I would like to see Matt Nagy succeed in Chicago. I know, I know: He has been uneven in his play calling for the Bears, and he’s coming off a disappointing season. But I think there’s something there.
He seems to be genuine. He doesn’t appear to have an agenda beyond winning, and if he has a selfish, butt-saving mode, we haven’t seen it kick in yet. His players pick up on that and respond positively. He tries to be honest with the media, though his habit of publicly overstating a certain quarterback’s positive attributes got old a long time ago. Pickled pigs’ feet are not and will never be filet mignon.
There are all sorts of good things about the head coach.
But many of them are secondary things.
There has to be more. There has to be more than leadership. There has to be an offense that scores points, and there has to be major improvement from Mitch Trubisky. There has to be more than another .500 season. Oh, and if Nagy can make the blind see, that would be great, too.
This is where things get very, very difficult for the coach. He has been given half a team. The good half, the defense, figures to make life unpleasant for opponents this season, starting with the Lions in the opener Sunday. The bad half, the offense, might decide if Nagy is the Bears coach next season.
It’s not just Trubisky who makes the challenge so daunting on offense. The receiving corps is no great shakes, nor is the offensive line. Do the Bears have a running game?
Nagy will have to overcome a middling roster. That’s a huge problem if you’re trying to prove you’re a good coach. Hard to be a puppeteer when all you have in your hands are slack strings. But Nagy can blame himself for part of that. To separate him from the Bears’ underwhelming offensive personnel is to say he had no input in picking those players. That would be incorrect. How often has general manager Ryan Pace called the roster a collegial effort? Too many times to count.
Good coaches make players better. Nagy has not made Trubisky better. He was able to hide Trubisky’s weaknesses one season, but when opponents got wise to the trick plays and the quarterback’s shortcomings in 2019, Mitch’s performances went south.
Nagy has to prove that last season’s sad offensive statistics — 29th out of 32 teams in total offense, 27th in touchdowns — were a nightmarish anomaly. He has to prove he can make something out of nothing, or at least something out of little. He has to get separation from the quote that threatens to follow him forever: “I know we have to run the ball more. I’m not an idiot.’’
Those words came after a loss to the Saints in which the Bears ran the ball seven times and Trubisky threw it 54 times. There is no situation or circumstance in which Trubisky should ever throw 54 passes in a game, including a circumstance in which all the Bears running backs oversleep.
Nagy showed offensive creativity in his first season, but it dried up in Year 2. It needs to make a comeback, fast. Not gimmick plays, but game planning that keeps a defense on its heels. We haven’t seen that in a long time.
There has to be more from Nagy. More yards. More points. More victories. I think it’s there, somewhere. It might not have the chance to be discovered in Chicago. But it’s there.
His biggest problem, of course, is the quarterback position. If he were to somehow squeeze a good season out of Trubisky, he would not just be considered a healer, he would be considered worthy of several more years of gainful employment in Lake Forest.
Don’t pity Nagy. He had to know what he was getting into when he agreed to be the Bears coach. If he’s the quarterback expert he’s made out to be, he knew Trubisky was a crapshoot. He took the job anyway. Let’s see what he can do with everything on the line.
It’s very hard to separate Nagy from Trubisky and Pace. You’d need a crowbar to separate their fates. But if anyone can rise above — and bring the other two up with him — it’s Nagy. All he has to do is make Trubisky believe in himself and design an offense that can help Trubisky succeed. So, yeah, no problem.
I don’t have a long history of patience with coaches. If four hooded men had jumped out of a nondescript van and grabbed Marc Trestman off the street in 2014, I wouldn’t have joined the search party. How could I have? I would have been driving the nondescript van. I would have done the same with John Fox and all the other coaching disappointments.
When it comes to the Bears, there’s one dark truth to consider: The same ownership that picked all those other failed coaches will pick the next one. So who do you want: Nagy or the replacement who will also get fired? I’m hoping that Nagy rediscovers his inner coach in 2020, taking the decision away from all of us, but especially from the McCaskeys.