Matt Nagy is entering almost uncharted territory as new head coach of the Chicago Bears. This is a team and city that is identified by defense. It’s been that way since the teams’ inception in the 1920s. Every era of great success was defined by a suffocating defense. It’s part of why the franchise has generally favored defensive coaches for most of their existence.
Now here comes Nagy, a hotshot offensive coach with an impressive background of success at building a modern, 21st century attack. Many fans like the idea, but are skeptical. They’ve heard this before, having ghastly memories of the bill of goods they were sold on Marc Trestman. Sure Nagy is much younger and plugged in with the NFL than Trestman was, but it’s virtually the same scenario.
The Bears have a QB they’re dying to build around in earnest. They want an offensive coach to forge a proper system around him. Truth is for a moment Trestman almost pulled it off, but ended up crashing to earth. He failed in the one area that has bedeviled Bears head coaches for decades, and it’s one that Nagy can’t afford to miss.
Building a top offense in the NFL is easy. The hard part is keeping it going.
Matt Nagy must learn Bears’ issue is sustaining a top offense
Offense is a tricky beast. Most of that is because the modern age requires a quarterback to elevate it and the Bears are notoriously rough at finding good ones. However, when they have secured at least decent names at the position even then their success has been brief. They’d have one really good year of production and then suddenly disappear off the map again. Go back through the history books. It’s pockmarked with examples.
- 1977: 3rd ranked offense (9-5 record)
- 1978: 22nd ranked offense (7-9 record)
- 1995: 9th ranked offense (9-7 record)
- 1996: 21st ranked offense (7-9 record)
- 1999: 8th ranked offense (6-10 record)
- 2000: 23rd ranked offense (5-11 record)
- 2013: 8th ranked offense (8-8 record)
- 2014: 21st ranked offense (5-11 record)
Having a good offense for one year isn’t too hard. It’s bound to happen every few seasons. It’s maintaining that success over a period of time that is the true challenge. Thus far only one head coach in the Super Bowl era managed to pull it off for Chicago. That was Mike Ditka. From 1983 through 1986, his teams ranked 6th, 7th, 7th and 7th respectively in total offense.
The Bears went to the playoffs three times and won a Super Bowl during that stretch. So for all the talk about defensive greatness, it was an upsurge of sustained offensive success that drove their greatest period of the past four decades. If people are looking for a reason why Nagy was hired, it was the pursuit of this elusive sustainability.
Only one coach has pulled it off in over 50 years and he was never the sharpest offensive mind. This should give the new Bears head man some hope.