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Is Defending Matt Nagy the Right Call?

Bears' head coach Matt Nagy was defended by national media on Tuesday. However, is he worth defending at this point in his coaching career?
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Matt Nagy Chicago Bears

Photo: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

If you read the title and thought "oh boy", you're correct. On Tuesday morning, Kay Adams of Good Morning Football on NFL Network defended Matt Nagy as a head coach after his exchange with Brad Biggs on Monday. In fact, the idea that the national media market believes in Nagy the way they do is... confusing. Yes, Nagy has guided the Chicago Bears to two playoff appearances in three seasons and has not had a losing record. However, two first round exits in the playoffs isn't something to parade around Chicago about either.

When looking at Nagy's tenure as Bears head coach, the wins are there. In fact, never having a losing record is worth noting. However, when breaking it down further and analyzing the statistics, his offenses, which are supposedly his bread and butter as play-caller, are downright bad.

The Past Numbers

We'll keep this fairly high level. Since 2018, Matt Nagy has never had an offense rank in the top 20 for yards in a season. In 2018, the offense was ranked 21st in yards despite the team being ninth in scoring. In 2019, the offense ranked 29th in both scoring and yards, and in 2020 the offense ranked 26th in yards and 22nd in scoring. Nagy's year one magic wore off and the offense came screaming back down to Earth.

In addition, the offense overall does not look much different. No disrespect to Jordan Howard, but David Montgomery is a better back and was a nice add for the 2019 season. Other than that, the receiving corps, running backs, offensive line, and quarterback weren't much different during the three-year stretch. We won't talk about the tight ends, however (yikes).

The biggest difference between 2018 and every other season was the rushing offense. In 2018, the Bears actually ranked in the top 15 in league rushing, finishing the season 11th in yards and sixth in total attempts. That said, since 2018, Nagy has refused to run the ball, watching his offense rank 25th or worse in the last two seasons. Through two games in 2021, the Bears rank in the top 10 for rushing offense, but that is in large part due to stellar performances from David Montgomery rather than Nagy committing to the run.

The "Offensive Guru" vs. the Head Coach

If people are defending Matt Nagy as a head coach, then fine. In fairness, there seems to be a sense of respect in the locker room for Nagy and the player's coach that he is. When he was hired ahead of the 2018 season, that was what the Bears front office seemed to be in love with. However, the offensive side of things is what scares Bears fans everywhere. Nagy's own pride and ego keep him from turning over the reigns to the playbook.

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The 2020 season is a perfect example of Nagy being his own worst enemy from a play-calling perspective. Nagy handled play-calling duties through the first ten game of the season. In those ten games, the Bears scored more than 25 points twice. This includes games against the New York Giants and Carolina Panthers. Both teams picked ahead of the Bears in the draft yet the Bears failed to score more than 23 points against either opponent.

Fast forward to Week 12. Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor took over play-calling duties and the offense erupted. In the six games with Lazor at the helm of the playbook, they scored 25 or more points five times. They scored more than 30 points four weeks in a row starting in Week 13. Lazor was able to run Nagy's system better than Nagy did, and it showed on the stat sheet.

Sure, people will argue that it wasn't against the best competition. However, the team's schedule as a whole in 2020 wasn't loaded with power houses. Instead, it was loaded with a lot of pretty poor teams that the Bears just narrowly defeated. When Lazor took over, the Bears crushed the teams they should have and hung with the better teams on the schedule.

2021 Through Two Weeks

Through the first two weeks of the NFL season, the Bears have not scored more than 20 points. In addition, if you take away Roquan Smith's pick-six against the Bengals, the Bears have scored 14 and 13 points, respectively, in two weeks. To make matters worse, Nagy refuses to challenge defenses, and Andy Dalton's spray chart from Week One is a perfect example.

The Bears attempted just two passes beyond 12 yards against the Rams. One was intercepted and the other fell incomplete. Yes, the Rams are a good defensive team and thrive on taking away big plays. However, if an offense refuses to challenge down field, then the defense can easily keep the action in front of them and within ten yards of the line of scrimmage.

If Nagy wants to be considered a good head coach, that likely means relinquishing the play-calling duties. Naturally, the head coach will have say in the gameplan from week to week, but clearly the issue comes on Sundays when Nagy is at the controls. The experiment with Nagy as play-caller has gone long enough and its safe to believe a new approach may be necessary.

The Verdict

We may never know if Nagy is truly a good head coach. His desire to be the next Andy Reid and great play-caller may very well be his downfall as the boss of a NFL team. Fans received a taste of Nagy's offense when he isn't calling the plays last season, and the unit thrived. It really appears Matt Nagy isn't worth defending. Perhaps Nagy truly being a head coach and not an "offensive guru" is the key to him changing his reputation and legacy as a head coach. However, until he gets out of his own way, we'll never know.