The question about whether Matt Nagy should give up play-calling duties has been posed to the Chicago Bears coach from time to time because, well, there have been a lot of offensive stinkers during his 2½ seasons at the helm.
The calls from irate fans were especially loud starting around this time last year, when the Bears ran the ball a franchise-low seven times against the New Orleans Saints in their second of four straight losses.
This year, as the Bears pick up the pieces from Monday night’s dismal 24-10 loss to the Los Angeles Rams, a meeting with the Saints is on the horizon again Sunday at Soldier Field. And Nagy again faces questions about his play-calling because the NFL’s 29th-ranked offense has failed to find any sort of rhythm.
The short answer to whether Nagy might hand over duties to offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo or another member of his staff is not yet. But the Bears coach seemed more open to it than he was at any point last season when the Bears ranked 29th in the NFL in points scored and total offensive yards.
“There’s no opposition from me if we feel like that that’s what the issue is, and so we look at that,” Nagy said Tuesday during his news conference. “Right now, where we’re at, that’s not where we think it’s at. But at the same point in time, I’ll always continue each week to look at it. I’ll say this, too. When you’re in a little bit of a rut like we are — a lot of bit of a rut like we are right now — you have to look at everything. And sometimes even if it’s just a little bit of a change somewhere, too, you have to be able to do that.
“No one here, coach and/or player, has too big of an ego to think that it’s not them as a player or a coach. We talk through those kinds of decisions. We’ll just keep evaluating and rolling and seeing where we’re at.”
That “not right now” answer probably is distressing to fans who don’t want to see another pitch to Cordarrelle Patterson on fourth-and-1, a failed call Nagy defended Tuesday by saying a similar play worked against the Detroit Lions.
It won’t calm those who don’t understand why the Bears couldn’t come up with a run game plan that would net them more than 49 yards on the ground or why they couldn’t score after getting first-and-goal at the 8-yard line in the fourth quarter.
And it won’t satisfy those who wonder why they see rookie tight end Cole Kmet make a huge play and then disappear for most of the rest of the game, including staying on the sideline with tight end Jimmy Graham on Nick Foles’ interception in the end zone.
The fact that the offensive mess happened on prime time just meant that national pundits joined in the chorus of frustrated fans, with ESPN commentator and Bears fan Michael Wilbon calling the game “an indictment of Matt Nagy, his offense, his play calling.”
Of course, an offense that was outscored by its defense has blame to go around. And so if Nagy is retaining his play-calling duties this week, where is the offensive improvement going to come from? It doesn’t sound as if it will come from another quarterback change either.
Sunday’s game will be Foles’ fifth start with the Bears. He has gone 2-2 and hasn’t put together a particularly convincing game, unless you count the wild comeback victory he led against the Atlanta Falcons when he replaced Mitch Trubisky midgame. In any of his starts, Foles has yet to throw more touchdowns than interceptions and hasn’t had a passer rating higher than his 83.7 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“We have a lot of confidence and I have a lot of confidence in Nick right now with where he’s at,” Nagy said. “Again, this is a process for us to work though, and it’s not just one person. It’s really not. And I know from yesterday, decision making wise and where he’s at, I thought he did a good job. I thought he made some good throws. He missed a couple as well, but again, it’s a team sport, so there’s some other reasons for that as well. Just keep rolling through that and working through it.”
Some of Nagy’s answers about Foles on Monday and Tuesday came with an understanding that he was greatly challenged against the Rams because of an underperforming offensive line, which in its current state has only a couple of limited options for change.
The Rams had four sacks and eight quarterback hits. And that was with Foles getting the ball off after an average of 2.55 seconds — sixth fastest in Week 7, according to Zebra Technologies’ Next Gen Stats.
“It’s going to affect any quarterback, and that’s natural, (even) the greatest quarterbacks to ever play this game, when there is some heat and some pressure,” Nagy said “When quarterback is hard is when you can’t step into your throws. … Playing offensive tackle, when that’s hard is when you’re too deep in the pocket as a quarterback and you get edged. So there is a little bit of balance there in regards to, when you take your footwork are you protecting your tackles by setting up in the pocket? And then when you do step up in the pocket do you have the ability to step up in the pocket or not?”
The Bears have a short week of preparation for the Saints to try to find some offensive life.
For now, it doesn’t sound as if that boost will be from a new play-calling/quarterback tandem. But if the offense doesn’t look better Sunday, the calls for change will only get louder.
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