3 Reasons For Concern Heading Into 2021 For The Chicago Bears

Chicago Bears (Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports)
Chicago Bears (Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports) /
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Chicago Bears, Matt Nagy
Chicago Bears (David Banks-USA TODAY Sports) /

Concern No. 3: Matt Nagy as the Chicago Bears head coach

Since taking over for the Bears as head coach and offensive play-caller in 2018, Matt Nagy’s offenses have been terrible. Nagy’s offense ranked 27th in rushing yards in 2019 and 25th in 2020. In three seasons with Nagy calling plays, Chicago’s offense has never ranked better than 21st in passing yards. In a seemingly constant struggle to “find their identity”, the Chicago Bears offense has remained right there among the league’s worst.

While his QB play from Mitchell Trubisky could have been a lot better, Nagy failed miserably to adjust his play-calling during the quarterback’s tenure in Chicago. Running a scheme similar to Andy Reid and the Chiefs, Nagy never had the stud quarterback or caliber of weapons as Reid does in Kansas City. Despite his struggling young QB and lack of playmakers, Nagy continued trying to be like Andy Reid as a play-caller.

After Tarik Cohen tore his ACL last season in Week 3 against the Atlanta Falcons, the Bears’ offense hit rock bottom. Using Cordarrelle Patterson as his new swiss army knife, Matt Nagy continued running his west coast heavy scheme. Unable to threaten defenses the way Cohen did out of the backfield, the Patterson experiment was a complete disaster.

When the Bears lost their fourth straight game in Week 10 to the Vikings at US Bank Stadium on Monday Night Football, Nagy handed off play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. Leaning heavily on 2019 third-round pick David Montgomery in the run game, Lazor utilized play action to freeze the pass rush instead of the RPO. Trubisky now able to get out of the pocket more often and only having to make half-field reads, the Bears’ offense began to find some life at the end of 2020.

People forget what the Minnesota Vikings offense looked like in 2018 with Bears quarterbacks coach John Defilippo calling the plays. Running a scheme quite similar to Nagy and Reid’s, the Vikings offense was horrendous. Unable to make enough quick reads or tight window throws from the pocket, Kirk Cousins had Vikings WRs Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs on the verge of tears.

After signing Cousins to a three-year $84 million dollar deal earlier that spring, Minnesota had to try their hardest to make things work with Kirk. Sitting at 6-6-1, the Vikings fired Defilippo in week 14 of the regular season.

Scoring a season-high 41 points in the following Week 15 game against the Dolphins, Minnesota’s offense found life under the interim offensive coordinator and current Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski. Nearly clawing their way into the playoffs before being crushed at home 24-10 in Week 17 by the Bears, the Vikings offense looked a lot better with Stefanski than it did under Defilippo.

Bringing back Stefanski as offensive coordinator for the 2019 season, Minnesota’s offense ranked eighth in scoring and sixth in rushing. Leading the NFL in rushing attempts, the Vikings leaned heavily on the legs of superstar running back Dalvin Cook. Using the play-action to create easy throws and half-field reads for Cousins, the Vikings were able to trick plenty of fans into believing Cousins was more than just an average starting QB.

Across the NFL, we have seen several situations similar to Cousins under Kevin Stefanski and Gary Kubiak in Minnesota. Reviving the careers of several quarterbacks across the league, the outside zone run-heavy scheme allows quarterbacks to get out of the pocket on a higher percentage of plays.

Once outside of the pocket, throwing windows are larger and decisions don’t have to be made as quickly. For teams with a QB like Mitch Trubisky or Kirk Cousins, this scheme can be an effective way to mask the quarterback’s inability to read defenses and throw from the pocket.

Matt Nagy finally has a talented young quarterback that he hand-picked, but I hope he has learned from his failures with Trubisky. To assume that Justin Fields will fix all of their problems would be foolish. Just like Fields, this Bears offensive line has some growing to do. Once Nagy puts Fields into the game, he must “dummy down” some of his play-calling for the betterment of his young QB and this offense.

A strong run game and a heavy dose of play-action will benefit Justin Fields’ development and allow him to utilize his athletic ability while learning to play QB in the NFL. Nagy should call plays out of his west coast sets on passing downs and some early downs, but he must call a lot of the same plays Bill Lazor did for Mitchell Trubisky at the end of 2020.

Regardless of who starts at QB in Week 1 against the Rams, Bears fans should hope to see a lot of the same outside zone run and play-action play calls we saw at the end of 2020. Giving Montgomery 20-plus carries a game is said to be a priority for Nagy entering the season, but actions will speak louder than words.

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A pass-happy Andy Reid disciple who is too egotistic to adjust his play calling, Matt Nagy has me concerned entering the 2021 season.