The morning after engineering one of the worst offensive performances in franchise history — and that’s saying something, given the Bears’ decadeslong distaste for the forward pass — a weary-looking Matt Nagy said he was open to making changes.
That included potentially ceding control of the play-calling to offensive coordinator Bill Lazor three games after reclaiming the role during the offseason, he said Monday. And changing quarterbacks, though rookie Justin Fields is the favorite to start again with veteran Andy Dalton still “week-to-week” with a bone bruise in his left knee.
Nagy didn’t offer much detail otherwise, saying that he and his coaches would spend the next day and a half making evaluations — including of Nagy as play-caller — before practice Wednesday.
“Everything’s on the table,” he said.
We’ve heard this before. In times of crisis, Nagy takes responsibility and repeats how much his players care. In October 2019, Nagy sat in a London hotel ballroom after losing to the Raiders and said he was “going to figure out the ‘why’ part.” Last November, he sat in a small interview room in Nashville, Tennessee, and said — only after the lights went out on his Zoom call — that it was his job to “get this thing back on track” after the Bears fell to the Titans for their third straight loss.
“Trust me,” he said then, “I’m going to look at everything.”
He gave play-calling duties to Lazor, though the Bears made it clear later that Nagy still had a major role in calling plays during the last seven games of the season. Switching back this week would be symbolic, if nothing else, and make official what the 26-6 loss in Cleveland laid bare: After being lucky to keep his job this offseason, Nagy is responsible for an offense that is in disrepair after three weeks.
After gaining 47 yards on 42 plays against the Browns, Nagy lacked the political capital to do anything but act chastened in his news conference Monday morning. He is in survival mode.
“For me,” he said, “I think what we realize and understand is that you can’t have that. We understand that. It’s common sense.”
Others made different common-sense leaps. ESPN analyst Dan Orlovsky said the Bears needed to fire Nagy immediately, calling the game plan against the Browns — in which he protected Fields with only five blockers 21 out of 30 times — “either negligence or intentional.” On the same morning show, analyst Rex Ryan, who has ripped Nagy in the past, said he “has no creative thinking.”
Nagy will need all the creativity he can muster this week before playing the Lions on Sunday.
“In the end, it’s about finding the solutions and not being negative about it,” Nagy said, “but saying, ‘Here we are, we’ve got a big division game coming up here right now at 1-2.’
“You’ve got to win at home, and you’ve got to win division games. So we gotta rebound, and that’s going to be our challenge now for Week 4, to see how we respond.”
That’s how low Nagy has sunk: He’s talking up an early October game against the winless Lions as a measuring stick.
Nagy was asked what he would say to fans who wonder if he’s the right person to mold Fields. In a rambling answer, Nagy said that he and his coaches can help Fields navigate the ups and downs.
“There could be a really good game; there could be a game that’s not so good,” he said. “That’s where I feel like being able to teach him the quarterback position and help him grow at that spot along with our other coaches, it will end up being great in the long run.”
If Fields has another game like this last fiasco, though, Nagy won’t be around for the long run.