It’s late Friday, and we still don’t know who will be the starting quarterback for the Chicago Bears on Sunday. We also don’t know who will be calling plays on Sunday.
Justin Fields said that his injured thumb “won’t be an issue,” but also admitted that he doesn’t know if he will be starting on Sunday. For the third day in a row, Andy Dalton was listed as questionable on the injury report. Dalton hasn’t had a full participation practice since before he injured his knee in the first half against the Cincinnati Bengals on September 19, and Fields was a full participant all week.
Yet, Matt Nagy still wants to remain mum on who will be under center on Sunday. He also told the media once again on Friday that he wants to keep the matter of who is calling plays on Sunday, for whomever the quarterback will be, internal.
Is this (1) an attempt at some next-level gamesmanship by the fourth-year head coach or (2) just plain panic regarding his job security with the Bears? Of course, it could be a bit of both, but it sure seems like the latter.
We’re four years into the Matt Nagy era, and with the calls for it to be the final year for Nagy growing ever-louder, it’s entirely fair to wonder what exactly Nagy is doing.
I keep going back to this damning and spot-on evaluation of Nagy earlier this week by Doug Farrar:
My study of Nagy’s “offense” makes me understand why I think Nagy has preferred Dalton all along. Nagy isn’t from the Reid tree, no matter how many bites he had from the apple. With his late-developing intermediate and vertical stuff, and a cavalcade of meaningless sit and stop routes (somehow, he has created a Scott Linehan/Mike McCarthy Frankenstein on purpose), Nagy wants a caretaker at quarterback. He does not want an improviser. He wants someone who will carry out what he believes is a brilliant plan without thinking outside that box. And he certainly does not seem comfortable in designing a game plan for a quarterback of Fields’ impressive athleticism and (at this time) limited quarterback palette.
The plan Nagy had for Fields might as well have been the plan he had for Dalton, or Foles, or Trubisky, or anybody else. This guy could ruin Tom Brady if you gave him half a chance. If you think that’s a slam, go back and watch the Buccaneers’ offense in the first half of the 2020 season before Brady and Byron Leftwich and Bruce Arians all got on the same page. It can happen to even the great ones if there’s a disconnect. Rookies under development don’t stand a chance.
Doug couldn’t have said it better.
Maybe this is why Matt Nagy is so determined to start Andy Dalton over the clear-cut future of this franchise at quarterback. Maybe, just maybe, this is why Nagy wanted Nick Foles to start over Mitch Trubisky, a one-time number two overall pick who was in a make-or-break year in Chicago and quite possibly the NFL.
Justin Fields was ambushed snap after snap last Sunday while Nagy opted to call five-person protections with a shoddy offensive line for most of the game. Instead of explaining his logic behind the lack of extra protection for his rookie quarterback against a staunch front seven in Cleveland, Nagy again served up, well, whatever this is:
“We know where we’re at with that. Again, there were things that they were not going to allow him to do. Without getting into scheme, there were things that were going to be a little bit more difficult. Again, you have to give credit to those edge rushers they have. They’re long. I told you this week. They’re like basketball players. They’re long and fast and strong. So getting to the edge sometimes isn’t as easy as what you think. Now, you have to be able to adjust to that, and that’s where you have to be able to do like what you guys are saying. Help out with tackles and do different things, but it’s as simple as trying to do it with the quick game as well.”
His long-winded explanation did more to tell us things we already knew (and he should have known) and less to enlighten us as to why he didn’t do anything about the things he observed. Everyone in the stadium knew that the blitz was coming, except Matt Nagy. Nagy stuck to his game-plan despite zero success throughout the game. A game-plan that Myles Garrett said he had figured out after the first possession.
“After that first possession, I thought so, just seeing how we were getting off of the ball and how the games were working,” Myles Garrett said, when asked if he knew the Browns would be able to generate pressure. “I knew I flew up the field on the first play thinking it was pass – that is on me. After that, I think we kind of settled in and saw how they planned to use the flow of the game. It kind of came to us easily after the second possession and kind of figured out what they were going to do and how we were going to adjust to that.”
For someone that loves to talk about scheme all week, it doesn’t seem like Nagy has a firm grasp of precisely what scheme is.
It seems at this point that while we think that Matt Nagy’s play-calling is the problem, it might be Nagy’s entire scheme and creation process that is the problem. Now, I won’t go as far as some did this week by saying that Mitch Trubisky might have been good if not for Nagy. Likewise, I won’t go to the laughable self-meme-ing lengths that Stephen A. Smith and Dan Orlovsky did on Thursday’s episode of First Take, in which they said that Justin Fields should force his way out of Chicago. But, I will say that I believe that Matt Nagy will never be up to the task of developing Justin Fields.
Through three weeks, here’s how the Bears offense stacks up with the rest of the league:
- Total yards per game: 191.7 (32nd)
- Yards per play 3.3 (32nd)
- Passing yards 90.7 (32nd)
- Passing yards per attempt: 3.2 (32nd)
- Passing TDs: 1 (32nd)
- Sacks allowed per attempt: 15 sacks/ 84 attempts (32nd)
This isn’t is an issue of who’s starting at quarterback. This is an issue of who is calling the plays, scheming the offense, and developing the quarterback. That issue falls on Matt Nagy when it comes to a week-to-week basis. Of course, Ryan Pace is just as liable for this mess, if not more liable than Nagy, but that’s a discussion for another day soon.
Matt Nagy might like to use sensationalized words like “scheme” to dodge questions about why nothing he has done has worked out for years in Chicago. In all fairness, Matt Nagy was a refreshingly open communicator with the media during his early days in Chicago. When he was winning, and Chicago loved him, he was an open book. Now that he’s on the hot seat, he’s walled himself off from the media and refuses to explain anything.
And sadly, it feels all too familiar. We saw it from John Fox, we saw it from Marc Trestman, we saw it from a whole host of Nagy’s predecessors, whenever they felt that the time was coming. Now, Matt Nagy is showing us that he hears the loud calls for change.