It was one game. There are 16 left to go. Why even discuss this? The simplest answer is because nothing has changed. Matt Nagy insisted things would be different going into this season. The offense would score more points. The Chicago Bears would be in every ball game. Then the Los Angeles Rams proceeded to demolish them 34-14. It was the third straight time Sean McVay had clearly outprepared and outcoached his team.
Nagy’s job was already a huge question mark at the end of last season. People wanted him gone, feeling his shortcomings as an offensive mind were holding the team back. Nothing about Sunday night changed that. Fans are once again calling for his head. Sure the team drafted Justin Fields. What good has that done anybody? Nagy refuses to play the rookie QB, instead shoving Andy Dalton down their throats.
Can the Bears really trust him with Fields’ development given his track record to this point? Many don’t think so. If that is the case, then it’s a safe bet the organization might go hunting for a new head coach in 2022. Here is an early list of names that everybody should get acquainted with.
Matt Nagy could see himself supplanted by one of these guys
Brian Daboll (OC, Buffalo Bills)
No man’s resume has grown at a more rapid rate than Daboll’s since 2017. He won the national championship with Alabama that year. Then since 2018, he gradually turned Josh Allen from a raw 1st round pick into a genuine star for the Bills. Many view Allen as a heavy MVP contender this season and rightfully so. Buffalo is coming off an AFC championship appearance in 2020. A year their offense ranked 2nd in the NFL. Daboll has learned from the likes of Bill Belichick, Nick Saban, and now Sean McDermott. Three top-rate head coaches. He’s been groomed for success. All it requires now is an opportunity.
Joe Brady (OC, Carolina Panthers)
Everybody is looking for the next Sean McVay. That young, supergenius offensive mind. Many think Brady is entering that territory. He turned LSU into a national champion and Joe Burrow into a #1 overall pick in 2019. Last year, he produced two 1,000-yard receivers with Teddy Bridgewater as his starting QB. This season he’s working with Sam Darnold. If he can get a good year out of the supposed 1st round bust? That should clinch it for him. Brady worked under Sean Payton in New Orleans and now Matt Rhule in Carolina.
Patrick Graham (DC, New York Giants)
This is a name that snuck up on a lot of people last year. Despite fielding a roster that lacks much in the way of star power, Graham turned the Giants defense into a respectable unit that finished 9th in points allowed. He helped James Bradberry to his first Pro Bowl. A native of Des Plaines, Illinois, and graduate of Yale, his intelligence is obvious to any who hear him speak. Like many, he is a disciple of Bill Belichick but also worked with Matt Lafleur in Green Bay and Brian Flores in Miami. So he’s had a considerable education on different coaching styles.
Overdue for a shot:
Greg Roman (OC, Baltimore Ravens)
The man first became a big name when he took over in San Francisco. With his help, the 49ers became a top 10 rushing offense every year and were in three straight NFC championships as well as a Super Bowl in 2012. Since leaving in 2015, he’s coordinated for five seasons between Buffalo and Baltimore. Every single one of them has delivered the #1 rushing offense in the NFL. Tyrod Taylor made a Pro Bowl and Lamar Jackson won an MVP under his watch. He’s learned under some good head coaches too including George Seifert and John Harbaugh. So why hasn’t he gotten his shot? The fact none of his passing attacks have ranked higher than 22nd. Is it him or just the limitations of his QBs? No one can say.
Eric Bieniemy (OC, Kansas City Chiefs)
Lots of people have championed Bieniemy as somebody who should’ve been hired years ago. After replacing Matt Nagy in Kansas City, he’s overseen the incredible rise to stardom of Patrick Mahomes. The Chiefs offense has ranked #1 in the NFL twice in four years under his guidance and won the Super Bowl in 2019. Lots of people have championed the 52-year old as more than ready for his shot. Why hasn’t it happened? A couple of reasons. He doesn’t call plays. Andy Reid does. He has a history of legal issues including a DUI. Lastly, rumors have persisted that he hasn’t interviewed well during meetings with other teams. So it’s hard to know how trustworthy he’d be running his own team. Chicago also likely won’t touch him after the Matt Nagy experience.
David Shaw (HC, Stanford)
It really is surprising some NFL team hasn’t found a way to pry Shaw away from Stanford already. He’s been a model of consistency for that school since taking over in 2011, winning at least nine games in seven of the past 10 seasons. This is despite running a program that is limited on top recruits due to its high academic standards. Shaw has a track record of good work with quarterbacks. He helped oversee the ascent of Rich Gannon to league MVP in Oakland. Then he helped Andrew Luck thrive in college, eventually becoming the #1 overall pick. At age 49, he’s still pretty young and already so experienced. Maybe Fields can lure him to the Chicago Bears.
Josh McDaniels (OC, New England Patriots)
Under normal circumstances, McDaniels would already be running a second team by now. His original foray in Denver was a spectacular disaster. His first order of business was alienating quarterback Jay Cutler, who demanded and received a trade out of town. McDaniels was fired four games before the end of his second season. Then in 2018, he had the Indianapolis Colts job locked up and even hired staff. He backed out at the last second to stay in New England. A move many decried as gutless. So why does he even deserve consideration? The undeniable reality that he is one of the best offensive minds in the business. Since 2006, his offense has finished 11th or better 10 times. When it comes to play calling, design, and game planning? There are few better.
Todd Bowles (DC, Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
His first season with the New York Jets was a strong one, going 10-6 with Ryan Fitzpatrick at QB. However, issues with the roster led to problems over the next three years until he was fired in 2019. Many feel the man got a raw deal. He has since rebounded in Tampa Bay, engineering the Buccaneers’ drive to a Super Bowl championship last season. His demolition of the Chiefs in that game was nothing short of a masterclass. Bowles has consistently been one of the best defensive coordinators in the NFL for the past decade. Five top 10 units. Maybe pairing him with a viable quarterback could be the key to long-term success.
Dennis Allen (DC, New Orleans Saints)
Few have had a career renaissance quite like Allen. After working his way up the ladder in New Orleans under Sean Payton, he became defensive coordinator for Denver in 2011. After a rough start to the season, his unit gave up 13 points or less in six of the final 11 games to make the playoffs. That led to his hiring as head coach in Oakland a year later. Unfortunately, he inherited a terrible roster that had just begun rebuilding. By the time viable pieces like Derek Carr and Khalil Mack finally started arriving in 2014, it was too late. He was fired four games into that season. Allen though landed on his feet. He returned to New Orleans where he transformed one of the worst defenses in NFL history into one that has finished in the top 10 two of the past four seasons. Their demolition of Green Bay on Sunday was the latest sign of how good he’s been for them.
Tim Kelly (OC, Houston Texans)
Nobody knew who this guy was. The Chicago Heights native was plucked from obscurity at Penn State to join the Texans staff in 2014. From there he ascended to eventually become their offensive coordinator in 2019. That didn’t mean much since head coach Bill O’Brien called plays. However, things changed after O’Brien was fired four games into 2020. Kelly took over play calling the rest of the way. Houston went on to score at least 27 points in seven of their final 12 games. Something they’d done just twice in their previous 14 games under O’Brien. He was so good the Texans kept him after hiring new head coach David Culley and in their first game of 2021 hung 37 points on Jacksonville despite no Deshaun Watson at quarterback. The 35-year old Kelly might be something. He’s already proving more than Matt Nagy did in Kansas City.
Jim Leonhard (DC, Wisconsin)
A journeyman safety in the NFL for several years, Leonhard was widely called one of the smartest players in the league at the time. So getting into coaching was the obvious next career step. It didn’t take him long to rise, becoming Wisconsin defensive coordinator in 2017. His second year of coaching. Since then his defense has ranked in the top 10 three times over the past four years. It’s currently sixth in college football so far in 2021. Everybody knows Leonhard is going to be a head coach soon. It is a matter of which team is smart enough to give him that opportunity.
Alex Van Pelt (OC, Cleveland Browns)
A former quarterback who played nine years in the NFL, he joined the coaching ranks in 2005. Since then he’s bounced between a number of teams, finding success at almost every stop. As quarterbacks coach in Tampa Bay, he got a 25-TD and six-INT season from Josh Freeman. He eventually took the same job in Green Bay where he earned immense praise from Aaron Rodgers. In 2020, he became offensive coordinator in Cleveland. Where it gets interesting is Van Pelt didn’t call plays but was forced to in the team’s playoff debut after head coach Kevin Stefanski contracted COVID-19. Cleveland proceeded to hang 48 points on the Pittsburgh Steelers #3 ranked defense. Thriving under difficult circumstances is the sign of a capable coach.