The Chicago Bears’ season-ending press conference wasn’t supposed to take place in January. Nor was it expected to precede the firing of four assistant coaches. But a disappointing years on all fronts resulted in a New Year’s Eve look back at the year that was (and wasn’t) from the general manager and head coach.
Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy met with the media on Tuesday morning and discussed a variety of topics. And while there was an obvious focus on Mitch Trubisky and his future as Bears quarterback, Pace and Nagy also touched on other aspects of the future. You can watch the entire presser embedded below. But first, here are some highlights.
CONFIDENCE IS STILL HIGH
At this time last year, the Bears were looking into January with dreams of an extended postseason run led by the eventual NFL Coach of the Year award winner. But things can change quickly in a year at the NFL level, and it did just that in the Bears’ world. An offense that was supposed to be onto Level 202 courses simply couldn’t handle the extra work-load, and thus flopped in 2019.
Despite the significant regression, Chicago’s general manager still has confidence in his head coach as a play-caller:
Ryan Pace on Matt Nagy, play-caller: "I have extreme confidence in him as our head coach, extreme confidence in him as our play-caller and extreme confidence in him righting the ship and getting us back on the track we want to be on." #Bears100
— Arthur Arkush (@ArthurArkush) December 31, 2019
For what it’s worth, I lost count of the times I saw receivers schemed open or backs run away from holes. Were those plays coming at a consistent enough level? No. But you have to hit them when they are there, and the Bears certainly didn’t do that often enough in 2019. Pace has reason to still feel confident in Nagy’s play-calling ability, but the coach needs to go back to the drawing board in order to make the most of what is at his disposal.
A SURPRISE ENDORSEMENT AT TIGHT END
The Bears received virtually no help from the tight end position in 2019. And if that happens again in 2020, we’ll be talking about cleaning out more than the position room. One player who was arguably the biggest disappointment was Adam Shaheen, who ended the year on injured reserve.
And while his production wasn’t much to write home about when he was healthy, Pace still liked what he saw:
Ryan Pace said Adam Shaheen will return with the Bears into 2020, adding: "When he's played, we've liked what we've seen"
— Chris Emma (@CEmma670) December 31, 2019
Shaheen has an angle to return to the Bears in 2020. HOWEVER, when asked about it, Pace was a bit glib as he noted Shaheen was under contract for next year. Pace’s endorsement wasn’t a ringing one. And since the Bears could save $1.2 million in cap space by cutting Shaheen, it is fair to speculate how much value that endorsement from Pace holds.
RE-BOOTING THE OFFENSIVE LINE
Changes were going to come to an offensive line that was hit hardest by the regression stick in 2019. How sweeping they would be was the only question left to be answered. At minimum, the feeling was that these moves would be wide-ranging:
Ryan Pace says they will look at the offensive line from a personnel standpoint as well as a scheme standpoint. #Bears
— Zack Pearson (@Zack_Pearson) December 31, 2019
The Bears parted ways with respected OL Coach Harry Hiestand on Tuesday afternoon. So in a way, it is safe to say Pace and Nagy looked at the schematic standpoint of the offensive line’s situation and believed it was time for a new voice in the room. Hiestand is a long-time respected position coach who was credited for helping the line step its game up last year. But with regression, Hiestand was left to be the first fall-guy at year’s end. This isn’t to say that Hiestand’s coaching was the problem. But something needed to be done. I imagine this was a first step. Next up? The personnel aspect of what Pace mentioned on Tuesday.
HOLDING ONTO HOPE FOR FLOYD
What can I say? It’s evident that Pace loves his first-round picks:
Pace on Floyd: "We're happy with Leonard. There are a lot of things that he does that we like."
— Larry Mayer (@LarryMayer) December 31, 2019
Since becoming GM, Pace has stood firmly behind the likes of Kevin White, Leonard Floyd, and Mitch Trubisky. He made each of those picks with conviction based on athleticism, talent, and upside. White is already out of the league, while Floyd has been a stable and steady starter as an edge defender (despite his inability to grow into a game-changing pass-rusher that was expected to come from a top-10 pick). And while we have an entire offseason to dig into the quarterback, Pace’s words regarding Floyd — who plays the second most important position on the field — are worth noting.
What Pace said about Floyd doing a lot of things the team likes echoes the sentiments we have been hearing from coaches since Floyd’s arrival in the league. To his credit, Floyd plays the run well, is an able and willing defender against the pass, and plays solid complimentary football. But at some point, performance beyond the bear minimum is expected from a top-10 pick who is slated to make upward of $13 million while playing on the fifth-year option of his contract. Considering the Bears’ positional needs elsewhere, I’ll be curious to see what the Bears do with a player making as much as Floyd is scheduled to make when the most important stats in his game appear to be on the decline.
Pace and Nagy were able to dig in on much more, which you can watch below: