winning percentage, which ranks fourth in franchise history among coaches with at least 40 games, is his best argument for remaining employed.
But he has gone 13-15 the last two seasons after a rousing debut of 12-4. And it’s debatable how much credit he should get for all the winning, considering he has an NFL-high seven victories when his team has scored fewer than 20 points.
If Nagy wants to point to his record, as he did when the team managed a 5-1 start this season despite sputtering offensively, it’s fair to dissect his 2018 success. It came against a last-place schedule because of the team’s 2017 finish. The Bears’ scoring average was boosted from 22.4 to 26.3 points because of defensive touchdowns and takeaways that set up short fields.
And that season ended with a thud as Nagy’s offense managed only 15 points, and he blamed the double doink.
The Bears’ push for a playoff spot — which continues with a crucial home game against the Texans on Sunday — is a worthwhile endeavor as they try to make something of a sinking season. But long-term decisions, such as whether a coach or general manager keeps his job, should be predicated on where the team is headed.
Whether the Bears finish 5-11 or rally to 9-7 and sneak into the playoffs, it’s clear the team needs an overhaul rather than a few tweaks and quick fixes.
This situation isn’t exclusively Nagy’s fault, by the way. It’s a result of the calamitous collaboration between him and general manager Ryan Pace.
Nagy was part of a Chiefs staff that fell in love with Patrick Mahomes before the 2017 draft, but here he is coaching Mitch Trubisky instead. In fairness, Nagy knew that when he took the job. He and Pace worked together to trade for Nick Foles, who has been nowhere near what they expected and is on their books at $8 million for each of the next two seasons.
Pace also stuck Nagy with arguably his biggest impediment: a consistently inadequate offensive line.
During Pace’s tenure, which began in 2015, the Bears have scored the fourth-fewest points and averaged the fourth-fewest yards per play. They’ve never had a legit quarterback, and whoever replaces him will inherit an extremely tight salary-cap situation and a limited stock of 2021 draft picks.
And now, the one thing Pace has always been good at assembling is falling apart. The Bears’ defense is in decline, and if that side of the ball can’t save them, they’re done.
The bottom line for Nagy is that the organization hired him to build a great offense, and that hasn’t been accomplished — nor is it legitimately under construction.