G.W. Gras

Senior Writer for The Bears Brawl and Lead Host of The Bears Brawl Podcast.

To say Matt Nagy deserved  Coach of the Year is an understatement. He took a team that finished last in their division the previous four seasons, and turned them into division champs. It was no fluke. He completely revitalized the culture – making the team more of a family and making winning fun by supporting “Club Dub”. He drastically improved the offense and allowed Mitchell Trubisky to grow as a quarterback. It seems like night and day when you compare the offenses from 2017 to 2018. The 2017 season featured an offense that was so predictable that countless jokes were made about the fact that the play-calling was always “run, run, pass”.  Then, along comes Nagy in 2018 where he consistently provided wacky offensive play-calling. For instance, having Chase Daniel and Trubisky line up beside each other; or having no receivers or running backs on the field but instead only offensive linemen and four defensive linemen. He provided a lot of excitement for Bears fans, but there were definitely some rookie woes for him as a head coach. In order for the Bears to take the next step and advance in the playoffs, Nagy is going to have improve upon some things.

Source: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images North America

The biggest bone I have to pick with Nagy is his use of the running game. What hurt the Bears in a lot of games this past season was the fact that Nagy would never consistently stick with the running game. A lot of that had to do with the use of Jordan Howard, which you can now say the problem has been fixed since Howard was just traded to the Eagles, but I think Nagy generally struggled to make running the football a priority. For example, lets look at the Week 13 loss to the Giants. . .

Chase Daniel was the starting quarterback while Trubisky was still nursing a shoulder injury. With your backup quarterback in the game, you would think you would try to rely on the running game more in order to take some pressure off of the quarterback right? Not so much. The Bears ran the ball a total of two times in the second half of that game. TWO TIMES!! I’m not going to try and say I’m some kind of football expert or anything, but I’m pretty sure in order to be successful as an offense, you need to have a more balanced attack. If the opposing defense can pick up on the fact that you’re not trying to run the football, then they’ll just focus more on stopping the passing game. Nagy has been quoted saying that he’s always trying to call the best play, but sometimes you need to just step back and use some common sense. If you make an emphasis to run the football right from the beginning of the game, it will keep the opposing defense on their toes, and it will take pressure off of Trubisky.

Source: Getty Images North America

When to run the football wasn’t Nagy’s only flaw but also who to use when he decided to run the football. On so many occasions, it would be 3rd and short or 2nd and short, and Nagy would bring Taquan Mizzell out onto the field to carry the rock. Not our starting running back Jordan Howard. but a dude who was just promoted to the active roster in November of last season after spending time on the practice squad.

Lets go back to Week 15 of last season. Yes, that was the week that the Bears beat the Packers to win the division, but don’t let the outcome of that game influence you to gloss over the fact that Nagy made some questionable decisions. In the third quarter of that game on 3rd and 3, Nagy decided to have Mizzell take a hand-off, which of course only goes for one yard. Up until that point, every time Mizzell was given an opportunity on the field, he did nothing with the football. The Bears were only up 14-6, and they saw it first-hand Week 1 that Rodgers could easily come back to beat you. In that crucial moment of the game, Nagy decides to put it in the hands of a dude who literally offers zero upside. Nagy is going to have to learn that his defense isn’t always going to save the day for him, and he needs to just use his common sense and give the ball to a reliable player who will get you the first down.

 

Let’s also hope that Nagy learned some lessons on how to handle in-game situations because he made some crucial mistakes last season that cost us some games. With that being said, I have to discuss the Week 13 game against the Giants again. . .

In the second quarter of that game, Nagy learned the hard way of why you shouldn’t overthink in how to utilize your timeouts. With 17 seconds left in the half, the Giants had the ball, and it was 3rd and 23. What should have happened in that moment was to let the clock run out, but instead, Nagy decided to take a timeout before that 3rd and 23 from the Giants’ own 30. After that dumb timeout, rookie sensation Saquon Barkley weaved defenders and ran for 22 yards. That allowed the Giants to go for it on 4th and 1, which Eli Manning completed a pass for nine yards that put them into field goal position. The Giants’ kicker Aldrick Rosas was able to make a 57 yard field goal to end the half.

The Bears ended up losing that game 30-27. Letting the game go to halftime instead of taking the timeout would have saved the Bears three points and could have ultimately allowed the Bears to win the game. If the Bears won that game, they could have gotten a bye week in the playoffs, and who knows how the season would have turned out if that happened.

Source: Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images North America

Nagy’s situational awareness also came into question Week 6 against the Dolphins. That was a “back and forth” but in the second half of that contest, Mitchell Trubisky, in particular was on fire. The first three drives in the second half resulted in touchdowns, and Trubisky also threw a touchdown pass in the 4th quarter. Nagy’s whole philosophy up until that point was about being aggressive and giving Trubisky more responsibility, but in overtime of that game, he contradicted himself completely. He decided to hand the ball off 5 straight times with the latter three resulting in 2 yards, 4 yards, and 0 yards respectively. That set up Cody Parkey to have to hit a 53 yard field goal, and I don’t need to remind you how that ended. In that moment, Nagy needed to step back and look at how Trubisky was firing on all cylinders.  The Bears will lose more games like that in 2019 if Nagy isn’t able to pick up on the flow of the game and go with what’s working.

 

Matt Nagy said it himself this past week at the owners’ meetings. “We’re not hunting anymore. We’re the hunted.”  The Bears were able to surprise a lot of teams last year with their success, but now teams will be well prepared. Now, the Bears need to be able to take the next step and improve upon the details and nuances that can determine the outcome to a game. That starts with Matt Nagy looking himself in the mirror and finding ways to better himself as a coach.