OPINION: After Three Years, 2020 is on Matt Nagy Now
There are no more excuses for Matt Nagy in 2020. The Bears offense needs to start putting up points.
I’d like to preface this article saying that I love Matt Nagy as a head coach. Nagy embodies all of the intangible qualities a NFL franchise needs from a leadership perspective. His presence commands respect, but he also shows respect and love for his players. This is why an underperforming 2019 team didn’t fall completely off the hinges. No matter how hard the media pressed the team, they stayed together, and teams without leadership fall apart.
As the nation began responding to the death of George Floyd, Matt Nagy cancelled practice to have an open discussion about everything transpiring. “There was a level of healing,” is one way Akiem Hicks described the call. Through the player’s zoom conferences we found out that the organization fully supports their players, and encouraged them to address/protest social issues in whatever way they see fit. In my opinion, this is largely because of Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace. Younger management, in theory, should lead to more socially in-tune decisions.
Now, lets talk about Matt Nagy as an offensive mind and play caller. When he arrived in 2018, everything was fresh. ‘Oompa loompa’, ‘Freezer left’, and defensive players awaiting their number to be called for offensive trick plays were all part of the fun. The 2018 season was so much fun to cover and watch as a fan, that most of us were willing to look past some of the obvious issues with the offense.
In Jordan Howard’s first two years as a starter he averaged 4.65 yards per carry (ypc), after Matt Nagy arrived, his average fell to 3.7 ypc. Keep in mind that when Matt Nagy arrived in 2018, there were trade rumors surrounding Jordan Howard because he didn’t fit the scheme. During that offseason, Jordan Howard took down every Bears affiliation on social media and he was eventually traded to Philadelphia in 2019.
The Bears signed Mike Davis and traded up to draft David Montgomery to replace Jordan Howard in 2019. Mike Davis had 11 attempts and 2.1 ypc on the season before he was cut. David Montgomery was the obvious work horse back and averaged 3.7 ypc, the exact same as Howard in 2018. In 2019, Jordan Howard did suffer an injury, but before that he was averaging 4.4 ypc in a system very similar to Matt Nagy’s. David Montgomery has the potential to be an outstanding back and I’m not suggesting the Bears downgraded by replacing Howard with him. I also addressed the offensive line issues in a previous article, and while they need to improve, they shouldn’t shoulder most of the blame either. At this point it’s noticeable. The run game issues are schematic.
During the 2020 NFL Combine, Matt Nagy was asked if he is willing to adjust, and this was his response.
The tacky headline was only there to aid a stylized piece, but it deserves any and all criticism. Matt Nagy said a couple important things in this clip.
- “Now that I’ve had two years with this personnel, and kinda building it…”
- “It’s not fair to force them into something that I do”
Matt Nagy has now had three years to choose his staff and offensive personnel. I didn’t love when they signed Mark Helfrich and he needed to be released. The Mark Helfritch and Kevin Gilbride (former TE coach) firings go pretty unnoticed. Firing Harry Hiestand forced some ears to poke up a little bit though. Hiestand has a very long, proven resume as an offensive line coach. I understand why he was hired and fired. Matt Nagy was a new coach, and he needed as many proven assistants as possible. Hiestand also has most of his experience with power run schemes, so there is a schematic clash there, but now Matt Nagy has completely rebuilt his staff.
Juan Castillo is taking over the offensive line and with minimal resources being used to improve the personnel, they believe the lack of production was more of a coaching issue. Clancy Barone is the new tight ends coach. Highly praised quarterback whisperer, John DeFillipo, is now in charge of the quarterbacks and Bill Lazor is the new offensive coordinator. Matt Nagy has either worked directly with all of his new staff or they have deep ties to the roots of his offensive system. Matt Nagy has assembled a very experienced staff, all in his image, so there are no more excuses.
Bill Lazor and John DeFillippo also have spent a ton of time with the newly acquired Nick Foles. Many people have said Mitchell Trubisky is THE reason this offense doesn’t go. One thing I never understand is the “throw to set up the run,” argument. There are about five quarterbacks that execute at the level it takes to throw to set up the run. Matt Nagy doesn’t have one of those quarterbacks, but he does finally have his ‘hand picked quarterback’ in Nick Foles. We hear that term, ‘hand picked quarterback’ a lot from the Matt Nagy truthers.
No, Matt Nagy was not in Chicago when they drafted Mitchell Trubisky, but he did take the job knowing it was tied to him. Matt Nagy was an up and coming coordinator with countless opportunities on the horizon if he stayed with the Chiefs as their OC. So while he didn’t ‘hand pick’ his starter, he did feel strongly enough about him to take the job. Nagy also did hand pick his back ups, in Chase Daniel and Tyler Bray.
“The Bears offense needs a tight end to perform.” I won’t start judging Nagy on the tight end play until this year. Trey Burton did make the offense look different when he was in it and his health isn’t on Nagy, but now there are no more excuses. Matt Nagy has gotten in house scouting reports on Jimmy Graham for two years and has watched him play live four times. The Bears also invested their 1st pick (2nd round) on Cole Kmet. Everyone has made jokes about the amount of tight ends on the Bears roster, but its also clear how important it is to get this position right. Matt Nagy has hand picked both of his starting tight ends for the 2020 season.
People tend to forget what the offense looked like the year before Matt Nagy arrived in Chicago. Their pass catchers featured Cameron Meredith, Joshua Bellamy, Kendall Wright, Dontrelle Inman, Dion Sims, and Adam Shaheen. As soon as Matt Nagy was hired, Ryan Pace invested a ton of the Bears resources on improving the skill positions. The only productive player from 2017, Jordan Howard, Matt Nagy wanted to replace.
Im not saying that Matt Nagy cannot learn from his mistakes or be a great offensive mind. Even his sensei Andy Reid struggled in his first couple of years. The question is, is he willing to grow?
There are no more excuses for Matt Nagy. He has had enough time here to build the offense in his image. Nagy has HIS coaches, HIS tight ends, and HIS quarterback. The Bears had no interest in Cam Newton, they wanted Nick Foles. Nagy doesn’t even need to adjust much at this point. He has the personnel to make his offense go. The offense needs to start producing. The Bears cannot bank on winning games 17 to 16. The Bears can’t see quarters go by with out getting a first down. Matt Nagy is in the perfect position to have a bounce back year and there aren’t any more ‘fall guys’. Simply put, Matt Nagy, 2020 is on you boo.