When a team loses 34-14 in a game, there is plenty of blame to go around. Most of it rightfully will go towards the Chicago Bears defense which was pitifully outmatched by the Los Angeles Rams most of Sunday night. However, the offense wasn’t without blame of its own. Despite 322 total yards on the night, they managed just 14 points. Rather than point the finger at any one player though, former All-Pro center Jeff Saturday leveled the blame squarely on Matt Nagy.
Not because of his game plan or his play calling. Both of which were fine for the most part. It had everything to do with the decision to start Andy Dalton over Justin Fields. Saturday has heard the explanations. The Bears head coach wants to be patient and give the rookie more time to learn. This despite clear evidence that Fields is the more dynamic quarterback. Saturday isn’t buying it. He thinks this approach cost the Bears a winnable game in Los Angeles.
Something that won’t sit well in the Bears locker room.
“I don’t friggin’ understand. I don’t get it. Listen, don’t let the score fool you. They were in this football game. They had three big plays on defense they gave up. If you tell yourself that Justin Fields would not have given you a larger margin of error than Andy Dalton? You’re lying to yourself. They threw it 38 times. He (Dalton) threw it for a little over 200 yards and an interception. The interception’s a tip, I get it, but at the end of the day, you’re telling me Justin Fields couldn’t have been out on that field and done for you more than Andy Dalton?
And this is not an Andy Dalton problem. I think he is a good quarterback. I am telling you Justin Fields, in that locker room, everybody knows gives you a better chance to win and it pisses you off. Because everybody says, ‘Oh, you can’t beat the Rams.’ They sure played a decent enough game they could’ve.”
There are some things to keep in mind here. Nagy keeps talking about the future with this team. That is fine. Having an eye on long-term success isn’t a bad thing. That said, it doesn’t mean much to a large number of veterans on that roster. Many of whom are either aging or sitting on one-year contracts. There is a good chance several won’t be around to see that future the head coach keeps talking about. They want to win now.
So what sort of message does it send when Nagy plays the quarterback who gives them less of a chance to do that? Dalton is a solid enough veteran but he is limited in what he can do. Inexperience aside, Fields is capable of doing so much more. He proved in the preseason he can handle pressure and bounce back from mistakes. He clearly energizes everybody around him. Some quarterbacks are just ready to play.
Matt Nagy is playing a dangerous game
His team is already 0-1. Their schedule doesn’t get much easier in the weeks to come. It isn’t hard to picture this team 3-6 or 2-7 at the bye week if they’re not careful. Opponents don’t fear this offense because they don’t fear the quarterback. They know what to expect from a guy like Dalton. They know what he can and can’t do. The Rams exploited that. Other teams will follow that example.
Matt Nagy wants to think about the future of the Bears and Fields. If he’s not careful, he might not be around to see it happen. George McCaskey brought him back on the condition that he expected to see progress from this team after back-to-back 8-8 seasons. It already looks like the defense is going to take a step back this year. That puts even more pressure on the offense to start scoring points.
Something they haven’t done enough of under Nagy’s watch.
Yet he remains convinced this can happen with Dalton at the helm. Just as a reminder? He managed to crack the top 15 in scoring four times. The last coming in 2015. Whatever magic he once had hasn’t been there for a long time. Hoping it resurfaces now feels like a bit of wishful thinking for Nagy. It may end up costing him his job.