The Chicago Bears offense was supposed to finally turn the corner when Matt Nagy arrived in 2018. Things started off so well too. The new head coach seemed innovative and fun. A guy who wasn’t afraid to be aggressive. To attack. Gone were the days of stale power running schemes. The Bears were finally entering the 21st century of NFL offense.
However, the bloom soon started to come off the rose by the start of 2019. Defenses had begun to adjust to what the Bears were doing. The big plays dried up and the fun, gimmick plays that defined that first year no longer worked. That is when people started to ask the scary question. Was Nagy really the offensive mastermind he was made out to be?
Fast forward to the present day and the answer seems clear.
The Bears are ranked 29th in total offense and 28th in points scored. They are a constant source of derision among NFL experts. Many of whom can’t grasp what purpose their game plans have from week to week. There’s no identity. No flow or rhythm. Every time something good happens, a bad mistake inevitably follows. Too often it seems like the players aren’t grasping what their jobs are.
That falls at the feet of Nagy. This is his offense. He’s supposed to be the one with answers. Yet routinely he shows he has none. People are left asking why. What is he lacking? Most have focused on the play calling, but it feels like this goes deeper. One of the persistent criticisms is how the head coach hasn’t adjusted his scheme to fit the talent he has more.
As it turns out? This isn’t an accident. During an interview with the Bears media, tight ends coach Clancy Barone inadvertently dropped a bombshell that exposed what the real flaw of Matt Nagy is.
“Like I have said before, we don’t have a lot of ‘him’ routes. We have very few plays that we try to game plan to scheme to get somebody open,” tight end Clancy Barone said. “Often times it goes with our quarterbacks read. If it’s man, he’s looking to go on this side, and if it’s zone he’s looking to go on that side. And based upon matchups, and so on and so forth.”
Matt Nagy is all about scheme rather than players
One of the criticisms I had about Nagy was his unusual usage of personnel. It showed up as early as his first year. Guys like Taquan Mizzell, Demetrius Harris, and Ryan Nall were getting a lot of snaps that didn’t seem warranted to their talent level. Those should be going to the best players. It led to an unnerving theory.
Nagy doesn’t see talent. He sees chess pieces. He sees gears for the machine. When he puts guys on the field, he automatically assumes they’ll do the job asked of them. Why? The scheme says it will work. Nagy saw that happen in Kansas City for years. Except there is one problem. Plays that look good on paper don’t matter much if the players can’t execute it.
This system puts way too much on the quarterback.
Think about this. Most plays in this system have three or four options for the quarterback. His job is to read man or zone, then cut down the options, and then finding the open guy. Sounds fine in theory. Here’s the problem. What happens when the quarterback doesn’t have any time to process all that because of poor protection?
This goes back to the criticism Nick Foles made before the loss in L.A. to the Rams. Sometimes Nagy would send in plays the QB knew perfectly well had no chance of working because the protection wouldn’t hold up. This is how out of touch the head coach is with reality. He’s so married to the system that he can’t understand the limitations of his players.
This is why every time he tries to send in a specific play when things are going well, it tends to fall apart. He’s not catering to the talent he has. Not making the most of guys like Cole Kmet and Darnell Mooney and Anthony Miller.
That leads to an uncomfortable question. Is Nagy holding back what this offense could or should be?