In the newest installment of NBC Sports Chicago’s Under Center podcast, Kenneth Davis gets to the bottom of the hottest rivalries in football.
Matt Nagy vs. Running the Dang Ball.
When Davis asked if Nagy hates running the football, Chicago’s head coach answered: “No, not at all.” But that’s not where this story finishes. Not by a long shot.
No coach in their right mind will honestly answer well, actually, yes, I hate running the football when that question gets put on their plate. In fact, we’ve heard Nagy say he wants to run the ball and call his run-game plan “horse-(expletive)” in a moment of honesty. Simply put, Nagy has no excuses NOT to get the run game going in the year 2021. And yet, here we are set to enter Year 4 of the Nagy regime and we really have no idea why the ground game hasn’t been as effective or used as often as necessary. Especially with a player with David Montgomery’s talents.
But, finally, Nagy has an explanation as to what’s up:
“What’s happened in the last couple of years, and why some of David’s carries haven’t been quite as high, is a lot of guys get it in 4-minute mode in the fourth quarter. That’s where they get those extra 4-5 carries which can bump them up into the top-5 with 20 rushes a game. That’s our goal. We want to be able to have the lead so that we can continue to give him the ball.”
There are a couple of important things to pull from that conversation. So, stick with me for a bit.
For starters, Nagy isn’t wrong about rushers racking up carries late in games. However, Nagy noting this should be seen by him as an indictment of his own offense. Because, while armed with a top-10 defense, an *average* offense would put Montgomery in a position to get the carries he needs to make this conversation moot. The Bears not having an offense good enough to get a lead to give Montgomery the ball steadily is damning, whether Nagy knows it or not. As soon as he realizes that, then the offense – as a whole – should be better.
But here’s some good news. In the same breath in which he dunks on his own offense, Nagy shares the plan for his ground game. Nagy set a goal to get Montgomery enough touches where he ranks among the top-5 rushers. For Nagy, that number appears to be north of 20 rushes per game. That feels like a good number to shoot for, as it would mean the Bears would be winning games late and using the ground game to put opponents on ice. But, again, getting there might be problematic if the rest of Nagy’s offense doesn’t do enough to build leads. Which brings us to a point where we ask why wait until late?
Ultimately, this conversation has me feeling like I’m running in a hamster ball. And frankly I don’t like it one bit. Nagy says he wants to run the football. That’s awesome. Learning from your past and making changes is important in all facets of life. But it’s one thing to say it, and another to do it. Nagy has to do it. Otherwise, it’s an empty promise from a coach who might as well be on a hot seat. In the end, I’m glad Nagy has a plan in place for the ground game in 2021. It’s sad that merely having a plan feels like a step in the right direction. But maybe this is one of those better late than never situations. I guess we’ll see when the lights go on in September.