Six games. That is what will decide the fate of Matt Nagy as head coach of the Chicago Bears. It’s not hard to tell what he’s thinking. He must be wondering how it ever got to this point. Less than two years ago he was leading his team into the wildcard round of the playoffs with what many felt was a Super Bowl roster.
Now here he is entering the bye week with his precious offense in tatters and the Bears’ season teetering on the brink at 5-5. After a 5-1 start, no less. Buzz is growing that ownership isn’t happy. It’s getting to a point where a loss to Green Bay next week, which feels almost inevitable, will all but seal his fate.
While there are plenty of people who deserve blame for how it got to this point, Nagy himself made bad decisions. One he no doubt would love to have back. Here are the five that probably hurt him the most.
Matt Nagy will look back at these mistakes with great regret
The out-of-work coaching hires
Most people didn’t think too much of it at the time. However, in hindsight, it does come across as a red flag. There is no problem thinking outside the box when it comes to hiring guys for your coaching staff. That being said, Nagy has made some really curious choices since arriving three years ago. Specifically in regards to settling for guys who were unemployed over more active and proven commodities.
He picked up Mark Helfrich as offensive coordinator in 2018 after the former Oregon head coach had spent the previous year as an analyst. Two years later he brings in Bill Lazor for the same job despite he too having spent the previous season at home doing nothing. Neither guy has proven to be worth much of anything to the bottom line. If anything, they’ve only dragged Nagy down.
Sticking with Cody Parkey
One problem with Nagy is he’s a little too trusting for his own good. As a person that isn’t a bad trait to have. As a head coach? That is a notable flaw. Sometimes it can work out but way too often it can come back to haunt both him and the team. No case proves this more than what happened with Cody Parkey two years ago.
The Bears had signed the veteran kicker to a sizable deal in hopes he’d fill the void left by Robbie Gould. Then through the first nine games, he proceeded to miss seven kicks including five field goals. Four of those misses came against Detroit on November 11th. By right, Nagy should’ve pulled the plug then and there.
He didn’t. Trusting the kicker would figure it out, the coach stayed the course. Parkey kept missing kicks the rest of the year. So it was funny to see Nagy’s stunned face in that fateful wildcard game against Philadelphia when the Double Doink happened. To anybody with common sense, there was nothing shocking about it.
This team hasn’t been the same since that day.
Pushing Jordan Howard out of town
Sometimes moving on from a player is the right thing because of logic. Other times it’s not because messing with the formula trumps logic. This is what happened with Jordan Howard. On the surface, the Bears trading him made business sense. He was in the last year of his deal and Nagy reportedly didn’t view him as a great fit for his offense.
The problem was Howard’s value to the Bears went beyond fit. He was the beating heart of their offense. As he went, they went. In 2018, they were a perfect 6-0 when Howard got at least 18 carries in a game. Whenever Mitch Trubisky struggled, they could always turn to him and he’d churn out quality yardage when needed. Offensive linemen love blocking for him.
After he left, it seems like the Bears’ identity went with him.
Prioritizing system over talent
This leans into the previous point. One thing that has become prevalent about Matt Nagy is how committed he is to run a particular type of scheme in Chicago. He wants to run his variation of the Kansas City Chiefs offense. The one he helped build there with Andy Reid. It makes sense. That offense was lighting up defenses everywhere and just won a Super Bowl.
The problem is that offense has a lot of talent. It’s not just the scheme that makes it work. It is the great players in it. Nagy didn’t have talent of that caliber when he took over the Bears. Yet he ran and continues to run the offense as if he does. His unwillingness to adjust the system to the strengths of his players is constant reasoning for their issues.
Betting on coaching over talent on the O-line
While not the most egregious of his mistakes, this could end being the straw that broke the camel’s back. Problems were already showing up on the offensive line last year. Some of them created by Nagy’s unwillingness to commit to who plays at left guard and center between Cody Whitehair and James Daniels. There was also the decline of right guard Kyle Long and the regression of Charles Leno and Bobby Massie.
Yet rather than consider actual competition for that position group, Nagy decided to place the blame on coaching instead. Harry Hiestand was fired as offensive line coach and replaced with old friend Juan Castillo. Matt Nagy assured everybody he’d fix the issues. Now the Bears front five is on course to give up almost as many sacks as the year before with a running game that is dead last in the NFL.