It was a historically poor performance from the Chicago Bears‘ offense as they lost Sunday to the Cleveland Browns 26-6. Rookie quarterback Justin Fields was sacked nine times and finished with one net-yard passing in his first NFL start. Although Fields struggled, almost all of the blame has fallen on head coach Matt Nagy, whose fate as a play-caller may have been sealed by the poor schemed game-plan put in place against the Browns.
There were 14 combined sacks in today's Bears-Browns game (Justin Fields 9 times, Baker Mayfield 5 times). That's the most sacks in an NFL game in nine years.
— Michael David Smith (@MichaelDavSmith) September 26, 2021
Nagy Has Run Out of Excuses To Blame for His Offense’s Shortcomings.
The Bears on Sunday would finish with 114 total yards as Fields completed only six passes, while the offense only generated 13 rushing attempts. Chicago’s rookie quarterback was constantly under pressure as Browns’ All-Pro defensive end Myles Garrett recorded four and a half sacks against the Bears. More frustrating was the lack of Nagy’s response to counter Cleveland’s constant pass rush. There were no designed rollouts, moving-pockets, or screen-passes to better protect Fields. The Bears’ rookie quarterback was forced to throw from the pocket repeatedly, leading to more and more sacks.
Matt Nagy simply doesn’t know how to adjust his play calling. Your OL is getting killed. Switch it up. Get Fields out of the pocket. Do something. #Bears
— Aaron Leming (@AaronLemingNFL) September 26, 2021
Fields is the fifth quarterback to start for Nagy during his tenure as Chicago Bears’ head coach, and the rookie quarterback showed similar struggles to the other four quarterbacks. Nagy’s game plan lacked creativity as many of the routes called for his rookie quarterback were stationary routes as targets failed to gain any separation due to play design. All of Fields’ completions were contested passes. Mitchell Trubisky, Chase Daniel, Nick Foles, and Andy Dalton have all consistently completed passes to targets that were extensively covered by opposing defenders.
Four years into Nagy’s tenure as the Bears’ play-caller, the offense has yet to yield the same results that led to their head coach being hired from the Kansas City Chiefs. Since 2019, Trubisky’s inability to grasp Chicago’s offensive playbook was the main excuse for the offense’s failures. Although Nagy has had both Daniel and Foles play in his offensive scheme before, during their time in Kansas City, both quarterbacks have struggled during their tenures with the Bears. Since 2018, Chicago’s offense has scored 20 or fewer points in 25 of their games. The six points scored against the Browns were the second-fewest points scored by the Bears offense under Nagy.
1. Since the start of 2019, the #Bears offense has failed to crack 250 total yards for a game nine times.
Matt Nagy might be one of the best snake oil salesmen in recent memory.
— Erik Lambert (@ErikLambert1) September 26, 2021
Sunday Confirmed That Nagy Is Simply Not Cut Out To Call Plays anymore
The lack of creativity and inability to protect Chicago’s rookie quarterback on Sunday demonstrated Nagy’s incompetency when calling plays. Last season the Bears’ head coach gave up play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Bill Lazor after a four-game stretch in which the offense only scored four touchdowns. With Lazor as play-caller, Chicago’s offense came to life as they averaged 23 points and three touchdowns per game in their final six games. The difference was that the Bears’ new play-caller was designing the offense to Trubisky’s strengths, where Nagy had refused to prior.
Let's give credit where credit is due. Mitchell Trubisky looks WAY better with Bill Lazor calling plays than he did with Matt Nagy.
Lazor is able to play to Mitch's strengths, and Mitch has looked a lot more confident under center because of it. Kudos to the two of them.
— Jacob Infante (@jacobinfante24) December 20, 2020
A strong quality for an offensive play-caller is their ability to adapt and build a game plan to their quarterback’s strength. Through four seasons, Nagy has been extremely stubborn in adjusting or changing his offensive scheme to highlight the strengths of his starting quarterback. His refusal to provide Trubisky with roll-out pass plays and half-field reads is a prime example. Even more concerning has been an inability of the quarterbacks fitted for his offense to consistently produce results.
Sean Payton, Sean McVay, Kyle Shanahan, and Andy Reid have all had successful offenses, even without their star quarterbacks. Last season, Shanahan and McVay won key games with backups quarterbacks as their offenses were adjusted to highlight their quarterbacks’ strength. Nagy on Sunday against the Browns failed to do that for Fields as there were no plays designed to capitalize on the rookie’s mobility and strong throwing arm. Even prior Bears’ play-callers have had success in adjusting their game plans for the betterment of the team.
In 2011, the Bears’ offensive coordinator Mike Martz was criticized for his un-balanced offense and an inability to have a successful rushing attack. In week 16 against the Green Bay Packers, Martz’s offense rushed for 199 yards with a third and fourth-string running back in a 35-21 loss. In 2014, head coach Marc Trestman inexcusably benched Jay Culter in favor of Jimmy Clausen for the team’s Week 16 game against the playoff-bound Detroit Lions. Clausen, despite being significantly less talented than Culter, still passed for two touchdowns due to Trestman’s game plan.
A prime example of how far off the mark Nagy was on Sunday is what happened the last time the Bears and Browns met in 2017. During a week 16 matchup in Chicago, Trubisky struggled to combat a Cleveland pass-rush led by Garrett. Cleveland sacked the Bears quarterback three times in the second half. In his second to last game with the Bears before being replaced by Nagy, offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains adjusted his game plan in the second half and attacked the Browns pass-rush with screen passes. Chicago would score touchdowns on back-to-back drives as running back Benny Cunningham caught two screen passes for 62 yards.
Good design on the 40-yard screen to Benny Cunningham, with Mitchell Trubisky's footwork getting the blitzing Browns to bite. Another big third-down play sets up the score. pic.twitter.com/q8wT2dx8dR
— Chris Emma (@CEmma670) December 26, 2017
The Browns struggled with the Bears’ pass-rush early on Sunday as Chicago’s defense recorded five sacks. Cleveland made in-game adjustments that included screen passes and rollouts to counter the Bears’ defense. Nagy could not adjust and was left with the Bears’ worst offensive performance in forty years. It took one game for the head coach’s future to be sealed with the rookie quarterback he yearned for in the draft for everyone to realize that the Bears need a new play-caller immediately.