Matt Nagy doesn’t want to explain what he’s doing differently in the wake of Sunday’s offensive embarrassment. But we do know one thing he did Tuesday when crafting this week’s game plan: He asked his players during a meeting what they thought the Bears should do with their offense.
Yep, The Collaborative Coach — trademark pending — is at it again.
Mr. “Be You” has liked to empower his players over the last three years and three games. But now’s not the time.
Nagy’s offense is lost in the woods. Even if he hands offensive coordinator Bill Lazor the laminated road map to navigate the way out of the forest, Nagy needs to be the one to machete his way out from the front of the line. He needs to lead — not to turn around and ask his players for directions. Would Bill Belichick do that? Sean McVay?
“I think coming back in on Tuesday, just his willingness to listen to the players on certain things and wanting to get our input, we had a good talk with him,” tight end Cole Kmet said Thursday. “Just taking a step back and egos aside, looking at this thing and, ‘What do we gotta do to get back on track?’ ’’
Hopefully at least one player said the obvious: Help out the offensive line by blocking with tights ends and running backs, roll Justin Fields out of the pocket and knock off the dumb pre-snap penalties.
“I didn’t have anything to say,” right tackle Germain Ifedi said. “I just sat back and observed everything that was going on. I’m of the nature, I’m going to do what’s called. Some guys look at scheme. That’s not me. I’m going to sit back, and I’m going to be like, ‘OK, what can I do to execute whatever play call Justin [Fields] or Andy [Dalton] or whoever the quarterback is at the time gives?’ If I’m able to do that, I think we’ll be pretty successful.”
He wasn’t capable of that in Cleveland. The road to 47 yards on 42 plays is paved with mistakes, and Ifedi and left tackle Justin Peters, who struggled against the Browns’ star edge rushers, made a lot of them. Nagy deserves blame for the nine sacks the Bears gave up, too. Lost in Lazor saying that he wanted to go back in time and change the Bears’ protection scheme was the acknowledgement that plays providing blocking help from tight ends were “in the offense.” There were adjustments to make during the game, then — and Nagy didn’t make them.
“[Players] had some good ideas and some good thoughts, not to get into it too much in detail,” Ifedi said. “But [there are] so many guys in that room to respect, guys who have played good football, guys who have won Super Bowls, who have played meaningful playoff games in January and February. It’s going to get righted. It’s going to be good.”
Every NFL team asks players for input. When whittling the call sheet down during the week, the Bears ask that week’s starting quarterback which plays he prefers in certain situations. That informs the decisions they make on Sundays.
It’s fair to wonder, though, exactly why it was necessary for Nagy to ask his offensive players for their play preferences only three weeks into the season. It was, at the least, an admission that what the Bears have been doing isn’t working, that they’re lost in the woods.
Nagy was not obligated to speak to the media Thursday. On Wednesday, he described his communication with players and coaches a day earlier as a crucial step the Bears had to take before turning their attention to the Lions.
“It was real,” he said. “It was authentic. It was needed. . . . And if you don’t do that, it doesn’t matter what you’re doing for Detroit, in my opinion. You need to get that part right.”
Though he’ll design the week’s game plan, Nagy might not be the one calling plays Sunday. He has refused to say whether Lazor would take over those duties, but it figures that the Bears will make some change in their operation. To do the same thing they did last week is the definition of insanity.
Running back David Montgomery smiled and said no when asked, jokingly, if he requested that Nagy run the ball on every play. But he did give Nagy his opinion. He said it made him and his teammates feel like a part of the process.
“It does a lot,” he said. “It creates accountability and allows us to have a voice.”
The question remains, though: What about Nagy’s accountability?