The Chicago Bears 2021 starting quarterback search continues as the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday traded quarterback Carson Wentz to the Indianapolis Colts. Chicago was rumored to be highly interested in the quarterback, despite the disapproval of their fan base. Had the Bears traded for Wentz, it would have given Matt Nagy another quarterback that would have been very familiar with his offense, an asset that would have been a bad thing for the head coach.

Matt Nagy Is Too Reliant On The Run-Pass Option Offense

When general manager Ryan Pace hired Nagy in January of 2018, a majority of those in the NFL approved the hiring as the former Chiefs offensive coordinator was viewed as the next great offensive mind. With the Chiefs, the current Chicago head coach was seen as a quarterback guru for his quarterbacks’ level of success. His oversight of the success of Alex Smith, who was named to several Pro Bowls. Unfortunately, since being hired in 2018, Nagy has overseen a Bears offense that has failed to rank in the top half of the league in any major offensive category. Furthermore, the Bears offense has regressed each season.

One of the main reasons for the Bears’ lack of success on offense has been due in part to Nagy’s persistent commitment to an RPO-style offense. Other than quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, the only two quarterbacks to start for the Bears the last two seasons, had significant experience in an RPO offense and have worked with the head coach. Despite having prior experience, neither Chase Daniel and Nick Foles found any consistent success during their starts.

The RPO offense is predicated on causing the opposing defense to be frozen by the quarterback’s hand off to the running back, allowing receivers to get separation. Without a threat of an effective running game or a mobile quarterback, the opposing defense can better defend passing plays. The lack of a running threat is one of the main reasons why the Bears’ offense struggled in 2020. In Foles’ seven starts for Chicago last season, the offense scored less than 23 points in five games and failed to score touchdowns in two games. During that seven-game span, Nagy’s offense never eclipsed the 100 rushing yards in any game.

A need for a rushing threat was apparent as the Bears’ offense improved once Trubisky became the starter again in week 12. Although not the most efficient passer, the North Carolina quarterback made the Bears’ offense more efficient due to his mobility, allowing his receivers to get slightly better separation. The RPO’s need for a mobile threat is was demonstrated in Trubisky’s week two touchdown pass to running back David Montgomery.

Acquiring Wentz Would Have Further Emboldened Nagy TO The RPO Offense

One of the benefits of the Bears not landing Wentz is that it allows Nagy to better himself as an offensive mind. One of his biggest critiques as Bears head coach has been his inability to make changes when changes are needed. Despite seeing the same troubling production from his offense in 2020 as he did in 2019, Nagy did not make changes to the offensive system until he gave up play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Bill Lazor in week 10. Lazor’s success in tailoring the offense to Trubisky’s strengths in week 12 is the main reason for the offensive success in December and the team making the playoffs.

It was apparent that Nagy was at fault as he could at any time tailored the offense to his quarterback’s strengths but instead tried to find success with quarterbacks familiar with Chicago’s offense. A trade for Wentz would have allowed the Bears head coach to stay in his comfort zone and not force him to make schematic changes. Chicago’s offense would have been at risk of seeing the same results seen for the previous two seasons, despite having a new quarterback.

One of the main reasons why Wentz was benched by the Eagles in Week 13, other than for turnovers, was because of his lack of production in the offense. Then Eagles head coach Doug Pederson employed the same offensive scheme as Nagy but faced the same issues the Bears’ head coach faced last season. Wentz’s mobility and scrambling threat decreased as 2020 went on as he only had 13 rushing attempts in the four games leading up to his benching. The Eagles offense found success when quarterback Jalen Hurts was named the starter was because of his ability to scramble. In the rookie’s first three starts, Philadelphia’s offense produced over 400 yards of total offense.

Nagy could have faced the same issues with Wentz had the Bears acquired him. It could have been a repeat of issues faced with both Daniel and Foles. Depending on who the team gets now at the quarterback position whether, through trade, free agency, or the draft, there is a chance offensive coaching staff may have to make changes to the offensive game plan. Whether the team acquires Derek Carr, Sam Darnold, or a rookie, Nagy may be forced to make changes that he wouldn’t have, had the team acquired another quarterback familiar with the RPO system.

 

These are changes Nagy needs to make for the betterment of his coaching career. NFL history is filled with offensive coaches who had great success with systems but were unable to change and were too reliant on a specific offense. Bears fans have seen two coaches in recent memory as both Mike Martz and Marc Trestman, each served two seasons as offensive coordinators for Chicago. Both Martz and Trestman had their own effective systems but did not adapt and make necessary changes when needed.

Nagy has the chance to make the necessary changes to his offensive system now before it is too late. If the 2021 Bears’ offense struggles again, there is a good chance both Pace and his head coach will be fired at the season’s end. If Nagy is fired, it would be unlikely for him to get a coordinator position unless it is for a head coach with an RPO-style background. Wentz may have been a good fit for the coaching staff, but now missing on the quarterback could be a much-needed blessing in disguise for a coach struggling to make needed changes.

 

 

Steve Pusch
Eastern Illinois University graduate, Steve earned a Bachelor’s in Journalism with a concentration in sports. While at EIU, Steve co-hosted a weekly radio sports talk show focused on Chicago.