Matt Nagy had a tall task ahead of him when he became head coach of the Chicago Bears. He inherited a team that seemed to have talent but hadn’t won anything in years. His job was to change the culture to one of not only expecting to win but also have fun doing it. One way he got this to happen was by digging deep into his bag of creativity to uncork several trick plays during the 2018 season.
He ran anything and everything from an old T-formation play in the opener to the halfback pass by Tarik Cohen to a classic Fridge-style handoff to Akiem Hicks for a touchdown. It got to a point where he was using everybody regardless of position to get in on the action, offense or defense. Perhaps his most famous gadget play to date though was the one dubbed “Santa’s Sleigh.”
For those who don’t remember, it came last December on the Sunday Night showdown with the Los Angeles Rams. There was total chaos in the backfield with Hicks lined up at halfback. This gave the impression that the Bears were about to run another dive up the middle. Then the ball was faked to him and Trubisky rolled out, firing a pass to offensive tackle Bradley Sowell for what was the decisive touchdown of the game.
Chicago Bears repeatedly asked to be part of the play
As great as the play itself was, the better part might be its inception. By that point Nagy’s mad scientist approach in practice had garnered the enthusiasm of the entire team. When he revealed a desire to prepare a trick for the Rams, several different players came forward volunteering to help make it work. Harry Hiestand explained this to Arthur Arkush of Pro Football Weekly.
“Coach always is so good at making things understandable for everybody that we’re not going to take this guy and have him do something … if he doesn’t do it perfectly, the play’s not going to work. So he doesn’t take me, who’s not great at blocking because I’m a defensive player, and put me in a spot that has to be perfectly blocked,” Harry Hiestand explained this spring.
Hiestand would know. Not only did one of his (now former) lineman, Bradley Sowell, catch a touchdown last season, Chicago’s offensive line coach was asked by Akiem Hicks, among others, to pull double duty beforehand in Week 15 in order to help Santa’s Sleigh prepare for liftoff.
The final draft ended up including a bevy of unlikely names. Not only were Hicks and Sowell involved, but Bilal Nichols, Roy Robertson-Harris, and Jonathan Bullard were all part of the play as well. It worked perfectly. Given how much success the Bears had last year, there’s no telling how much crazier Nagy might get in 2019.