In early December, when the Bears were clinging to outrageously slim playoff chances, Head Coach Matt Nagy decided on putting winning ahead of critical player development because the team wasn’t “mathematically eliminated” from postseason contention.
A month later, with Chicago’s football team’s playoff chances having gone the way of the Dodo bird, Nagy *STILL* wasn’t willing to play young players. Instead, Nagy chose to start veteran left tackle Jason Peters (who was coming off an injury) over Teven Jenkins (the team’s projected left tackle of the future). And his reasoning behind it was borderline infuriating:
Matt Nagy on the Bears starting Jason Peters over Teven Jenkins: "This is a Hall of Fame player that's been playing a long time and he battled his ass off to get back here and play, and he did a great job. … We're going to do what's best for this team right now."
— Chris Emma (@CEmma670) January 2, 2022
On the one hand, much respect to Peters. The future Hall of Famer saved the Bears’ bacon when Jenkins’ back injury kept him from starting the season at left tackle. Bonus side note: Kudos to Peters for working his way back from an in-season ankle injury. It takes some real gumption to be a veteran putting yourself out there for one last game for a 10-loss team not playing for anything other than pride at this point.
But on the other hand, this is inexplicable. And inexcusable. This is Exhibit A as to why it should be OK to dismiss a coach with an in-season firing in favor of someone who is willing to let your team’s young talent develop in a lost season. Otherwise, your team is stuck with a coach selfishly putting short-term desires ahead of big-picture needs. Nagy can’t seriously think this is what is best for the Bears right now. Because, technically, what’s best for the team is giving young players opportunities for development. Instead, Jenkins was limited to just seven offensive snaps. Why? If Jenkins was healthy, he should have been given a full snap share. Had Jenkins (who was practicing with limitations at points last week) not been healthy, then I could be talked into understanding why he was given a partial workload.
But it wasn’t just Jenkins…
Dazz Newsome played 0⃣ snaps.
Thomas Graham Jr. played 4⃣ defensive snaps.
Khalil Herbert played 9⃣ offensive snaps.
In a game #DaBears had full control of from the first snap & led by double digits for 50+ minutes.
— Bleacher Nation Bears (@BN_Bears) January 3, 2022
What makes this worse is that he wasn’t the only rookie who was snubbed on the snap count. Running back Khalil Herbert was out-snapped by Damien Williams by a 12-9 margin. Fellow rookie cornerback Thomas Graham Jr. (4) took fewer snaps than Artie Burns (34), a veteran whose one-year deal expires at year’s end. Nose tackle Khyiris Tonga‘s only snap came as a fullback on David Montgomery’s first touchdown plunge. Receiver/return specialist Dazz Newsome didn’t play any snaps in any phase of the game.
We had our fun when the Bears’ social media accounts declared Andy Dalton as QB1. But days after the team’s socials were boasting about its late-round gems from this past draft class, they all took fewer than 10 snaps in a game the Bears led by at least 10 points for more than 50 minutes. Chicago’s football team had full control of that game from the literal first snap. To not get more snaps out of your developing young players is criminal. At minimum, it is a crime against my football sensibilities. And that should be punishable by dunk tank.
The Bears have just one more game left in this season. It will likely be Nagy’s final game as the team’s head coach. There is a real chance he wants to go out on top doing it his way with his guys. But Nagy has already said the plan is to start Justin Fields in Week 18. If Nagy is true to his word and honors his commitment, he should be willing to do the same for Jenkins, Herbert, Graham, Tonga, Newsome, and any other young player deserving of one last look. Otherwise, maybe he should sit this one out. After all, it’s a “we” thing and not a “me” thing. Right?